Spinning Music’s Top 5 Playlists of 2008

31 12 2008

top51New Year’s always leaves me in a contemplative mood.  Last New Year’s, one of my resolutions was to teach indoor cycling.  I took the training in January 2008 and finished my gym’s mentoring program in April 2008.  A regular class became available almost immediately.  I’ve been teaching ever since and loving every minute on the bike.

Another of my New Year’s resolutions was to join the blogosphere.  I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to blog about.  I was struggling to put together fresh playlists and profiles for my classes each week when I came across J.R. Atwood’s Spinning Mixes blog.  I loved what he’d done – and hardly anyone else was doing it.  I thought to myself, “There’s room for another Spinning music blog!”  Spinning Music was born on a sunny weekend in May 2008 when I should have been riding outside.  I worked pretty much the whole weekend to learn WordPress, download photos, and post the playlists I’d already created.

I didn’t know if anyone else would be interested.  I figured a few friends and some other cycling instructors from my gym might drop by the blog once in a while, and I’d get a chance to learn about blogging while I gained experience teaching indoor cycling.  I was amazed when the blog started generating comments from instructors not only in Canada, but the USA and Europe as well.  I love hearing from you!

I confess, I’ve became more than a little addicted to the blog stats on my dashboard.  This little blog just passed 32,000 views and sometimes get more than 400 views a day.  (I don’t know if that’s good, but it’s a lot more than I expected!)  I haven’t quite figured out what makes one post more popular than another, or why my 90’s playlist is far and away the most popular playlist on the blog.

I promised to post the five most-viewed playlists of 2008 before year end.  Here they are, with the number of page views for each one:

1. Gonna Make You Sweat Spin Mix (43 minutes) 1,481 views

2. Summer Rush Spin Mix (36 minutes) 1030 views

3. Sandstorm Spin Mix (62 minutes) 1006 views

4. Let the Music Play Spin Mix (34 minutes) 941 views

5. Pop Culture Spin Mix (34 minutes) 912 views

Best wishes to all of you for a stellar New Year filled with loving family, good friends, red wine, cappuccino, and as much time on the bike as you can get.


Finding your Bliss in Rat Park

I’m a big fan of Martha Beck’s column in Oprah magazine.  Beck is an author and life coach, and everything she says makes such perfect sense that you think, “Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?”  She reminds me of my sister, who is six years younger, and far more mature, than I’ll ever be.

Beck’s January column is called Escape Your Rat Race.  It’s about making change in your life.

Beck starts off by pointing out the obvious: unhappy people find unhealthy ways to cope with the unhappiness in their lives.  She cites a 1981 study by psychologist Bruce Alexander and his colleagues that used two groups of lab rats.  Group 1 rats were isolated in typical laboratory cages.  Group 2 rats got the closest thing to rat paradise that the researchers could come up with: Rat Park.  Rat Park had everything rats could want.  Both groups of rats were given access to morphine.

Not surprisingly, the caged rats took to the morphine like teen girls to a Jonas Brothers concert.  The Rat Park rats?  Not so much.  They tended to stay real.  Even the addicted rats laid off Mister Blue in Rat Park.

Okay, so happy people don’t need drugs.  Not exactly revolutionary.  The real trick is: how to find your own Rat Park?  These lucky-duck Group 2 rats landed in Rat Park with no effort.  Some humans are that fortunate, but most of us have to find – or create – our own version of Rat Park.  That’s the tough part.

And here’s where Beck gets brilliant: she points out that we all have an unerring internal compass that points straight to our own personal Rat Park.  It works like the children’s game Warmer/Colder.  Things that make you feel tense, anxious, unhappy, or like heading for your version of morphine?  Colder.  Things that make you feel happy, excited, energized, alive?  Warmer, baby!  All we have to do is follow those warmer/colder signals.

There’s one catch: anxiety that comes before trying something new, or taking on a challenge.  That’s good anxiety.  Lots of new exercisers find the prospect of going to a gym anxiety-producing, so they avoid it.  Anytime a person changes, there’s a leap of faith involved.  Our job as cycling instructors is to get participants feeling as excited, energized, and alive about exercise as we do, so that hopefully, all of them will find that their personal Rat Park includes regular Spin classes. Happy cycling in 2009!


Best of 2008 Spin Mix (Version 2) (44 minutes)

29 12 2008

This is another Best of 2008 mix for a longer class.  It’s also more challenging, with two GINORMOUS hills, the first a full 13 minute climb that will challenge most riders’ endurance, some bumpy flats, and a second, smaller 8 minute hill before the cool down.

