Breakn’ a Sweat Spin Mix (60 minutes)

2 09 2012

There’s a tang in the morning air, students everywhere, and I am left wondering where the hell the summer went.  Summers notionally offer down-time for me, because my teaching responsibilities are minimal from May through August, but… nature abhors a vacuum.  Between that and my Type A nature, I managed to keep the too-busy party going all summer long.  (Extra teaching work?  Sure!)

Summers are traditionally a time of lighter attendance in cycling classes, as even the staunchest regulars migrate outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather.  Now that fall is approaching and days are growing shorter, I’m looking forward to classes filling up again.

Here is the first of two playlists I’ve been using lately:

Good Time – Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen (3:26):  This peppy pop anthem is the result of a collaboration between American band Owl City and Canadian Jepsen.  We’re going to use it to warm up.  It’s going to be a good ride!

Breakn’ a Sweat (Zedd Remix) – Skillrex & The Doors (5:31):  As soon as I heard this collaboration from dubstep producer Skillrex and the surviving members of The Doors, I knew I had to use it.  (There’s even a sample of Morrison in there!)  It’s a combo drill with three surge intervals and two out of the saddle climbing intervals.  First though, we’re gonna add some resistance and take another 30 seconds to warm up.

The first surge comes from 0:30 – 1:00.  (A surge is a not-quite-sprint, about 80% of your maximum effort.)  From 1:00 – 1:58 we’re going to add some more resistance and come out the saddle to climb (1st one).  From 1:58 – 2:58, it’s back to a seated surge (2nd one).  From 2:58 – 4:10, a climb (2nd one).  From 4:10 – 4:55 we’ll hit the third surge interval.  This is a tough drill, so we’re going to chase it with 35 seconds of glorious, water-guzzling recovery (4:55 – 5:30).

Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen (3:13):  I knew Jepsen was going to have a huge hit on her hands when I heard my friend’s curmudgeonly, pop-music disdaining husband singing the chorus repeatedly at a BBQ.  Sure enough, the song hit #1 on the American Billboard Hot 100 and was a #1 hit in fifteen other countries, too.  (Not too shabby for a second runner-up from Canadian Idol.)  Jump time – 8 counts for the verses and 4 counts for that ear worm of a chorus.  Resistance at about 7/10 feels right, so these are jumps on a hill.

Somebody I Used to Know (Tiesto Remix) – Goyte (4:33):  As much as I like Call Me Maybe, this song has my vote for song-of-the-summer and I was delighted to find a Spinnable remix.  When I first heard it, I watched the video obsessively on YouTube (yep, about 30 of the 311,870,511 hits are from me).  A simple, out-of-the-saddle climb.

Never Close Our Eyes – Adam Lambert (4:08):  I was in another instructor’s class a while ago and noticed that he had a fondness for combo drills – using more than one type of drill in a single song.  It was very effective, so naturally, I stole his idea and have since started looking for songs that allow me to incorporate combo drills into my own classes.  (Breakn’ a Sweat is another example.)  This song is a grueling combo of 8 count jumps during the verses and standing sprints for the choruses.  There’s a little lead-in before each chorus, and I coach my class to stop jumping and remain out of the saddle, then explode into a sprint when Lambert tips into the chorus.

International Love (feat. Chris Brown) – Pitbull (3:47):  I confess, I tire of Pitbull crowing about how beautiful women from all over the world throw themselves at him.  (I wonder if gorgeous men from all over the world are throwing themselves at Carly Rae Jepsen, and if so, will she write a song about it?)  But this song is still on the playlist because it’s a fine, fast, out-of-the-saddle climb.

Fallout – Marianas Trench (4:14):  This is the second single from these Canadian rockers.  It’s perfect for a seated climb.  One resistance increase per minute is about right.

Turn All The Lights On – T-Pain (3:36):  Another combo drill (see what I mean?)  This one is a climb with three sets that alternate between seated and standing.  From 0:00 – 0:45, stay seated.  From 0:45 – 1:15 there’s a 30 second standing climb.  Next set: roughly 30 seconds seated (1:15 – 2:02) followed by 30 seconds standing (2:02 – 2:32).  Third set: seated from 2:32 – 3:02 and standing from 3:02 – 3:32.  That’s a two-song, 8 minute hill behind us.

