My experience on a RealRyder

RealRyder is a company that is taking indoor cycling by a storm…… Well, maybe. I say maybe, since there is only a spattering of facilities that use these bikes in the Boston area and one on Nantucket.



Yesterday morning, I participated in a RealRyder class at Spinning Lotus Studios, in Wayland, MA. I wanted to see what the hype was about. After reading the critique of RealRyder by Jennifer Sage, of The Indoor Cycling Association, I wanted to determine for myself the value of the investment in one of these bikes or the instructor certification. And so, I paid for two classes, and joined my first class yesterday.


The bike is suspended, if that is the correct word, so it allows movement from left to right to permit a feel of turning. The design of the bike for set-up/posturing on the bike is similar to other stationary bikes. Because of the freedom of movement of the bike, it was a bit challenging getting my balance at first, especially when moving from a seated to running position, in and out of the saddle. It felt somewhat like my road bike.

I did NOT like the knob to adjust the seat height positioned on the front of the frame. I kept hitting it with my legs. I missed the power meter like the Keiser bikes use…. And had to rely on the subjective sense of feel for tension increases and decreases. The power meter is a wonderful tool, the provides distance, heart rate, tension estimates, so a rider can see improvement and/or track rides, and know exactly how much tension is on the bike and what cadence she is traveling with.



The class was a sufficient experience for me to 'play' with the bike. It was obvious to me the instructor was a RealRyder instructor and not a cyclist. She taught one song at a time, instead of creating a ride. To me that was boring. I wanted a 45 minute ride, not a grouping of songs to execute different skills. She also did not mirror her class, so we all moved the same direction– she moved to her right when moving right (the classes' left). It was hard to follow. Isolations were executed (people still do those?!?), which I never do for safety reasons. And when we turned the bike, it wasn't like riding a bike at all– just turn left, turn right, center….. But she was there to teach skills, not take us on a ride. Running was performed in an upright standing position, so participants only had to balance hands on bars, instead of holding handle bars like they were actually riding. And she encouraged the use of the aero-bars, which is problematic on any stationary bike. It was challenging to turn off the instructor in me, as I observed things in class executed by participants and the instructor that made me cringe.

Overall, I did enjoy the class, and the facility. They made a point of introducing themselves to me and learning my name. It is a spin and yoga studio, so a very yen place…. And they had some cool storage furniture, that looked like lockers. I have another class I can take and will participate in, since I paid for two.

Later in the day, I felt my legs and core and shoulders. They definitely had worked. During the ride, I did feel my body stabilizing more on this bike. The bike moves underneath you.


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Can I run that….. Dare I say……. FAST?!?


Have you ever taken a moment to watch children run and play and jump and hop and skip and run? There are no rules. They run as hard and fast as they can, for as long as they can and break into skipping or hopping and jumping to leap over some rock, or hurdle a friend. They seem so free.

Fast forward to adulthood and you have taken up running…. The fitness activity, the sport, the challenge…. With goals and ambitions– to lose weight, to BQ (Boston Qualify), to PR (set personal records). Runners speak their own language, have their own cliques, and have their own RULES.

Rules?!? What are these rules you speak of……. Ask any one who participates in the sport, and she can rattle off the rules adopted regarding attire, hydration, food consumption, and training. It can be quite overwhelming.


One rule– is about developing speed.

For some reason, peeps seem afraid to be fast, or train to be fast. I have heard all the rhetoric– how one needs to build a base, and the speed comes. Or one can to develop speed in the off-season. A foundation needs to be laid….. And while, we do need to develop an endurance base, we also need to train for speed.


The rationale that the speed may come as one trains may have more to do with fitness development and efficacy of running, as the person learns a new or old skill. But if you talk to almost any coach, you need to train fast to be fast. Period. There is no secret to it– train to run fast.


I remember running cross-country in both high school and college– we trained on the track a minimum of once a week. Yes, we needed to build endurance to be able to run a 5k in a race, but we needed to be able to run this race fast! Our goals surrounded placing no times.