It’s hard to tell what type of riders you’ll get around the holidays.  Most of the riders between Christmas and New Year’s are regulars, but you may also see beginners getting a jump on their New Year’s fitness resolutions.  It’s particularly important at this time of year (and through Valentine’s Day) to encourage riders to go at their own pace, increase the tension only when they feel ready, and take breaks when they need to.

bike-covered-in-snowGoing Wrong (Radio Edit) – Armin van Buuren (3:32):  Dutch DJ van Buuren was the only artist to have two songs in my top 25 list for 2008, this one and In and Out of Love.  Start with easy spinning at low tension, then quicken the pace around 1:13.  This is going to be a great ride!

Give it 2 Me (Paul Oakenfold Edit) – Madonna (5:00):  Madge rocks, and she’s the perfect artist to start off our largest-hill-yet: a wicked, wicked 13 minute climb.  Riders, pace yourselves, and find your groove.  Nice and easy to start, with tension at 4/10, but steadily increasing every minute or so.

Pop Culture (GYR8 Remix) – Creature (3:38): If anything, this fun chaser has even more energy than Madge.  Beginners, take 30-60 seconds to rest.  Everyone else, scale back the tension to 5/10 and keep climbing.

Viva la Vida – Coldplay (4:04): Somewhere, you’ve got to find enough energy to keep climbing.  Close your eyes and focus on your pedal stroke: steady, even, loose shoulders.  It’s just you and the bike.

Shake It – Metro Station (3:00): We did it!  Do a few shoulder rolls and take a drink.  We’ve got 45 seconds for recovery before the first of three sprints: 25/25/45 seconds, at 0:45 – 1:10, 1:36 – 2:01, and 2:17 – 3:00.  Beginners, sit out the first sprint or two – you need to catch your breath.  Advanced riders, do ’em standing, just to show that bike who’s boss.

I Kissed a Girl – Katy Perry (3:01): Back to flats, but it’s bumpy – lifts on 8/4/2 counts, switching after each chorus.  Beginners will want to keep the tension at 4/10 or 5/10; advanced riders may be able to goose it higher, but remember: there’s one more hill to tackle before we can hit the showers.

Disturbia – Rihanna (3:59): Here’s the second hill, half the size of the first one, but still daunting at a full 8 minutes straight up.

Just Dance (RedOne Remix) – Lady GaGa and Kardinal Offishall (4:19): Beginners, take a break for 30-60 seconds.  Advanced riders, increase the tension to 6/10 and match the Lady’s pace.  We’re going to slog to the top.  Increase the tension every 60 seconds, and keep your cadence constant.

Beat It – Fall Out Boy (feat. John Mayer) (3:48): The view is great from the top of the hill, but we’ve got places to go.  Three more sprints before the cool down: 45/45/60 seconds at 0:26 – 1:12, 1:36 – 2:21, and 2:48 – 3:48.  Beginners, sit out the first sprint to recover and do them with a 20% increase in cadence instead of an all out sprint.  Advanced riders, if there’s gas in the tank, do them standing.  Go!

If I Were a Boy – Beyonce (4:09):  Have I mentioned how cool the video for this song is?  It’s on Youtube – watch it.  It’s had 26,733,444 views since its release on October 14, 2008.  Cool down and stretch.

Free Fallin’ (Live) – John Mayer (4:24): An extra cool down song.

If you’re not a purist who insists on using only 2008 tunes in a Best of 2008 mix, there’s a great end-of-year cool down song you might choose instead: Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).  The original is by Baz Luhrmann.  His original isn’t on iTunes, though iTunes does have several other versions available.  I used the 7:00 minute version from Sun Tan.  There’s also a version by 411 that runs 5:39 and is more suitable for a warmup.

Got other ideas?  I’d love to see your Best of 2008 playlist – you can post it on the Reader Playlists page.

Best of 2008 Spin Mix (Version 1) (36 minutes)

29 12 2008

Back from a family visit over the holidays and itching to get back on the bike after a week away from it.  I did take in one Spin class while I was away, at an official Spinning centre.  I wanted to see how it differed from the other classes I’ve attended.  Mostly, there’s more mind-body emphasis.

red-coat-girl-on-bike Taught two classes today, a 30-minute lunch class, and a 40-minute after work class.  I used Best of 2008 playlists for both classes.  Since they’re slightly different, I’ll post both of them.  This one is the 30-minute class.  It’s two large hills with some bumpy terrain in between.  It’s a challenging class, but then we have a great deal of chocolate/stuffing/gravy/pie to atone for.

