Physician Spin: Not just another exercise class

By Dr. Ann Hansson, Palliative Care

Like many people, I started cycling when I was around six. I remember loving the feeling then, as I do now, of the freedom of being outdoors and exploring my neighbourhood with friends and family. What I didn’t realize then was what a great form of exercise cycling has turned out to be for me as well.  I have found it to offer good cardio and to be gentle on my joints. For an even more intense workout, I discovered indoor classes on stationary bicycles to complement outdoor riding. “Spin” is led by an instructor who takes participants through a routine usually consisting of a warm-up, sets of intervals, a cool-down and finally some stretching.

 

Through the Vancouver Physician Staff Association and SportsCardiologyBC, free spin classes for physicians are now offered at the new UBC Hospital Centre for Cardiovascular Excellence. These 45-minute classes on new Keiser® bikes are led by enthusiastic and skilled instructors. All that participants need to bring are a pair of cycling or running shoes and comfortable sportswear. Water bottles and fresh towels are provided for those who prefer not to bring their own. The classes run twice per week: a morning class includes a light breakfast and coffee afterwards; and there is also a class in the evening. (Visit this website for the schedule and to sign up.)  Each bike is connected to a mechanism that measures your performance metrics, including cadence, power output (wattage) and percentage of functional threshold power (effectively the maximum power you can sustain for an hour). These values are emailed to participants after each class and are used by many to enhance their training. I have found my endurance when riding outdoors has improved.  During the class, there is a screen at the front with avatars cycling through virtual landscapes like the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, the Dolomites in northern Italy and even parts of Africa—an aspect that helps keep enthusiasm going. Classes with features like these usually cost at least $30 per session, so FREE is a good deal!

 

In addition to the physical workout, there can be opportunities to connect and share with colleagues and instructors during and after class. There is an encouraging atmosphere to have the best ride you can that day. Some days when I’m feeling tired, I might pace myself more than on days when I’m feeling energetic, when I might really dig in. We usually laugh together at some point (even when breathing hard). On some days, we share stories about work and personal life. Other times, there are feelings of profound inspiration like when we’ve seen colleagues return from illnesses or training for big rides. No matter what is happening, there is an overall sense of companionship and that what we are doing is worthwhile. I always feel grateful to have been able to participate.

 

As I watched my avatar ride along in the beautiful African landscape this morning, whether it fell back, moved within the pack or moved ahead, and took turns to be drafted or to draft, I felt not only the physical and mental health benefits of the exercise. I also somehow felt the support of my colleagues and the instructor.  As I briefly glanced around the room in a gap between intervals, it crossed my mind that “we’re in this together; let’s see what this class—and beyond—bring forth today, for each of us and one another.”

 

For more information on physician spin classes and the password to sign up, email scbcresearch@alumni.ubc.ca.

 

Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only, expressing the personal experience of the author. Participation in the classes is at participants’ own risk.

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