And yes, I realize many of you are just out there for the run…… But don't you want to run the best you can?


So….. How do you incorporate speed into your endurance training?

My personal philosophy as a coach is that speed development needs to happen for every event, regardless of level or ability. To me, waiting to be more or better is just nonsense. Every single one of us can do step-ups, sprints, or tempo work. Speed is produced using a different energy pathway, than the long slow runs. We need to train it, or we cannot utilize it in a race.

To determine the best way to add speed to your programming is to fully understand and develop your goals. In that, you need to ask if the training you are executing matches what you want to accomplish. If your goal is just to complete the race, then carry on. If you want to finish faster, read on.

There is no single answer to assist in speed development during your training. Simple means are doing faster paced segments or intervals, for time. I like using 30/30s — the total run time might be 30 minutes, with 9 reps of 30 sec hard run matched with a 30 sec easy run.

One can add strides for distance, working on a faster form, after a medium distance run, such as 2 x 20 sec strides after a 3 mile run.

Another might be a complete day of speed work, either on the road or on the track. My personal favorite training days include: 4x400m at 5k pace; 6x1km repeats; 5x600m; or utter randomness in– sprint the telephone poles– run to one easy, then sprint to the next. Sometimes, the sprint is long and recovery short.

Tempo works includes running a shorter distance at race pace; like: 3 miles at 10k pace, or 7-mile run with the middle 3miles at 5k pace. Basically, you are preparing your body to run the faster tempo, teaching it to run fast.


It is entirely up to you how you want to cross the finish line. But the reality is– you cannot do something on race day that you have not practiced. Practice is the opportunity to learn, to challenge and to observe.

Shall we go for a run?


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Swim For Buzzards Bay –2013

Last year, as some of you know, I anticipated swimming in the Buzzards Bay Swim– an event to raise money for the the Buzzards Bay Coalition. Last year, I woke not feeling up to the swim….. And went to pick up my race packet, and report that I wasn't swimming. And I went home.

An hour later, my mom called me, reporting I had entered the water and did not exit. (I was reading a book). And after speaking with me, she returned the call to the individual who had phoned, stating I was home and well. At first, I was angry….. I had reported I was NOT swimming, and why didn't they phone me, instead of first reaching out to my emergency contact. (One of the many reasons my mom is my emergency contact— she was like…. What ocean is Meg in?).


In response to the incident, I reached out to the organizers. It seemed while they had many precautions in place, they were missing some to ensure an unnecessary phone call would not be made. I wanted to assist in keeping their swimmers safe.


This year, I was able to join the safety staff on a boat in the harbor. I observed the changes made to ensure proper head counts in and out of the water. I also witnessed kayaked escorting the different waves of swimmers, in addition to the various harbor and police boats in the water.

I am truly impressed and pleased to work with an organization that is not only interested in keeping their participants safe, but are also open to thoughts on improvement. It was interesting to see the event from a boat in the channel. I look forward to a continued relationship with the Coalition for Buzzards Bay.

I also hope to create a training/swim group or team for this swim next year.

Perhaps, we can challenge a lifeguard community to a race.


And congratulations to ALL the swimmers who completed the swim this year!



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Fancy Little Water Toys……

Toys. Yes, I said it…..TOYS. The various floating devices that children are using to assist in swimming. It is classified as a TOY, unless it is certified as a tool by the United States Coast Guard as buoyancy equipment that can be used for boating. And it is this toy that can lead to your child's drowning. Did I just say that?

I use these toys to aid my swim instruction. I also use noodles, and goggles, and kick boards, and diving sticks…..all aids, or toys, to assist in my ability to teach a child to swim. These are designed to be used with supervision. And yet, many parents leave a child unsupervised with a toy. TO CLARIFY: my definition of supervision is a parent actively involved in the swimming activity……. Not watching it from afar. If the parent is not in the water, the parent is prepared to do so in an emergency.

Today, I lifeguarded a private party. I was astounded at the lack of active supervision around the water of their young children, and the use of a swimming pool as a baby-sitter. The law says that a lifeguard can only supervise 20 children at a time, and I personally believe it should be less, especially if there are many activities present like slides. And so, I found myself at a pool, supervising children, who were left in my care by the parents at the party. I was hired to keep the aquatic environment safe, and at times, I am uncertain the parental units comprehended the authority I was given as they felt empowered to question and even contradict decisions I made to keep the pool safe for their children. *shocking*

According to Prevent Injury (dot) org,

Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1 to 14 andthe leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4. The majority ofdrowningsandnear-drowningsoccurinresidentialswimmingpoolsandinopenwatersites. However,children can drown in as little as one inch of water and are therefore at risk of drowning in wading pools,bathtubs, buckets, diaper pails, toilets, spas and hot tubs.

Drowning usually occurs quickly and silently. Childhood drownings and near-drownings can happen in amatter of seconds and typically occur when a child is left unattended or during a brief lapse in supervision.Two minutes following submersion, a child will lose consciousness. Irreversible brain damage occurs afterfourtosixminutesanddeterminestheimmediateandlong-termsurvivalofachild. Themajorityofchildren who survive (92 percent) are discovered within two minutes following submersion, and mostchildren who die (86 percent) are found after 10 minutes. Nearly all who require cardiopulmonaryresuscitation (CPR) die or are left with severe brain injury.

They discuss in detail where the risks happen. In fact, they state that a child is likely to be in a parent's supervision at the tIme of drowning.

Today, supervision occurred from across the yard. The majority of the time the children were in the water, the parents were not present. Of those parents, that swam with their children, none were in or around the water the entire time their child was present.

And the floaties took the place of the parent, after all.


The previous two photos are of children wearing what might commonly known as 'water wings'. Today, two children were wearing such toys. These have to be the least safe product, on the market. These NEED to come with warning signs ALL OVER the packaging! These floaties do not permit a child to move freely, and if the child raises her arms while under water, she can lose one or both wings.

This is exactly what happened today. A child wearing a pair of water wings, was becoming more confident in his ability to swim independently. This confidence was a false confidence, as the wings were providing the support. The child could not swim without the toy. The child should not have been permitted to swim alone. AND yet, he was in the water, jumping, splashing and using the slide. On his last trip down the slide, the little boy lost a water wing, and became a distressed swimmer, who could quickly become an active victim. Fortunately, I was able to perform a reaching assist and pull the child to the side of the pool.

*my first rescue for 2013*


The sad thing is the reliance on the toy, which is not a Coast Guard approved floatational device. It is a toy. And like all toys, it requires appropriate supervision.

All children that spend time at pools, who have a pool or live near a body of water, need to know how to be able to get safely to the side and climb out. They need to know how to float on their backs. And they need appropriate supervision at a waterfront. Parents should not rely solely on the lifeguard staff to watch and care for their children.

Swim lessons are available through a variety of agencies, including various Parks and Recreation, YMCAs, JCCs, and I am available for lessons beginning at 3years.


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Lightning Safety

Summer is now in full swing, with heat advisories and random thunderstorms.

Lightning is a pretty cool event to observe, but it can also be pretty scary, especially if on or around the water. It is pretty simple what to do at an outdoor pool with the oncoming threat of a storm— close the pool for 30 minutes after the last sound (thunder) or sight (lightning), and get inside, away from the storm.

And yet, when it comes to indoor pools people have a much different perspective on their safety. It amazes me that suddenly because a roof is put over a body of water, people seem to think they are safe in an electrical storm.

I was brought up and trained as a lifeguard 'old school', — indoor threat is the same as an outdoor threat. Clear the pool, clear the deck, and wait 30 minutes after the last sighting or sound of the storm.

The National Lightning Safety Institute (NSLI) has similar recommendations to those I adhere to. Here are more recommendations that the NSLI makes for indoor pools.

The American Red Cross makes similar recommendations, based on the fact that there isn't enough research out there. They advise to take a conservative route when dealing with severe weather and indoor pools.

Personally, I would prefer to err on the side of caution, instead of risking everything. Not everyone holds my point of view. I was recently at a pool, when a severe storm traveled through the area. I was told we were 'safe' because it was only thundering, and we would exit the pool if lightning was seen. The pool was cleared at the site of lightning, but the deck remained open. It seemed really strange to me. As this pool, which I will remain nameless, is affiliated with a National Organization, who not only has a National Mandate, but whose insurance company mandates the pool and deck is CLOSED for 30 minutes after the last sight or sound of the storm. (Things that make you go hmmmmmmmm).

Here is a link for an article published in Aquatics International, regarding their opinion of safety in an indoor pool during severe weather. They claim no one has been injured in the water from a storm at an indoor pool. And USA Swimming has no policy, at this time, regarding swimmer safety in the water. It seems it is left up to the policies of the pool that the USA Swim club utilizes. Perhaps, no one has been reported injured because we have been clearing the pool.

And so, the debate continues….. Growing up, we turned off the TV, didn't shower, didn't talk on the phone, during thunderstorms. Somehow today, we seem to think we are bigger than the storm…. And invinceable. After witnessing some of the recent violent storms that have traveled through various parts of New England, bringing tornadoes, and extreme lightning, bouncing off the coast, reminding us of how small we really are, I prefer to err on the side of caution and Close The Pool.


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Deep Water Fun!

Meet some of the ladies in my AquaFit classes at the Gleason Family YMCA, in Wareham, MA.

This photo was taken Wednesday, after we took our floatations belts off and were stretching in the deep water with noodles. Needless to say, they loved the class.

Come join me at the YMCA on Mondays at 8am, Wednesday or Fridays at 8 and 9am.

Classes are an hour in length and we do a variety of activities including deep and shallow water!


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Is there a balance in Urban Cycling?

Guilty! Yes, I am….the print, entitled 'Urban Cycles' by Marcellus Hall, on the current issue of The New Yorker magazine, speaks volumes. I am guilty, as I teach inside. Many of my cyclists are indoor cyclists.

My work, teaching indoor cycling, and working with cyclists–those who ride outside, is clearly represented in this picture. My challenge is to create a balance between the two-worlds. Indoor cycling, while appropriate, can take away from the fun of just riding a bike. Remember the days of pedaling super fast to pick your feet off the pedals and feel like you were flying…. The wind blowing through your hair, and your smile so big and filled with laughter your face hurt.

But we enter Adult-hood….. We are serious now. Indoor cycling is serious stuff. For some, it is to burn those calories, others to prepare for those outdoor events. For many, it is rarely about singing to the song and laughing out loud. Even outside, when was the last time you stopped or turned around to see the heron in the stream, the kids playing in the park or to look at an interesting plant or flower?

Competition is great. Being able to take your outside games inside is awesome. Let's not lose site of the fun of cycling. Summer is here on the cape. My classes are getting smaller– Tri season has approached. I work with some serious athletes. But I know all of these are enjoying the ride.

Indoor cycling is a valuable tool. It can be used in the winter months to train for the summer season. it can be a time to lay the foundation and develop skills that are lacking. It can be fun. But it can also take away that appreciation for the various endurance and charity rides (outside) that occur throughout the year.

As that instructor and coach, I am reminded of two things….. GO OUTSIDE! And Enjoy the Work! Your passion comes through, especially when not confined to a box!

I encourage all my indoor cyclists to ride outside, do you?


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Reflection on the book: America’s Girl


As I finished this book, I shed a tear in gratitude for a woman who broke barriers, because she wanted to do something. Gertrude Ederle was an amazing swimmer and woman. She was the first female to swim the English Channel. She broke the men's records when she did this. She also invented the two-piece swim suit, to make her swim easier, and water-proof goggles so the salt water wouldn't irritate her eyes.

Australian long-distance swimmer, Tammy van Wisse said this: 'Gertrude Ederle was a woman I admired for her 'never say die' attitude and amazing perseverance. Her swims meant more than just records. She advanced the acceptance of women in sports, and she did it at a time when women were discouraged from participating.'