Bounce with Me – Kreesha Turner (3:08): It’s impossible not to move to Turner’s infectious single.  Warm up your legs with some easy spinning at a 2/10 tension.  Throw in some dynamic stretches.

Disturbia – Rihanna (3:59): Here comes the first hill: an 8 minute climb.  Start off at 4/10 (pretty easy) and increase it every 60 seconds.  You’ll finish around 8/10.

Just Dance (RedOne Remix) – Lady GaGa and Kardinal Offishall (4:19): Beginners, take 30-45 seconds for recovery; advanced riders, leave your tension where it is and keep climbing, slowing your pace to match the beat.  Getting to the top of the hill feels so good!

Beat It (feat. John Mayer) – Fall Out Boy (3:48): Sprints!  Reduce the tension to 4/10 or 5/10 to head down the hill.  There are three sprints here: 45/45/60 seconds at 0:26 – 1:12, 1:36 – 2:21, and 2:48 – 3:48.  Take up your cadence to race day pace.  Beginners, and those not looking to leave some turkey stuffing on the floor, increase your cadence by 20%.

I Kissed a Girl – Katy Perry (3:01): Like it or hate it, this song was part of the musical landscape in 2008.  We’re going to use it to cover some bumpy ground and do some lifts: 1 minute each at 8/4/2 counts.  There’s a natural switch after each chorus.

Viva la Vida – Coldplay (4:04): We’ve arrived at the second hill, another 8 minute climb.  Take the tension to 5/10.  Once again, increase the tension every 60 seconds.

Pop Culture (GYR8 Remix) – Creature (3:38):  Take the tension back to 5/10 for this fast climb to the top.

Shake It – Metro Station (3:00): Spin classes all over the world were sprinting to this tune in 2008, and we’re going to do the same.  First, 45 seconds for recovery.  Three sprints: 25/25/45 seconds.  They’re at 0:45 – 1:10, 1:36 – 2:01, and 2:17 – 3:00.  Advanced riders, take them standing for a greater challenge.

Old School – Hedley (3:41): Wind up with this anthem from an upstart Canadian band.  Slow your cadence, take off some (but not all) of the tension, and stretch.

Over the Rainbow – Jason Castro (3:30): An extra stretching song for those who want a little more time.

Lots of Canadian music in this mix: Kreesha Turner, Kardinal Offishall, Creature, and Hedley all hail from the Great White North (which wasn’t very white today – bucking all trends, it was sunny and a balmy 11 degrees C.)

Spinning Music’s Top 25 Spinning Tunes of 2008

13 12 2008

top-25-spinning-tunes1Here we go, Spinning Music’s first annual list of the top 25 Spinning tunes of the year, judged on sheer spintensity.

1.  Disturbia – Rihanna

2.  Viva la Vida – Coldplay

3.  Just Dance – Lady GaGa (feat. Colby O’Donis)

4.  Dangerous – Kardinal Offishall

5.  Going Wrong – Armin van Buuren (with DJ Shah feat. Chris Jones)

6.  Bounce with Me – Kreesha Turner

7.  Beat It – Fall Out Boy (feat. John Mayer)

8.  If I Were a Boy – Beyonce

9.  Old School – Hedley

10.  Pop Culture (GYR8 Remix) – Creature

11.  Give it 2 Me (Paul Oakenfold Edit) – Madonna

12.  Shake It – Metro Station

13.  I’m Ready – Wyclef Jean

14.  I Kissed a Girl – Katy Perry

15.  Sober – P!nk

16.  Free Fallin’ (Live) – John Mayer

17.  4 Minutes – Madonna (feat. Justin Timberlake and Timbaland)

18.  Pocketful of Sunshine – Natasha Bedingfield

19.  Bleeding Love – Leona Lewis

20.  In and Out of Love – Armin van Buuren (feat. Sharon den Adel)

21.  Forever – Chris Brown

22.  Beautiful U R – Deborah Cox

23.  Black & Gold (Marcussen Album Version) – Sam Sparro

24.  Let It Rock – Kevin Rudolf and L’il Wayne

25.  Over the Rainbow – Jason Castro

Now, there are some great songs that were popular in 2008 but are missing from the list, songs like Piece of Me – Britney Spears, Money Honey – State of Shock, Big Girls Don’t Cry – Fergie, Tongue Tied – Faber Drive, Fake It – Seether, Paralyzer – Finger Eleven, Seven Day Fool – Jully Black, and Yellow Brick Road – Raine Maida.  All of them were on my initial shortlist, but they didn’t meet the one requirement: the song had to be released in North America (Canada and/or the United States) in 2008.  All of these songs came out in 2007.