Levels – Avicii (3:20):  Another of my favourite songs of the summer, this one never fails to make me move.  I used the short radio edit, but iTunes offers several remixes running about 5:30.  We’re fatigued after that climb and we really need the juice to tackle these jumps: 8 counts to 0:53, 4 counts to 2:24 and 2 counts to the end.  There’s a break coming soon, I promise!

Mighty Love (Instrumental) – Eric Prydz & Andreas Postl (5:41):  Why not chase one great instrumental tune with another?  This one is classic Prydz.  We’re going to recover to 1:08 while the music builds (and we’ll need it.)  First set: a 45 second seated surge (1:08 – 1:55) followed by a standing climb (1:55 – 3:40).  Second set: a curse-inducing 1:15 surge (3:40 – 4:55) followed by a 25 second standing climb (4:55 – 5:20).  Ooohhhh…. we need another recovery break.  There’s a 21 second breather built in here.  (Yep, another combo drill.)

Swamp Thing (Radio Mix) – The Grid (3:59):  I found this 1993 U.K. hit while rooting around on iTunes and it’s great for playing with cadence.  I coach the whole four minutes as a surge, alternating between 70% effort and 80% effort with intervals at 0 – 0:45 (70%),  0:45 – 1:12 (80%), 1:12 – 1:55 (70%), 1:55 – 2:20 (80%), 2:20 – 3:00 (70%), 3:00 – 3:59 (80%)  Yee haw!  You could also coach it as a tempo drill – all four minutes at the same cadence.

Gold Guns Girls – Metric (4:05):  I found this song by Canadian rockers Metric the same day as Swamp Thing and love it as a wind up song, especially for the chorus, “Is it ever gonna be enough?”  This whole song is a surge, with three 30 second all-out sprint intervals thrown in.  The first one is at 0:50 – 1:20, next at 2:00 – 2:35, and the third from 3:15 – 3:50.

Drive By – Train (3:16):  I’ve been a Train fan since 2001’s Drops of Jupiter and this first single from their latest release doesn’t disappoint.  Drop the resistance back to a flat, paved road and ride easy.

Pride – Syntax (6:17):  Another gem I found while rooting around through iTunes.  It reminded me of Live’s haunting 1994 hit, Lightning Crashes.  (So much so that I sometimes use this as the first song of the cool down and chase it with Lightning Crashes.)  Syntax only lasted for two years and didn’t enjoy great commercial success but their music has been repeatedly picked up for film and TV.  I’m picking it up as darn good stretching and good-bye music.

So, I have a regular rider who goes too hard.  No matter what I coach, she goes harder.  She scoffs at recovery.  She typically skips the cool down and heads off to do more cardio on one of the machines. 

From a training perspective, having only one speed – flat out – is actually not the best way to do it.  She could get more results with less effort.  Do I say something to her?  Suggest a trainer to maximize her results?  Talk generally to the class about the importance of varying intensity when training?  Leave it alone unless she asks for my advice?  What do you think?




27 responses

17 05 2013
Christy from Philly

I just want to say that I’m glad that this blog exists. I’m training for my first triathlon (in two weeks!) and needed suggestions for new music to push me through my workouts on the stationary bike.


13 06 2013

Christy, how’d the Tri go? Glad you like the blog!

14 06 2013
Christy from Philly

It was a lot of fun, thanks! I’m really glad I did it, and hope to do more.

Relevant to the topic of the blog, I’ve found that Billy Idol “Dancing with Myself” is my favorite song for pushing through on the bike. I also like a lot of ska, punk, and metal that’s… less palatable to the masses.

18 12 2012
Tonja Davis

hi Cynthia,

First I want to say “Thank you” when I was first certified as a spin instructor earlier this year, I used a few of your playlists for my classes because putting a spin class together terrified me. I learned how to put a class together and that choosing a theme, grabbing the music and “feeling” what we should be doing to according to the music was just FINE. You really gave me the confidence to start crafting my own lists and I thank you for it!

As for your student, I went back to my old Personal Training school a few weeks ago (I was teaching them the difference between group ex and bootcamps and used spin) and had a student who did the same. I had no problem singling her out (in a positive way). “Christine, crank the intensity higher! I know you can do it!” I said it with a smile on my face and pushed with her and she did it. I looked at the rest of the class and said “Dig deep! Lets go!” and those that could push harder, did.