'Ederle was the last surviving charter member of the Golden Age of sport, and while other women athletes would eventually do,significant things, hers may have been the greatest simple accomplishment in women's sports history. She was America's first female sports hero, a woman who never set out to,be a pioneer but became one anyway. The two million people who watched her triumphant parade through the Canyon of Heroes still stands as the greatest turnout for any athlete, male or female.' — from the Epilogue of the book.


I am truly grateful to her.


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Long-Slow Distance is Just Wrong.

After reading the following article, as posted on Runner's World, I had to respond. The author, Roy Benson has some good thoughts, and ideas…. But I disagree with Long Slow Distance as a prescription for anything. Perhaps, it is I who is confused in my interpretation….. But let me share and explain. (My thoughts are in this type.

Owner's Manual: No Substitute for LSD.

Base mileage is the key to consistency

Roy Benson


July 22, 2008

Years ago I coined the term “adult-onset athletes.” I wanted to describe runners who had never participated in sports in school and who had probably never learned to respect the wisdom of seasons. These runners would not have benefited from coaching that taught the importance of phasing in the separate periods of: 1) conditioning; 2) competing; 3) peaking for championship performances; 4) and then taking at least a couple of weeks of active rest to recover.

I love the term, adult-onset athletes. LOVE IT…. It describes many of the clients who suddenly decide to be an athlete, become active and tackle a goal…. All of which are good, but many do it randomly, without direction. This could and should be an entirely different blog post, but explains why so many are lured into the media revolution and the psuedo-training gyms that are popping up all over the place. Basically put, these adults don't know how to train, about recovery, and that pursuing the burn, the fatigue, the pain isn't good for you.

Unfortunately for adult-onset runners, the sport of road running has developed into an endless, year-round competitive season. As a result, these runners may never learn the need for recovery from the mental, emotional, and physical stress of the constant racing month after month. To illustrate, here's the development pattern of the typical adult-onset runner.

Well said! And the scenario begins:

Laura wakes up after her 30th birthday party, looks into the mirror and exclaims, “My God. Who is that hung-over chubette staring back at me?” Slowly, a wave of maturity washes away the delusions and allows her to admit to the reality in the mirror caused by her Good Times lifestyle. “A-ha!” she says. “It's time to grow up, get in shape, and lose some weight.”

Wisely, Laura selects a simple plan of walking a mile a day and cutting back on the calories and cocktails. Soon she stretches the walk to 45 minutes a day. After a couple of months, five or six pounds are missing and Laura feels great. But now her weight stabilizes and she can't seem to walk fast enough to feel as satisfyingly tired as she did when she first started heading out the door each morning. Laura decides to try some jogging. But, sure enough, after a few minutes, she is seriously huffing and puffing and realizes she can't maintain this effort for the whole workout. So she slows down to a walk, and as soon as she catches her breath, tries jogging again. Without realizing it, she is doing a natural form of fartlek training that soon conditions her to go the whole “workout” without walking. Several months later, leaner and fitter, Laura has built up a nice endurance base from her aerobic activities.

So, to speed up the story, Laura goes through the whole walk-jog-run cycle, developing her stamina and then her speed. At the suggestion of a friend, she decides to try a 10K race. Next thing we know, Laura finds some hidden athletic talent and is soon winning some hardware. Now she's hooked on the sport, loves her new athletic self-image and is going to two or three races every month, year-round.

About four or five years later, (it took that long?) as I have witnessed time after time, the PRs stop coming. Laura now overtrains as she pushes harder and harder in her workouts. The constant, year-round training/racing catches up with her. The inevitable crash is a stress fracture of her tibia that requires a “Mother Nature's Recovery Period.” No running for six weeks! Her reaction? A classical emotional and psychological response: depression so deep that she isolates herself from her running friends. She won't listen when they suggest cross-training in the pool or on a bike because she's so mad at them for running off and leaving her behind.