How about playlists? On December 31 I’ll post the Top 5 Spinning Music Playlists of 2008 (by number of views).

Fitness Magazine Top 20 Spinning Tunes of 2008

12 12 2008

My January 2009 issue of Fitness Magazine includes their Top 100 Workout Tunes of 2008, with 20 tunes each for Spinning, running, walking, weight training, and yoga. I couldn’t find the article on their website to include a link, so I’m reproducing the top 20 Spinning songs here.  What do you think?

1. Magic Touch – Robin Thicke (feat. Mary J. Blige)

2.  Explode – Uh Huh Her

3.  Closer – Ne Yo

4.  It’s Not My Time – 3 Doors Down

5.  4 Minutes – Madonna (feat. Justin Timberlake and Timbaland)

6.  See You Again (Live) – Miley Cyrus

7.  So What? – P!nk

8.  Use Somebody – Kings of Leon

9.  American Boy – Estelle (feat. Kanye West)

10.  Green Light – John Legend (feat. Andre 3000)

11.  In The Ayer – Flo Rida (feat. will.i.am)

12.  Time to Pretend – MGMT

13.  Spotlight – Jennifer Hudson

14.  Put On – Young Jeezy (feat. Kanye West)

15.  Dangerous – Kardinal Offishall (feat. Akon)

16.  Addicted – Saving Abel

17.  Baby (Rock Remix) – LL Cool J (feat. Ritchie Sambora)

18.  Swagga Like Us – Jay-Z & T.I. (feat. Kanye West and L’il Wayne)

19.  Trainwreck – Demi Lovato

20.  La Femme Parallel – Thievery Corporation (feat. LouLou)

You’re Gonna Go Far Spin Mix (35 minutes)

8 12 2008

Here’s the playlist for my lunch class today. I’m in an alternative rock mood – this mix showcases several American alt-rock bands, and includes one loooonnnnngggggg climb.  It’s a toughie.

go-cycle-signMother We Just Can’t Get Enough – New Radicals (5:48): From the opening bars, you know you’re in for a challenging ride today.  Warm up your legs with 3:30 – 4:00 minutes of easy spinning, gradually increasing the tension from 2/10 to 3/10, then 4/10.  Around 4:00 come out of the saddle and climb, but keep the tension where it is – we’re still warming up.  This 1999 song by 90’s alt-rock New Radicals was never released to retail, but you can find it on iTunes.  I hear a definite Rolling Stones influence.  I learned of the song from J.R. Atwood over at www.spinningmixes.wordpress.com.  He used it as the warmup for his latest spin mix.  (Thanks, J.R.!)  J.R. is a virtual fount of alt-rock goodies, so be sure to check out his blog for music ideas.

You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid – The Offspring (2:58): Since we did a longish warmup, we’re ready to sprint!  I have mixed feelings about this song, which features the use of the word f**ker in the chorus.  I downloaded the bleeped version, but it’s still pretty obvious what the bleeped word is.  Start the sprints from the, “dance [bleep]er dance,” line.  They run 40/55/35 at 0:15 – 0:55, 1:12 – 2:06, and  2:22 – 2:58. The Offspring is an American alt-rock/punk band.

Disturbia (Craig C and N***e’s Tribal Mayhem Mix) – Rihanna (8:22):  Rihanna, of course, is all pop, and this is one of her best – it hit #1 in the U.S.A., Belgium, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, and Turkey (who knew?) but didn’t impress the Italians or the Russians,since it failed to crack the top 10 in both countries.  The songwriting credit for Disturbia goes to Chris Brown, who chose not to record it himself, because (according to Wikipedia) he felt that the song needed female vocals.  Disturbia gets a lot of airplay in cycling classes because it’s such an energetic song.  To keep it fresh, I’ve used a pounding remix that challenges riders with an 8:00+ minute climb.  Take the first 30-60 seconds for recovery.  Beginning riders and riders looking to leave with some gas in the tank should take another 30-60 seconds for recovery in the middle.  Everybody else, get up off the saddle and dig in.  Lots of time for varying tension and position and cadence here – mix it up every 20-60 seconds, and the time will fly.