If you’re lucky enough to know your students, and you can encourage, then “calling them out” is more like issuing a challenge and seeing if they pick up the gauntlet and run with it

22 09 2012
Lena Mitchell

Hi Cynthia! I have to admit that I’ve been one of those people that have to keep pushing harder and harder. Even when I take another instructor’s class, I find it very difficult to stay in the heart rate perimeters. Its finally starting to sink in after hearing numerous time from several different sources that going too heart is NOT the best approach. I’d recommend keeping telling your class in general and hopefully she’ll figure it out.

I’m relatively a new instructor and you’ve help me come up with great ideas to keep my classes interesting. I was starting to feel stall and I appreciate your rides and music.

14 10 2012

Thanks Lena. I am with you on too hard – before I got my heart rate monitor, I was pretty much always working too hard. Even now, I find that I am having to draw back more often than I have to goose it. It’s very different outdoors. I find it easier to maintain lower heart rates (e.g. 70%) outdoors.

16 09 2012
Jeff Cox


Just wanted to tell you that I have used this ride quite a few times in the past week and they all have loved it. Went it to class today with a ride I was going to do, and there were only a few there at the start of class, so I told them I knew what I was going to do today, but if someone really wanted to do something I was game and 2 of them said we want to do last weeks ride again it was awesome. Well many more came in, everyone seemed to be late today. The comments I got were incredible, from Wow, to I see why they wanted to do it again. What fun and what a challenge, one of my new favorites too! Thank you.,

18 09 2012

Thank you so much Jeff, you made my day!

12 09 2012

Hi Cynthia
Its my first ever class next week, and my first ever blog comment!
Can you help
I fancy using one of your older playlists
“Gonna Make you Sweat Spin Mix” 43 minutes
How do I buy it from ITunes?
my email is

18 09 2012

Hi Tony,

Wow, your first blog comment! Thank you for choosing Spinning Music for it. Congrats on getting certified to teach indoor cycling.

The Gonna Make You Sweat Spin mix is the most popular one on the blog by page views. I don’t have an easy way for you to buy the music in iTunes – I never did get around to archiving my old playlists on Ping and now I hear that Apple is discontinuing Ping anyway. So you’d have to gather the playlist the old fashioned way, by downloading each song individually. (I am sure that a few of us born in the 60s and earlier got a bit of a chuckle at the idea of individual downloads being the ‘old fashioned’ way to get music. I am old enough to remember LPs (and 48s!), 8-tracks, and mix tapes.)

Good luck with your first class! Come on back and tell us how it went.

12 09 2012

I am dealing with the same kind of things with a few people in different classes. Some comes in late, and start too quickly. Some leave before the end (just before cooldown/stretching). And I have the ones who just don’t listen…
I have given GENERAL comments about speed and tension. I sometimes scream “if you can go faster than MY pace it’s because your tension is too low!” Some will realize that they were indeed not at the right tension while others are still sprinting! I also go with the “if you can chat and maintain a conversation, you are not working!”

I realized that some will just not listen. I NEVER do something one on one unless I think that the person might hurt themselves. I do take time to explain the benefits of doing the class the way it is built.

For me, one pet peeves is the people who are leaving without cleaning their bike after the class. I say it prior to the class, right before the end, and say it again at the end DOING it myself… No, they just walk out and leave their puddle of sweat on the floor and on the bike!

18 09 2012

Eek, Caroline! I must have really well-behaved members at my gym – they always wipe down the bikes. I don’t even mention it anymore. In fact, someone usually goes out and gets a bunch of wipes and distributes them around to everyone.

I agree with you – I would never single one person out during a class. When I get a new rider I often ask the class to give them a round of applause for completing their first cycling class, but I had a newbie last week who seemed very shy and I decided not to do it out of concern it would bother her. Most people look delighted when everyone gives them a hand, but she seemed like she would rather fly under the radar.

I do sometimes joke with regulars and occasionally single someone out for positive feedback (“great form Mike!”) but only when I am pretty sure it will be welcome. For corrections, I will just speak generally: “I see some people leaning too far forward. Keep your weight over your pedals, please!”

10 09 2012

I have the same issue! I’d say that if you’re worried she’s going to blow a knee due to speed or otherwise injure herself then definitely say something. If, on the other hand, you just want to be helpful maybe ask her about her overall fitness goals before or after class and then offer some helpful advice (aka… intervals are better?). I try to talk about interval training and how harder and longer does not always equal a better workout in every single class because it’s a myth that is so deeply rooted.


