What you need to know about: Road Cycling!

by amy frankenthaler

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Spring is in full swing here in Boston. We are finally hitting 70 degrees, the sun is out and we are all trying to do more things outside! Spinning indoors all Fall and Winter has got us itching to cycle outdoors! It is definitely a sign of spring when those Hubway bike stations start popping up around the city (a sight for sore eyes).

I asked one of our Handle Bar instructors, Ashley Wagner to chat with us about her road cycling experience, the difference between indoor spin and road cycling. Ashley picked up road cycling right after college and made the bold decision to ride CROSS COUNTRY. Cross Country on a bike saddle, this girl must love to cycle (both indoors and out!!).

What is Road Cycling? Tell us about your experience on the road and across the country? ūüôā¬†

Road cycling is one of my favorite things to do (beside riding inside at The Handle Bar of course ūüėČ ). When I ride outside I like to tour. Touring means I am not racing but using the bike to ‚Äėtour‚Äô an area. It is one of the best ways to explore. I love it because you get a better prospective then you would in a car, but you can cover more ground then you can on foot. Also who doesn‚Äôt love being outside on a beautiful day and getting a little exercise while you are at it!

How did you get into cycling?

I actually starting spinning inside and really liked the workout I was getting on a stationary bike so the natural next step was to take it outside. I told my sister about wanting to try road cycling. Naturally, my sister who is awesome… but a little insane, immediately found this summer cycling program called Bike and Build and convinced me to sign up. In the spirt of go big or go home, having no outside cycling experience, I signed up for a 3 month long bike tour across the country (yes 0-4000miles).

I had 6 months to train, which was a god send. The hardest part surprisingly wasn’t the fitness but was feeling confident on a bike, on the road, with cars. I like many of you, hadn’t ridden a bike since I was 10 so my skills were pretty rusty. I was able to figure it out with only a few minor falls and come June was had quit my job and was ready to ride my bike every day.

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Tell us about that how was the trip?

Turns being a little crazy paid off, it was the time of my life. If you have the time I would 100% recommend doing it. Obviously there were some growing pains at the beginning but I was so happy to be riding my bike, exploring, and being outside every day it didn’t really matter that my butt hurt. We Went from Portsmouth, NH to Vancouver BC. I was fortunate enough to ride alongside the Great Lakes, and over the Rocky’s thought Glacier National Park and put some serious miles on my bike. I learned a lot about my body and what it can do. I also learned a lot about cycling, which is something try to bring into my classes at The Handle Bar.

Is there a difference between a Spin Class and Road Cycling? What is harder? 

Honestly, I think spinning inside is harder. This is because you are in control. I am always so impressed when I see riders turn it up one extra notch or really give themselves a challenge. When you are outside you have a hill and you have no choice, you have to get over it. Inside, it takes much more mental strength to turn up that hill and intentionally make your ride harder.

For someone that has never road cycle before: How would you recommend transitioning from indoor cycling to the road? 

There are two things that are hard for people when they go from sinning to the cycling; clipping in and cars. Luckily for Handle Bar riders you already have practice clipping in, which will really go a long way. Before setting out on the street with cars and obstacles I would try clipping and unclipping a few times to be sure you know your peddles and your shoes. The other challenge is cars. They are big, fast and could squash you like a bug. This can be especially tricky in cities like Boston with few bike lanes and windy roads. When first starting out I would recommend a bike path, one of my favorites is the southwest corridor that goes through Jamaica Plan and Roxbury it is nice, and wide and off the street and a great place to get started.

What are some tips you have?

  1. Wearing a helmet is cool. I know it is a hard struggle to especially right after I have showered but my brain is too important to be vain.
  2. Get a rain guard, you never know when it is going to rain and having this on my bike with make you so much more comfortable.
  3. Start with a buddy! It was great to have my sister with me. She laughed at me when I fell over at a stop light because I couldn’t unclip in time. I also had someone with me when we road 30miles in the wrong direction in Indiana and we had to hitch hike our way to the guest site for the night. It is a great sport but it can be little intimidating to get started if you have someone with you it will make it a little easier and more fun when you stop for an ice cream break!
  4. It’s ok to fall, lets face it‚Ķit’s going to happen. You are going to feel so much better when you finally do and realize it isn‚Äôt that bad. (But be safe out there please!)
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Ashley taking her own advice about falling!

