Becoming Secretariat: What a famous horse & Spinning® have in common


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Josh Taylor is a former pro cyclist and master Spinning instructor.

Spinning is a fantastic cardio workout that gives you a stronger heart and leaner body mass — your legs get a killer strength workout, too. After we spoke to Josh Taylor, former pro cyclist and master instructor for the Spinning program, we learned there’s even more ways we can benefit from this fun and easy-to-do workout.

“A lot of people view Spinning as this intense, ass-kicking workout, and it very well can be, but Spinning’s philosophy is that it is open to everyone. You are in control of your workout,” Taylor explains. “If you can’t do a certain movement for five minutes like the instructor is calling for, do it for a minute and sit back in saddle; get your breath back and off you go again.”


“When you think you can’t give anymore, dig deeper and keep going.”

“Staying motivated is staying engaged with what you’re doing,” says Taylor. “In Spinning , we teach those instructors who are teaching it to try pulling an emotional connection with the exercise, using positive thoughts and affirmation.”

Secretariat was the motivator in Josh Taylor's two-hour specialty ride.

That’s what Taylor used when he recently conducted a two-hour special-edition Spinning class based on Secretariat, one of the greatest race horses of all time, during the ECA World Fitness Conference in New York City. He took all attributes of Spinning and made it into a visually motivating experience. All 90 people in the room became Secretariat, from a little pony learning how to race to the winner at the ’73 Belmont Stakes where he made horse-racing history.

During the final race, Taylor told the class to search for the “effort within an effort” as we pounded down the track for two minutes and 24 seconds — Secretariat’s world record time for the 1.5-mile distance.

“Sometimes in class you’re going to suffer, whether it’s the intensity of the interval you’re doing or length of what you’re doing. Anytime we doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable, we tend to go into a negative mindset. Spinning® can teach you to stay out of that negative mindset. So under adversity, you stay positive,” Taylor says.

For someone who is just starting a Spinning class and not sure they can make the whole hour, Taylor says to just be honest with yourself and promise yourself that you’re going to do it. Also, your instructor should be looking around the room, making you sure you are comfortable and if you are in need of some help. Taylor added that they should really be helping you mentally because there’s a trust. If you can trust that instructor knowing they’ve been certified, knowing they have the education and giving you the right workout, you’re much more apt to push yourself.

“Spinning allows you to actually close your eyes and do hard work,” Taylor explains. “It’s a unique opportunity to work on yourself. Mix that with a certified instructor, beautiful music and positive words — it’s a recipe for a perfect class.”

As in any endurance sport, the only difference between professional and beginner is that the professional goes faster up the hill. It still hurts; he just goes faster. You also learn the mental aspect to get through the hard times and trust yourself to get through it. And that’s where you see huge gains. It’s pretty neat because that type of mindset can actually carry outside the studio and be applied to everyday life.

Watch Secretariat’s dramatic record-breaking win at the Belmont:


Don’t forget to cross-train for a total body workout

Spinning is not a total body workout so if it’s your primary form of exercise, Taylor recommends any upper body strength and conditioning classes that you can do off of the bike, plus yoga for flexibility. He is against any upper body strengthening done on the bike — contrary to what many trendy cycling classes offer — because it is unsafe and ineffective.

“If you’re going to do a core workout, don’t do it on a bike. Get off the bike and do an arm workout,” Taylor says.


Clearing the air on Spinning

According to Taylor, there’s a warped perception among the general public that all indoor cycling is Spinning. It is not. Spinning is a registered trademark of Mad Dogg Athletics, based in Venice, Calif. They are responsible for creating the indoor cycling revolution 20 years ago, and they make their own brand of stationary bikes. Their instructor training, philosophy and education is based on real road cycling. Taylor stresses the importance that they are not a hybrid fitness program (which can be harmful!). Their roots are in a real sport. The Spinning trademark program is all about the quality of what you can do on a stationary bike. They’ve been through the ringer so they know what works and doesn’t work.

If you’re looking for an indoor cycling class, visit Spinning.com to find a reputable, certified instructor (and some great gear and apparel). They will guarantee that you’re in good hands to see you through your workout in a fun, safe manner.

Check out this full Spinning workout by Taylor and get inspired!