There are several issues described here. Overtraining. Another blog post coming. Injury and Rehab. See the pattern? Self-diagnosis and care. Depression. And more self-diagnosis and care. I cannot begin to count the number of individuals I have encountered that see rest and recovery as a weakness, and then are utterly shocked at an injury. And of course, they know best in terms of recovery and rehab.

The problem goes back to the fact that the adult-onset athlete has never learned to train. They like buzz-words like cross-training– which can mean just about anything from strength, speed work, flexibility, or doing an activity other than running. All of which are essential for being better at running.

Following her time off , Laura is now close to completely de-conditioned. Unfortunately, we also see this coming out of rehab. The tendency is is to isolate the athlete from his/her teammates, and have these individuals in the training room. The overall result is the depressions that Laura is experiencing. If Laura had been doing more than running in her training to begin with, the biking, swimmingor deep water running could have included her running friends. granted her activities would be restricted, but there is no reason for total isolation…..and yet, it happens. Whether it is self-imposed or by the therapist, the isolation does occur. Unfortunately because the original development of her fitness level had gone, unconsciously and without interruption, from below lousy to peak performance, Laura doesn't realize the need to duplicate that same pattern, albeit this time for just six to eight weeks. So, after just a couple of weeks of easy jogging to get her mileage back up, she feels great and decides to return to the track workouts with her old training partners. Laura's surprised by how quickly she catches up with them and, of course, feels she's ready to race again. Big mistake! She soon finds that both her training and racing times are puzzlingly inconsistent. One day she feels super and runs well. Next workout or race, she bombs out. This continues until another crash interrupts the pattern.

Why? Because Laura never truly rebuilt her aerobic base. take that a step further and state her training base, not just the aerobic base. She has been idle for a period of time, has not developed strength, and returned to training, pushing to get back where she was. Immediately after getting the OK to resume training, she should have done an endurance phase of Long Slow Distance running. (LONG SLOW DISTANCE?!?! REALLY!?!) The effort would have had the same benefits as those of her first several months of easy walk/jogs of five or six years earlier. This new, solid foundation of aerobic fitness would have allowed her to climb back up the training triangle and perform consistently again. Ok. I agree…. Walking, mixed in with running. But what I have witnessed when one says JOG, the result looks downright painful. In my world it is slogging– the thing that hurts to do, is painful to watch and accomplishes nothing. Many of our injuries are the result of repetition, lack of proper form, compounded by poorly chosen shoes. My philosophy: NO SLOGGING! Go out and run hard and fast. As your fitness improves, your times improve. If you are tired, WALK! Ad then repeat. I know….it sounds more glorious to say I didn't walk, but what if the slow running is causing that injury? The repetitive poor movement pattern is injuring you, and making you slow. Yes, I know….. Another blog post. I am not saying a foundation run is wrong — but watch the runners we model after and the foundation run is at a tempo. Build your base– 3 mile run? Run 5 minutes, walk 5….. And make the run, a run. And develop the foundational strength to support that run. Yup, another blog post.

As many veteran runners realize, this doesn't happen just to adult-onset athletes. Time after time, I see examples of serious runners who don't appreciate the ravages of the endless season. Many are often like the subject of last month's column who didn't understand the day to day recovery benefits of LSD. They also don't appreciate the wisdom of seasons, and why, with a nice layoff for active rest, they can avoid the injuries and illnesses from burnout.

In every case, whether the recovery period is planned by the runner or imposed by Mother Nature, a nice wide mileage base must be rebuilt by LSD training. The bigger the miles, the better.

Roy Benson, MPE in Exercise Physiology, has been a distance running coach for 44 years.

My point is that we need to know how to train. Adult-onset athletes need to learn to train, to be able to perform. If you need direction, seek out a coach. One can run year round, understanding the cycles of training. We need to determine a season or specific races in which we want to participate and prepare for those, permitting rest and recovery within the training cycle and year.

Keep in mind I understand the author is using LSD as a term to lay that foundation for fitness in running. I just don't believe Slogging is the way to accomplish it.

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