You can catch Ashley teach in Southie on Fridays at 7:15am and 4:30pm OR on the roads of Boston cruising on her bike. So be sure to hop into one of her classes or tweet at her (@amwagner23) if you have more questions about road cycling! As always if you want us to dig a little deeper into anything Handle Bar related, please reach out to us!

See you in the saddle!

Sweat away that cabin fever!

bike-in-the-snowSnowed in? Cabin fever already have¬†you feeling stir crazy? Well, don’t fret! We’re hosting a Juno ride tonight at 5pm in our Southie studio for all of our riders who live within walking distance and can¬†safely get to and from the studio. We’re all about¬†getting our sweat on, even though the snow is piling up outside. But remember, safety first, HBers!

Can’t leave your home safely but still want to get your sweat on? Try this at-home tabata style¬†training workout that’ll leave you sweaty and ready for your next HB ride…or to start shoveling:

Circuit 1 (4 minutes):

  • 20 second mountain climbers
  • 10 second rest
  • 20 second squat jumps
  • 10 second rest
  • Keep repeating until the 4 minutes are up!

Circuit 2 (4 minutes):

  • 20¬†second jumping jacks
  • 10 second rest
  • 20 second spider style elbow taps (assume high plank position, alternate tapping your left knee to left elbow and right knee to right elbow)
  • 10 second rest
  • Keep repeating until the 4 minutes are up!

Circuit 3 (4 minutes):

  • 20 seconds speed skaters
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds burpees
  • 10 seconds rest
  • Keep repeating until the 4 minutes are up!

Circuit 4 (4 minutes): 

  • 20 seconds jump rope (with or without actual jump rope)
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds split squats (jumping lunges, alternating legs)
  • 10 seconds rest
  • Keep repeating until the 4 minutes are up!

Repeat the entire workout 1 time through for a serious calorie and fat burn – all in less than 35 minutes!

Before you start that at-home workout or head out to the HB, put on a pot of this hearty Kale and Potato Soup (assuming you stocked up on Kale, just like those smart New Yorkers did pre-blizzard, causing a city-wide¬†shortage of kale). But on the real, this soup is a perfect post-workout¬†blizzard meal because ingredients can easily be substituted (spinach for kale, turkey for chicken, etc.) and it’s packed chock-full of protein and hearty veggies.

Kale and Potato Soup with Turkey Sausage (recipe courtesy of skinnytaste.com)
Servings:¬†6¬†‚Äʬ†Size:¬†1 2/3 cups
Calories: 232 Fat: 4 g Carb: 31 g Fiber: 5.5 g Protein: 19 g Sugar: 3 g
Sodium: 647 mg (varies by brand of broth used)

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz reduced fat Italian chicken or turkey sausage
  • 8 cups (1/2 batch) kale, stems removed, leaves shredded
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 8 cups fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water¬†
  • 3 medium red potatoes, peeled diced into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 pinch dried red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Directions:

  • In a large Dutch oven or pot,¬†cook¬†sausage over medium-low heat.¬†Turn and cook¬†until brown, about 10 minutes.¬†Remove¬†from pot, let cool and¬†cut¬†into thin slices.
  • Add oil¬†to pot, add onions and carrots; cook on medium until translucent, about 5 minutes.¬†Add garlic¬†and cook 1 minute more.
  • Add¬†broth, water and black pepper, bring to a¬†boil¬†and¬†cook¬†5 minutes.¬†Add¬†cooked sausage, potatoes, red pepper flakes and bring back to a simmer.¬†Cook¬†covered for about 4 minutes.¬†Add¬†kale and bring back to a simmer.¬†
  • Cook¬†partially covered until the potatoes and kale are cooked, about 5-6 minutes.¬†Adjust¬†salt if needed.

Hopefully we’ll be back in the saddle all day tomorrow, but for the most up to date info, follow us on Twitter¬†and Facebook. Stay safe, stay warm, stay sweaty!¬†

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Help us celebrate National Small Business Week!

By Joe Chambrello

sbweekThis week, the Small Business Association (SBA) celebrates National Small Business Week in several cities across¬†the country, including Boston. Having worked in several small businesses in Boston, I understand the value and importance they can bring to a community.¬†First, small businesses create many jobs for those in need, and continue to support the¬†surplus of college graduates, despite the current¬†economic situation.¬†This is particularly valuable in an area like Boston, which is such a big college town. In fact, small businesses create two out of every three new jobs in the US each year! It’s hard to imagine a city like Boston without small businesses and start-ups to fulfill the demand for work among the recently graduated.

Additionally, small businesses bring a type of energy, comfort, and happiness to the community that is often¬†lacking in major corporations. Boston is considered a¬†major metropolitan city¬†in the US, but anyone who has lived here knows what a small-town, community feel it has. We¬†are passionate about our¬†sports, food, drinks, and our city’s rich history, but it doesn’t stop there.¬†Bostonian small business owners, like the HB’s own¬†Jessica Bashelor, bring this same passion to work each and every day, with the goal of¬†welcoming¬†customers as if they were¬†friends or¬†family.

There are certain virtues that make small businesses special, particularly in a blue-collar city like Boston – hard work, great customer service, dedication, loyalty, and above all else, pride. The goal of these small businesses is to develop long standing relationships with their loyal customers, and to create that family-like atmosphere that everyone loves to come back to.sbweeek

This week, the SBA will host events and workshops throughout the country that help improve the small businesses that keep our city running. Topics such as online marketing strategies, avoiding costly business mistakes, and energizing the team will be discussed, helping small businesses to gain momentum and solidify their role as the backbone of the city.

More than anything, this week reminds us to shop small when we can because our city runs on the power of small businesses. Imagine a Boston without its hundreds of fro-yo parlors, your favorite brunch spot, its various yoga and fitness studios, or your retail therapy oasis (aka Newbury Street). Pretty hard, no?

Come out and support the HB and your other favorite small businesses this week to¬†help us solidify our role as¬†the backbone of our thriving city! They don’t call us Boston Strong for nothing, do they?

Shop small. Shop local. Raise The Bar.

The art of playlisting: part I

By Joe Chambrello

Anyone who has been to an indoor cycling class will acknowledge two key ingredients to a well-rounded experience: an energized instructor, and GOOD music! After having browsed Yelp¬†reviews on¬†various spinning and indoor cycling classes, from really, really good, to some not so great, it’s clear that music is one of the most important review points. The amount of emphasis riders place on music as a determining factor for a successful workout and enjoyable experience comes as no surprise. The music sets the tone and rhythm for the entire class and goes hand in hand with the energy of the instructor. Read:¬†instructors choose songs that motivate themselves so that¬†they can transmit their energy to¬†the whole class. Win-win, no?

…Woah. Now that sounds like a lot of pressure on the instructor ‚Äď and the music. Music in a cycling class has the power to transform our bodies, minds, and souls. We go places we’ve never been before, both mentally and physically, for which music is our guide. But if the music isn’t on point, it’s likely that the quality of the workout won’t be either. Cause let’s be honest, 45 minutes on a stationary bike listening to your less-than-favorite genre (we’ve all been there) probably won’t make the mental and physical battle of the ride much easier.

Personally, I like an eclectic playlist that keeps me guessing and leads me through¬†various zones and mentalities throughout a ride. I like mainstream dance music to make me feel like I‚Äôm at a party. I like the soulful songs and instrumental beats that put me somewhere else in nature ‚Äď like a wide open desert road or a beautiful countryside. I also really enjoy a good hip-hop or¬†rap song thrown in a few times to make me feel like more of a badass on the bike than I actually am. I especially enjoy a good throwback song, particularly from the 90‚Äôs, to bring me back to that place in time.

So that’s my¬†ideal cycling experience, which is¬†a pretty tall order. But what about my 30-odd fellow riders? I highly doubt we all crave¬†the same type of music for the same type of rides. So now the instructor has to satisfy an entire group of riders, all with different preferences. Some may be much more specific, while others are okay¬†with a broader selection. But nonetheless, the music has got to be good, or else¬†nobody wins.

I‚Äôve always been very pleased with the music selection at The Handle Bar and the energy of all of the instructors, but I’m left wondering, how do they go about achieving this critical music-selecting task to satisfy the masses? I‚Äôve called on¬†several HB instructors to give some insight into their approach when compiling a playlist. Here’s what they had to say…

With literally thousands of songs to choose from, how do you go about narrowing your selection to create your ideal playlist? Give us some insight into your initial approach and thought process throughout.

Lena:¬†VIBES! Whether it’s a feeling, a melody, a beat, the rain, the sun, a moment in my day or the energy of the people around me, I find some way to connect the little things that inspire me to my music choices. I find inspiration in a song and if it feels good, I go with it.As a singer and performer, music has¬†always been my medium of expression. Creating playlists is almost an extension of this¬†art form. Music evolves and the ride evolves with it. Researching new music and listening to artists old and new is what I love, so for me creating playlists has become an intuitive process. If I feel it, my riders will feel it. I choose music that speaks to me and moves me so I can share that energy with the riders listening to it. It’s that transfer of energy in the bike room that makes for an amazing ride.

Spotify is a great way to Discover new music

Spotify is a great way to discover new music

Elise: It usually takes just one song to spark the creation of a playlist for me.  Once I hear or think of ONE song that gets me super pumped about creating a playlist, that gets my creative juices flowing and sets the tone for the vibe I am going to try to create for that class.  I always keep my ears open for songs, both old and new, that I feel a real connection with.  Each and every song on my playlist I have some type of connection to; maybe it pulls at my heartstrings or gives me a sense of nostalgia, or maybe it just makes me want to dance my pants off.  But I have to FEEL it in order to put it on a playlist.  I know that if I put songs on my playlist that make ME excited, that energy will translate to my riders.

Sarah¬†M:¬†It’s no secret that I am a big fan of house/dance/techno music so a lot of my playlists consist of those types of songs. I like to use songs from the¬†genre that most people will recognize, especially since EDM¬†is becoming a lot more popular on the radio, too. The¬†number one thing I look for in a song is the beat. It needs to have a great beat that myself and my riders can set their rhythm to. I also try to use some pretty crazy remixes. For instance, last week I used a techno remix of an old Whitney Houston song. It was completely unexpected, but everyone loved it!

Jess:¬† I pretty much always have 30-40 songs that I’m really into in a given month. I find most of my music by hearing it once and then ‘shazamming’ it on my phone. I go on song-finding binges where I’ll spend a lot of time just searching and listening and trying to hear new stuff. Then for about a month I just sift through the new stuff and other songs by those artists until I’m sick¬†of¬†them!

Cara:¬†To narrow down a playlist for a class, I always think variety: from song tempo to genres, as well as throwbacks and up and coming artists… then think choreography and creating that beginning, middle, and finale of a class. ¬†Its addicting –¬†I’ll be out with friends, at work, in the car, whatever…. and if a cool song catches my attention, I need to write it down and then spin to it in my head.

Do you find creating playlists comes much easier sometimes than others? Is it easier or more challenging as you gain more experience?

Sarah M: For me, playlist/class creation can take a really long time. You are not only putting a playlist together, but you have to then plan out the entire workout/ride/choreography. Anyone can throw together 10 awesome songs, but then creating a class that is challenging, fun, dynamic and beat driven takes talent and a lot of time. I would say it takes me anywhere from 45-90 min to put an entire playlist and workout together.

Jess:¬†It definitely gets easier. I can listen to the middle of a song for 4 seconds and know if it fits what I need in the workout. Fast jog, slow climb, seated flat, etc. But sometimes you put all those pieces of the workout together and you’ve got too much of one genre.. and sometimes you just want to play certain songs regardless of how they fit into the workout. No matter how experienced the instructor, it’s going to take time to piece together a list of songs that is diverse in mood, tempo, genre and of course choreography. I spend about 45 minutes to an hour¬†composing each workout.

Elise with loyal HB riders

Elise with loyal HB riders

Elise:¬†There are definitely some weeks that are more challenging than other weeks for creating playlists. ¬†It’s important to keep playlists new and fresh, but if I am not feeling particularly inspired by a song or a few songs in a given week I find it harder to create new playlists that really get me excited. ¬†I think that the actual creation of the ride in terms of really learning and knowing music, creating choreography and challenge in the ride has become easier over time. ¬†I played violin for almost 10 years, so that musical background gave me a good understanding of how music works in terms of measures, beats, bridges, choruses, etc.

When choosing songs, do you stress out feeling like you have to satisfy so many different opinions and how do you deal with that pressure?

Elise:¬† I’ve been teaching for 6 years now, and probably in the past 1-2 years I’ve become confident in my teaching and music style. ¬†You cannot please everyone, it’s literally impossible. ¬†It’s important for me to be true to myself and the music that I like, because that will attract riders who have similar taste in music and appreciate my playlists. ¬†Variety is great, and each Handle Bar instructor has a unique taste in music. ¬†We have something for everyone, and the riders that enjoy my taste in music will keep coming back to my classes!

Jess:¬† Heck no! I play what I like, period. If the instructor doesn’t love the music, the class will suffer. The instructor’s choice¬†in music plays a big role in their popularity/success.. but¬†I teach my best classes when I’m obsessed with the songs I’m playing. I hope my riders enjoy them too!

Cara:¬†I know my favorite songs to spin to, but if I played them every class that would be boring, so that challenging excitement comes when I need to put my “favorites” aside for the week (or month!) and explore different music. ¬†I could spend hours perfecting a playlist because the music world is endless, but of course that is not practical so I am learning to just pick one and onto the next one!

Sarah M: I think our riders trust our choice in music. We may use songs that they necessarily wouldn’t listen to on their own, but they can still appreciate the beat or the progression of the song. The best is when I use a song in class that none of my riders have ever really heard of, and then they ask me about it at the end of class because they really liked it. I think a lot of our riders have really gained a new appreciation for music as a whole and have really embraced our beat driven riding style. There really isn’t any pressure to satisfy so many different opinions. If my regulars ask me to play a specific song or artist I absolutely make sure it’s on my next playlist.

Well there you have it. The HB instructors know their stuff when it comes to music. The one common takeaway Рstaying true to their own taste in music creates the difference between a so-so ride and one that really pushes riders to transform themselves, via the songs. We hope that riding at the HB offers you not only a great workout, but also a chance to discover, appreciate, and evolve Рboth yourself and your taste in music. Look out for The Art of Playlisting: Part II where we give some advice on how to craft your own playlists.

Never stop chasing that beat.

Who Raised the Bar in October?

Yael Frydman! 

Yael has been riding with us since we opened our doors in June. She enters the studio radiating positivity, she rides with passion, and she leaves us drenched in sweat and wearing a smile! Certain people bring an energy to the room that transforms a normal ride to an epic one, and Yael is one of them. Every instructor loves having her in class – front row center, right on beat, and ready for everything they throw at her. For this reason, there’s no debating that Yael Frydman raised the bar in October. We love having you Yael, keep bringin’ it!¬†

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 Everyone has their own unique fitness journey. What has your experience/journey been like with spinning?

It’s been a ride!!!!! I started spinning back home in Argentina back in the day where spinning shoes didn’t exist in my shoe spectrum. Then once in boston I used to go spinning on the weekends, but the studio was too far (45 min drive?). I always loved it as a workout, but the key was finding that perfect blend of charismatic instructor, inspiring music and lifting energy. That’s what The Handle Bar brought to Southie! And to find it only an elevator ride away makes the deal ¬†even sweeter!¬†

How do you fit fitness into your everyday life?

Whenever I can I fit in an early morning spin: isn’t it grand?

‘It’s not even¬†7am¬†and I’m done with my cardio,¬†all energized and ready to start my day!’

 Why do you come to spin at The Handle Bar?

It’s the absolute best!! Terrific instructors, friendly staff and fellow riders, great music, convenient schedule and literally 2 doors down… Simply Unbeatable!

What did you do for fitness prior to joining the studio?

Lately I’ve been quite the DVD lady (you know, those home insane workout systems, no names needed ūüėȬ†I usually get bored traditional workouts but this hasn’t happened with spinning. It makes it so much easier to keep up with a daily exercise routine.

What goals has The Handle Bar helped you achieve?

Getting into a daily workout routine! I’m happy to make time for it! And the benefits are awesome: I’m starting to lose weight and keep up to date on what music is cool!

What’s your favorite way to retox after a long week?

Well, I’m a total foodie, love cooking and feeding everyone around me (homemade pasta anyone???) and experimenting with new recipes and techniques… Big reason to keep up with a good A- kicking riding regime!

Do you have a favorite class at The Handle Bar?

Hands down¬†6:00¬†Elise’s on Wednesdays and Fridays!!! Jess, Ally, Lena and Erin rock too!

What is your favorite music to spin to?

Work Bitch by BS is quite inspiring ūüėČ ¬†One thing I started noticing is that now and then, listening to music in the radio, spinning is sort of the gold standard to what I measure the songs: “here comes a heavy climb!”¬†

I guess I became a total spinning nerd! 

What are your thoughts on using bike shoes? Had you ever used them prior to riding with us at The Handle Bar?

What a difference!!!!! They make the ride so much more efficient… Can’t even think about spinning without them any more.

What motivates you?

Passion, excellence and a bit of competition (the healthy kind)

What words do you live by?

¬†“Quien te quita lo bailado”

An expression we use back home that means that no matter the consequences, no one can take away from you the joy of having done something!