Beautiful U R – Deborah Cox (3:52): High tension lifts – 7/10 or higher, first 8 counts, then 4, then 2 counts.  Riders are going to be tempted to slack off on the tension after such a long climb, but encourage them to keep going and get what they came for.  They can rest in 10 minutes when we hit the cool down.  Cox is a hard-working Canadian R&B singer who started singing for TV commercials at age 12.  This is her most recent single.  So far it’s only charted in Canada but given the positive message and can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head beat, I expect it to take off internationally, too.

Shake It – Metro Station (3:00): This American pop-rock band is co-fronted by Trace Cyrus, half-brother to Miley Cyrus and son of Billy Ray, but there’s nothing achy breaky about it.  We’re going to balance our long climb with the first of two final songs for sprints: three of them here, at each chorus: 25/25/45 (0:45 – 1:10, 1:36 – 2:01, 2:17 – 3:00), with only a brief respite for recovery between them.

How Far We’ve Come – Matchbox Twenty (3:31): Let’s finish the ride strong, with some final kick-ass sprints: 25/25/60 seconds.  Take 45 seconds for some much needed recovery, then go! at 0:45 – 1:10, 1:30 – 1:55, and 2:30 – 3:31 (ride out the end of the song).  Cool down is gonna feel so good.  Another hat-tip to J.R. Atwood for reminding me of this great sprinting tune.  Matchbox Twenty is another American alt-rock band.  This song is from their most recent CD.

Sorry – Buckcherry (3:48): I don’t know why I’m so apologetic all of a sudden, but let’s cool down with two songs about male contrition, first wildly-tattooed bad boy Josh Todd’s relationship mea culpa, “I’m sorry I’m bad/I’m sorry you’re blue/I’m sorry about all things I said to you/And I know I can’t take it back/I love how you kiss/I love all your sounds/and baby the way you make my world go round/And I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”  Slow your legs, ease off on the tension, and do some stretching.

Sorry – Gordie Sampson (3:37): Nova Scotia songwriter Gordie Sampson is “sorry for everything” (even the song!) in this charming tongue-in-cheek ditty.  Sampson won a Grammy for writing Carrie Underwood’s, Jesus, Take the Wheel.  A final song for stretching and cleaning off the bikes.

How to help riders get what they came for?

I got up early on Sunday to attend another instructor’s ride with some friends.  Drove to the gym (about 15 minutes from my house by car), signed in for the class, which was almost full, and did some easy spinning to warm up before it started.  This instructor had lots of great music and varied drills, but the ride left me still searching for that pleasantly thrashed feeling we’re all chasing.

My heart rate monitor backed up the feeling: my peak and average heart rates were both lower than usual.  One of the friends I rode with remarked to me that she felt “really disappointed” that the ride didn’t scratch the itch for her, either.  It felt like a lot of effort – getting up early, driving, signing in – for not much payout.

This got me thinking.  What went wrong?

Was she a bad instructor?  Not at all – she was enthusiastic and she’d obviously put attention into the music and the drills she used.  She had to instruct a class that varied widely in ability, from a senior citizen taking her first cycling class (awesome!) to a yoga instructor who is one of the most fit individuals I know.  (I would love to have this woman’s biceps.)

Were our expectations too high?  Everyone knows the Spinning prima donnas at their gym – they’re the ones wearing high end gear who must have their usual bike and will stalk out in a huff if the workout doesn’t feel like a Tour de France stage.  Were we orbiting dangerously close to prima donna territory?

I don’t think so.  I’ve been riding for years, but I’m still relatively new as an instructor.  I enjoy going to other instructor’s classes, and I almost always learn something – a new way to cue, or describe proper form, a creative twist on a drill, a great new song, a way to make riders of all abilities feel comfortable and welcome.

So what was it?  After thinking about it for a while, here’s what I came to: yes, everybody does their own ride, and you can go as hard, or as easy as you want, but I think even committed riders can use a push from the instructor.

I try to strike the balance by offering lots of opportunities to turn it up to 11 (as it were).  I’ll often ask, “is your tension where you want it?” to prevent people from coasting, and encourage them to turn it up if they have more to give.

I also try to make riders feel comfortable with not going all-out-leave-nothing-in-the-tank.  We need recovery rides, too.  I try to cue regular and advanced options and make sure riders see me choosing both, so they feel comfortable choosing both.  (Though today on the last 60 second sprint in How Far We’ve Come one of my riders shouted, “I’ll do it standing if you will!”  So we did.)

What do you do to encourage your riders to push, while keeping the class accessible to everyone?

%d bloggers like this: