Find the Hero Within With Spinning
By Linda "The Spin Nazi" Wainright
Why do we refer to some people as "heroes",
but not others? What makes a person into a hero? Is it success of some
kind? What does it take?
If you run the word "hero" through
your word processing program's thesaurus, chances are you'll receive a list
of synonyms such as superman, brave man, champion, conqueror and idol.
If you run any of these terms through the thesaurus, you'll get another
list similar to this one: winner, victor, title holder, defeater, icon,
This list of words brings to mind two cyclists
who are widely regarded as "heroes, champions, conquerors and idols":
Lance Armstrong and Johnny G. What makes them each a hero, and what can
we learn from them?
Johnny G, formally named Jonathan Goldberg,
was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1956. He developed a passion
for marathon cycling early on, and later evolved to become a personal trainer
as well as a black-belt martial artist in addition to a professional cyclist.
In 1987 he founded the Spinning program. It was a grass-roots effort;
the first classes were held in his garage at the end of the day when he
got home from work and on weekends. Originally, there were no Spinning
bikes as we know them; he put his racing bike up on rollers. The bikes
we have today are based upon his racing bike and that original concept.
The Spinning program was born from his efforts
to prepare for the Race Across America, a grueling 3,100 mile race wherein
racers ride from Los Angeles to New York. The first time he competed in
this race in 1987 he dropped out at the midway point, too exhausted to compete.
Determined to master this grueling race, he began utilizing the latest
research in heart rate training and exercise physiology to prepare for the
next year's RAA. He put his racing bike up on rollers and would come home
from his daily job as a trainer to practice for the race. He would often
disappear into his garage Friday evening and not emerge until Sunday night.
He learned to train smarter, not harder, using heart rate parameters combined
with cycling techniques and motivational empowerment that comes from eastern
disciplines and mind-body practices. The result of his efforts was a record
finish of 10 days in the 1989 Race Across America.
After the race was over, he asked himself, "What
next?" The answer was sitting in his garage: the apparatus he designed
to train himself for the race. He realized that what helped him to finish
the RAA in record time would also be a useful training tool for anyone looking
to get in shape. After all, the most grueling, ultra-endurance race a person
can really enter is the race against oneself - to lose weight, get in shape
and change your lifestyle. Johnny G's dream of spreading the Spinning phenomena
beyond the confines of his own garage came true: the Spinning program is
international, as it is taught in over 30 countries by over 4,000 instructors.
Lance Armstrong began his cycling career in
Plano, Texas where he competed in the Iron Kids Triathlon at 13. His ascension
through the ranks of amateur competition appeared almost effortless, and
he turned professional by the age of 16. In his senior year of high school
he trained with the U.S. Olympic cycling developmental team in Colorado
Springs, Colorado, sealing his destiny as well as his career on a bicycle.
He competed in the Tour de France, the Atlanta
Olympic Games, World championships and several Tour du Pont. At the top
of his game, however, he was forced off the bike in excruciating pain.
A diagnosis of testicular cancer which had spread to his brain and his lungs
would have sidelined anyone else, but not Lance. He began an aggressive
form of therapy that would give him a chance at a full recovery without
loss of lung capacity as a side effect.
Lance readily admits that, though physically
and emotionally scarred by the cancer, it was probably one of the best things
that happened to him. It gave him a new perspective on life, allowing him
to think beyond cycling to the cancer community. He established the Lance
Armstrong Foundation to provide hope and help to others struggling with
His comeback to cycling was rocky. In a cold,
miserable Paris-Nice race in 1998, he pulled off the road and quit. No
professional team would take a chance on him. Many thought his cycling
days were over. A retreat to Boone, North Carolina with friend and trainer
Ian Charmichael allowed him to fall in love with cycling all over again.
He and his coach made some changes in the way he trained, and, with new
courage, he hit the road again. His hard work, courage and determination
culminated in top five finishes in World Championships and as well as multiple
victories in the Tour de France. Many say he is an even better athlete
after his cancer than before.
Truly, both of these men deserve the titles
"Hero, Champion, Brave Man, Conqueror and Idol". They set world
records in their sport, making them champions. They competed at the top
of their game despite set backs that would have devastated others, conquering
their own fears and self-doubts. They displayed enormous courage in pursuing
their passion and in sharing that passion with the world community, despite
nay-sayers. They are idols to new athletes entering the field of competitive
cycling. What lessons can we draw from these two men? How can we, average
Spinning class participants, be heroes in our own right?
Priya Shah notes in his article, "To Be
A Champion, Become A Child," the thing that sets heroes apart is their
mindset or attitude. We all possess this mindset as children, but through
the process of growing up we have it programmed out of us. We lose our
child-like faith that all things are possible for those who believe. Lance
Armstrong and Johnny G believed in themselves, in their talent and in their
ability to make a difference. That mindset allowed them to become the champions
In order to become a hero in our own lives,
Priya Shah states that we should return our mindset to that of a child.
He defines champions, or heroes, as follows:
Champions are willing to learn. We come into this world with an innate desire to learn and to
understand the world around us. To become a champion, or hero, we must
be willing to educate ourselves, or to be educated by others, and to read
about the things we need to learn about, even if they are completely new
to us. Johnny G studied the latest research in exercise physiology and
heart rate training to train himself in a new way for the Race Across America.
Lance Armstrong stepped back and relearned cycling after his cancer, and,
in the process, learned to love it again. In the context of our health
and the Spinning program, we need to understand how our bodies work, how
they process the food we ingest, how and why they respond the way they do
to training and exercise, and what causes premature aging, disease and death.
There is no easy way to accumulate this knowledge except to read and ask
questions of our trainers, instructors and health care providers. Knowledge
is power. If we have a desire to learn, then we'll have the ability to
achieve our fitness goals.
Champions are willing to act. Children are completely geared toward action. As soon as they
learn something new, they want to do it. Champions are the same. Johnny
G put his new-found knowledge to use in training himself as well as his
clients, and a fitness craze was born. Lance Armstrong pursued the most
aggressive chemotherapy treatment, after careful research and several consultations
with a variety of physicians, with an eye towards cycling after his recovery.
After his recovery he worked just as hard at his comeback. We must take
the knowledge we acquire and put it to good use. What good is knowledge
if not acted upon? If you know what is best for you, you have no choice
but to do it! What stops you from doing what you know to be the right thing?
You're worth it! Act on your desire to be the best and you will be!
Champions are not afraid to fail. When a baby first learns to walk, it falls a lot. But instead
of giving up, it picks itself up and keeps going. Failure is the best teacher.
By learning from our mistakes we fine-tune our talents, skills and methods
until we succeed. Even the greatest heroes failed. Lance Armstrong dropped
out of a race during his comeback, and many wrote him off. Johnny G dropped
out of the Race Across America half-way through the first time he attempted
it. Abraham Lincoln had several failed businesses, and lost several local
elections before winning the presidency. Many a health club participant
dropped out after failing to achieve their weight loss goals. The failure
is not the thing that keeps us from being champions; giving up is.
Champions are willing to adapt. Children adapt to long-term changes relatively easily. They
accept a situation for what it is and change their behavior accordingly.
As we grow older, we become more rigid in our thinking, and it is this
lack of adaptability that holds us back. Johnny G discovered that the way
he had been training for races was not working for him anymore when he tried
the Race Across America, so he tried something new. Lance Armstrong became
one of the strongest hill climbers in the Tour de France by changing the
way he trained for races and the way he climbed hills. The adaptation was
not easy; it took a willingness to learn and to act, as well as no fear
of trying something new or failing. As we get older, our bodies no longer
work the way they did when we were younger. The biochemistry and hormonal
support is simply not there anymore. We cannot continue to live our lives
the way we did when we were younger. We must eat healthier foods, participate
in weight-bearing exercise to promote bone density as well as muscular strength
and endurance, and participate in cardiovascular exercise programs such
as Spinning. All of these are adaptations that lead to a healthier, happier
you. Lots of work? Yes! Worth it? You bet!
Champions are willing to innovate. Children are creative, inventive little people. They possess
no preconceived notions about how things ought to be, how they are done.
They are adaptable, fearless little sponges that are willing to find new
ways to do things that will make their lives easier. It is not enough to
learn from what has been done before; champions find new ways of doing things.
When Johnny G began using heart rate training parameters, he was being
an innovator. This was new research, and exercise programs at that time
were not using such information. His desire to learn, willingness to act
on what he learned without fear of failure, and willingness to adapt his
training program to this newly acquired information lead to an innovative
way of training that has become the industry norm today. In order for us
to be heroes, we need to think about what we're trying to accomplish and
discover new ways of doing it. Is your exercise program becoming boring?
Try something new! If you always work out on the treadmill or the EFX
machine, try a Spinning class! If you are an ardent Spinner, try a step
class. The difference will make you appreciate Spinning all the more, and
the cross-training will keep your body guessing, working hard, adapting
and producing results!
Priya Shah, a motivational coach and author,
notes "Winners don't do different things. They do things differently."
We all have the capacity to change our lives for the better. We were
born with all the tools we need to succeed and be champions. All that we
need to do is rid ourselves of pre-conceived notions, fears and hesitations
that prevent us from achieving our goals. By looking at the world with
new eyes, a child's vision, we can tap into our inner hero.
Your fitness goals are at your fingertips.
Come try a Spinning class and see why Johnny G deserves the title, "Hero".
Come try a Spinning class and you'll begin to see that you are a hero,
1998 Fitness Connection. All rights reserved.
Information in this document is subject to change without