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!