To spin or not to spin…

In #marafun, Features, HOME, LIFE by Sam Prance

#marafun is a feature in which novice marathon runner, Ellie Smith, will open your eyes to the trials and tribulations of long distance running. A word of caution – this feature will be prone to mood swings and short outbursts of intense self loathing. However, it will also cover the joys of exercise and whatever the weather, Ellie will still be running and writing…

Have you ever met someone and disliked them instantly? I introduce you to my spinning instructor. As a friend put it, the work of a German dictator lives on.

I’m still off running. Cue hours and hours in that darn gym. I know the top 40 backwards, I’ve watched the Nicki Minaj vs Rihanna battle off 3 whole times, I’ve heard Katy Perry’s new song far too much for my liking, I must have watched at least one series of How I Met Your Mother and I occasionally have been known to watch Deal or No Deal. Desperate, desperate times. So I consulted the class schedule and there it was. Spinning. 3 times a day, 7 times a week. A sign?

spinning_club_madrid_4But spinning is a deceptive word. It sounds light and airy, like a homemade Victoria sponge or a gentle stroll through Inverleith Park. IT IS NOT. Spinning was used as a form of torture in Russian Gulags during the 1930s and is widely considered to be more painful than child birth. Fine. I may well have made these last points up but my point is clear; spinning is hard. The spinning frenzy that has gripped the country shows no signs of fading away. So time to jump on the bandwagon and discover what all the fuss is about.

The concept is an odd one. Essentially you are trying to pedal as hard and as fast as possible but without actually going anywhere.  You are able to track your progress through the monitor which tells you your ‘rates per minute’ (RPM) and your speed. The gear on the bike allows you to control the resistance and this is adjusted throughout the session as the Instructor coaxes you to climb a ‘steep’ hill or to sprint to the ‘finish line’.

However, the benefits of spinning are numerous. A high intensity 45 minute session will burn around 500 calories. It is a great way to tone up and if you maintain the correct position throughout the session you will work your calves, thighs, glutes and abdominal muscles and by pedalling faster you will begin to burn fat. Three sessions a week and your effort on the bike will be rewarded through weight loss.

spinningIf you are on a mad ‘no carbs before marbs’ diet then reconsider and take up spinning. If you find yourself out of breath when climbing the stairs then spinning is also the answer as it is a great cardio workout which will increase your cardio endurance. Spinning is also a very low impact sport which means that it doesn’t put anywhere near as much pressure on your joints or your knees as running or other high impact sports do.

So if you are off running, like me, you can always spin. Just remember to stretch before and after the class so that you don’t pull any muscles. Spinning is also a great stress reliever. This high intensity workout is the perfect outlet for your frustration and worries. Just channel it into pedal power and by the end you will feel a whole lot better. A few weeks ago I introduced you to the joys and benefits of sweating. Well people, I can confirm that spinning makes you sweat. So remember a towel.

Pictures4So I’ve had three different instructors this week all with different styles.

First – the motivator. I was young, confused and deluded. I quickly snapped out of that when I met my instructor and he ‘led’ me through a series of 3 gruelling climbs to an imaginary peak which quite frankly I wanted to hurl myself off. I really questioned myself when I looked to my left and saw a man at least three times my age accelerate up that peak and then turned to give me a knowing look as if to say ‘it gets easier’. However, the instructor’s constant coaxing and intensity goals meant that I am still here to tell the tale.

Second – the exterminator. A brutal awakening. I thought I was about to DIE. When he was cranking up the gear to level 17 and was telling me I should be sprinting I categorically knew that he could not be human. Herr Exterminator bellowed at me to pedal ‘faster, faster, FASTER!’ How were his legs doing that? He baffles me to this very day. However, time absolutely flew by and I really felt like I had worked hard which is the whole point of going to the gym.

Third – the terminator. The room was pitch black, the music was blaring out and there was lots of whooping and cheering from my instructor. Not everyone’s cup of tea, granted, yet she made me want to peddle faster than anyone else. I would personally like to thank her for her choice of music. Exemplary and I credit no.2 of this week’s playlist to her.  

Is peddling your heart out, drenched in sweat fun? Well – somehow it is. Spinning is probably comparable to marmite – you either love it or you hate it. I will be going back and if you are reading this and still have your spinning virginity intact then maybe you should consider letting it go.

This week’s belters:

1. Jungle – Busy Earnin’

2. Rudimental- Feel the Love

3. Earth, Wind and Fire – September

4. Junior Senior – Move Your Feet

5. Fatboy Slim – Gangster Trippin

Only a few more days until I am back on caffeine. I cannot wait to be reunited with my daily cup of coffee. I may have saved a considerable amount of money but this challenge did nothing but reaffirm my love for coffee. As David Lynch said: ‘Even bad coffee is better than no coffee at all.’ None of my flatmates cracked so we are splitting the £50 between us for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. This shows though that it really is mind over matter.

As the marathon draws ever closer, the time has come to give up alcohol. Next week I bring you an eye witness account from beyond enemy lines – reporting on a sober night out. Brace yourselves.

Massive shout out to the wonderful people that have sponsored me so far. Your money is what makes me swim that extra length, cycle that extra mile and do those ten extra press ups. If you would like to sponsor me then please click on the link below. £5 is like Red Bull to me – it gives me wings:

3 weeks to go. The end is vaguely in sight….

‘If you are going through hell, keep going’ – Winston Churchill

Ellie Smith

Ellie Smith is 20 years old and she is currently studying French and Spanish at the University of Edinburgh. Ellie has a sense of humour similar to that of an immature ten year old boy and sites Blades of Glory as one of the best films ever made. She is obsessed with Russia, Mini Eggs and Ryan Gosling. The Holy Trinity in her eyes.

If you’re interested in getting involved with PTL – drop us an email on

(Images sourced from:,