The seed had been planted long ago by my running friend (and spin instructor) Sharon Donnelly telling me, “Cor, you have to try spin. You’ll love it!” In typical ‘Cor-fashion’ I dismissed it. “No, I need to be outdoors running,” I’d say, “I couldn’t possibly get the same workout on a bike.”
– Corinne Brown
I Love Cycling!
by Corinne Brown
Let me begin by saying I have always been a running SNOB, at least, that is until I injured my hip. Until then, I believed running was the only activity that would give me the cardio high I craved. It turns out I was wrong, but it took a torturous path for me to find that out! The seed had been planted long ago by my running friend (and spin instructor) Sharon Donnelly telling me, “Cor, you have to try spin. You’ll love it!” In typical ‘Cor-fashion’ I dismissed it. “No, I need to be outdoors running,” I’d say, “I couldn’t possibly get the same workout on a bike.”
My attitude about spinning really didn’t change until it had to. Back in 2004, I was on an early morning run with Rachel Ezelius and Peter Daly when I was struck by a car. I remember it so clearly: in the early morning twilight, a guy came flying around the corner in a tight, fast turn. I had a split second to react, and I jumped out of the way, but his Volvo hit me on the leg sending me I spiraling – literally – in the air. I landed splat on the sidewalk. Had I not jumped I would probably have been pinned underneath his car. Amazingly, all I seemed to have to show for the collision was a nasty little welt on my shin. I was shaken up, for sure, but all-in-all, I felt like a very lucky girl.
The true impact of the accident took a little longer to express itself. A few months later I started experiencing hip, groin and leg pain in the leg that had gotten in the way of the Volvo bumper. I didn’t immediately make the connection between the accident and the pain in my hip. I just took the usual steps I would take for any lower back/hip pain – I would see Dr. Donna Brown for Chiropractic adjustments and Dr. TJ Golub for Physical Therapy. After a few treatments, TJ suggested that I might be suffering from a torn labrum in my hip, and suggested an MRI, which I reluctantly agreed to.
The MRI revealed that there was indeed a labrum tear, but there was also some significant wear in the hip joint itself. At first, the pain was manageable, but it gradually got worse and grew more constant. Yes, I could still run -in pain, and teach my classes- in pain, or walk down my driveway – in pain, but the fact was I now lived my life in constant pain. As they say, the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing but expecting a different result –so clearly, I needed to change my exercise routine.
So I decided to give spin with Sharon a try. Not only did she prove my running snobbery to be completely mistaken, I actually had a fun, challenging and, most importantly at this point, pain-free workout! I immediately switched my primary cardio to cycling. The Keiser M3 spin bikes in the Cycle Studio have ride computers that track heart rate, calories, pedal stroke, intensity, etc., gauges which made it easy to challenge myself in each class and to measure my improvement. Every class I took I felt stronger and stronger. They even helped me to be a better instructor in my own classes.
While cycling was amazing, the pain came back when I stopped. As much as I loved it, I couldn’t possibly do everything on a bike. And when I wasn’t on a bike, the pain was always there, and it was getting worse. A second MRI confirmed that my hip had continued to deteriorate. So after three years of enduring the pain I finally agreed to have hip resurfacing surgery by Dr. Edwin Su at The Hospital for Special Surgery. His review of my MRI determined that not only was my labrum torn, but that I also had no cartilage in my right hip, as well as bone spurs and arthritis to boot. But I was fortunate, thanks to years of exercising and good eating, to have strong, dense bones, so a hip resurfacing procedure, which is less drastic than a full hip replacement, was a great option for me.
Truthfully, it was the best decision I could have ever made. I was instantly out of pain. I was out of the hospital the day after the surgery and started my rehab immediately with Dr. Golub. Within days he had me off crutches, and after a couple of months of intense rehab (all those years of teaching really paid off!) I had regained the strength and flexibility I had before my injury. And I was completely and amazingly pain-free. I felt like I had a new lease on life. As soon as I was cleared—which was only two weeks after surgery—I returned to my cycle classes again, which served as an added rehab for my hip. It also got me back to my life at the gym, which is so important to me. I can confidently say that due to cycling I have never felt more powerful in my life. Best of all, it’s an activity I can do for the rest of my life.
So even though I’m now pain free, and yes, I could go out for a run, I choose instead to preserve my joints (natural and artificial) and get my cardio high in the FI cycle room with Rich Incandella, Michelle Santangelo, Mary Krisowaty and whoever else teaches early morning spin at FI. Perhaps I’m slightly prejudiced, but FI has an amazing cycling program led by a wonderful group of instructors. We’re really fortunate to have them.
So for all of you running SNOBS out there, my advice is to give cycle classes a try. I think you will agree that not only is it gentle on the joints (and safe from cars) but an absolutely amazing, fun workout.
Corinne Brown founded Fitness Incentive in 1984, and is the owner to this day. She is an avid proponent of exercise and nutrition and has over 35 years of experience as a group exercise instructor.