10 09 2012

Yeah, I am not really worried about her blowing out a knee or anything.. just frustrated for her. She’s putting in Herculean efforts and I know she could be getting better results.

9 09 2012

Hello! Thanks for the music! You have saved me a lot of time! I will integrate many of these songs this fall.
As a gift, here are the songs in my last spinning course I have arranged :
Ace Of Hz (Tiësto Remix) – Ladytron
Aural Psynapse – Deadmau5
Dance Agai n- Jennifer Lopez Ft Pitbull
Division – Moby
Girl Gone Wild – Madonna
Hit Me – Emika feat. Jimmy Edgar
I Love It – Icona Pop
Ich Will – Rammstein
Kill The Noise (Dillon Francis Remix) – Kill The Noise
Mortal Combat – Fitnessbeat
Pale Horses – Moby
We Are Young (Alternative Sound Planet Remix) – DJ Kee
We Own the Night Original Mix – Tiësto, Wolfgang Gartner
Young Blood Tiësto & Hardwell Remix – The Naked And Famous

Thanks again!

10 09 2012

Thanks Bruno! Looking forward to checking out these songs. Much appreciated.

6 09 2012
Erin McGinnis

Love your September playlist. I used most of it in my spin class this week and got tons of compliments. Keep them coming!

6 09 2012

Thanks Erin! I got good reviews for this one, too.

4 09 2012

I just got certified to teach spin and have been looking for awesome blogs for inspiration and I just stumbled upon yours! Love it! I will definitely be taking a look at some of your workouts, thanks!

6 09 2012

Thanks, Dancing Runner! Congrats on your certification. Come back soon and post a playlist for us.

4 09 2012

Just wanted to say Hi and let you know I’ve been using your playlists for a while to find ideas for songs to add to my own (because I live in a cave where the only music I believe to be ‘good enough’ is from the 90’s and/or by Foo Fighters). As far as your crazy cardio girl – you might make a general suggestion to the class, but she’ll probably just keep doing her own thing, anyway. One thing I like to do for people who seem to spin away without control is yell out “if your legs are going faster than mine, you do not have enough resistance on!” It tends to keep the speed demons in check, plus make them work harder :)

6 09 2012

I am a bit of a broken record on putting enough resistance on the bike, so it isn’t often an issue in my classes. For this rider, it’s not so much that she goes without resistance but that she wants to do every class, all class, at 90% intensity.

4 09 2012
Elise Russell

I have people in my classes, spin and otherwise who are always doing things like that. I too emphasize the importance of not only variation in training but recovery as well. Truly, there are just some who aren’t going to listen. And as a personal trainer I see it happen, even when you are the “expert” and you have them one on one. Sometimes you just have to let them be your class psycho, eventually it will catch up with them! Keep up the good cueing for all the sensible spinners. As long as those who are less confident and less informed see that you are doing it right and you are encouraging them to do it safely, that is all that matters.

Good luck.
Elise Russell

PS. love your play lists, you and I have the same taste in music, I am always amused when I look at your lists and they are just like mine. Great minds think alike.

6 09 2012

Thanks Elise! It’s great to find someone who is sympatico on music – drop by again and post some of your playlists, especially ones with local artists or music you haven’t seen around here yet.

For the last song in yesterday’s class, I offered a choice between KMFDM’s Professional Killer and Rob Thomas’s This is How a Heart Breaks. Two of my regulars vetoed the Rob Thomas as overplayed. Yikes! I was suitably contrite.

3 09 2012

For those difficult people in class going 100mph while we’re all doing a climb I just tell the WHOLE class the benefits of intervals, working SMARTER not harder ;) and how it’s the climbs that make you sweat. Or I challenge them: IF you add and extra XX resistance you can come out the saddle half way through otherwise SIT YOUR ASS DOWN AND PEDAL!

I posted one of my playlists recently too – mixing up old and new ;)

3 09 2012
Kim Heim

Hi Cynthia,

I always tell my class that THEY control the intensity of their workout by the amount of tension they keep on their bikes. Class can have the same cadence but working at different intensities, even on climbs.

You might want to also state some statistics on benefits of interval training, how it affects your heart rate and the positive effect it has on your metabolic rate.

Just my two cents. Good luck and thanks for sharing your music/routines!

Kim Heim

Sent from my iPhone

14 10 2012

Thanks Kim – agreed. It’s really important to encourage each person to ride their own ride.

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