Happy New Year 2016

What a year it has been!

As an indoor cycling instructor I have come so far with 11 permanent classes a week. Sometimes I miss doing mainly covers as it made things a bit edgy 🙂 and exciting never knowing where and who you were going to teach. But then I love building rapport with my riders so having regulars is great.

I started teaching on Matrix IC7 bikes which was a challenge in itself as I had to educate myself on training and teaching with power (previous post). I still have a long way to go to get where I want but I am on the way. From this month at Fitness First Clapham Junction we are rebranding one of my regular slots as PowerCycle. It will be a bit more educational and training orientated than a usual class. I am really looking forward to it.

I have done the mind blowing cycling trip to Costa Rica (here) and completed my first Gran Fondo in Cambridgeshire that you can read about here. This year I have signed up for the Etape in Scotland (Lord have mercy!) – you can check it out here. Then repeat of the Gran Fondo in June.

Last but not least I started this BLOG! I was toying with the idea for a long time and finally took the plunge and it has been great! Thank you to all my lovely readers and followers for your lovely comments. Keep reading it 🙂

But the main challenge of 2016 will be the sports massage course that starts at the end of March. Back to books for me! What this means for you my class participants and friends, is that you may be the lucky ones to be my case study subjects and get some sports massage for free! 🙂

I have a couple of other ideas that I won’t mention yet until they are more solid but watch this space. Definitely my website is coming up very soon.

So thank you for reading. And thank you to fellow instructors – both the ones I have met in real life and through online groups and Twitter. The social media has been instrumental in me evolving as an instructor. Thank you Tom Lahoud, Jennifer Sage, Lean Lena, Neil Troutman, Richard Collier, Sandro Morelli, Barry Ross and all other people from the FB forums. Most of the people mentioned above have blogs that I follow so check them out.

Here is to a great 2016!

Ride on!

2015 in WordPress review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for my blog. My own summary is coming later on 🙂

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,200 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 53 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Why Cycling Is Simply The Dog’s Bollocks


It is with heavy heart that I have to tell you: I am back in the freezing London after 2 weeks of what can easily be called trip of a lifetime (at least for me and at least so far). After two weeks of cycling across the stunning Costa Rica in hot temperature and extreme humidity, two weeks of having rice and peas at least twice a day and staying in some breathtaking places left me close to tears on the last day. And that wasn’t only because of the 5.5hours of delay in Houston, courtesy of United Airlines, which meant camping at the airport from 6pm until 2:20am the next day.

If I were to give Costa Rica and the amazing trip and people I met over the last two weeks justice, this post would take days to write and read so I decided to approach it differently and make it a sort of advertisement for outdoor cycling – as if it needed one 🙂

Flora & fauna in Costa Rica

I have never been anywhere like it! Wherever you turn you see birds of every colour, size and type. There are all kinds of herons, egrets, hawks, vultures, stunning and loud macaws and the amazing toucans. Unfortunately I only had my iPhone with me and that was not good enough to capture the birds but I have seen them all.

Some places like Tortuguero can only be described as butterfly madness.

Plants? Flowers? Don’t get me started on that. From all kinds of gingers, cocoa, oil palms, pineapple fields, sugar cane, coffee, banana plantations, star fruit, palms, the list is never ending…

I was gobsmacked with all the colours and wonders around me. I had a big grin on even when I was in my room on my own.

Yes, there were creepy crawlies like the massive spiders outside some of the cabins. Or the big squashed tarantula on the road which gave me the creeps. Or the slithering garden snake outside one of the rooms in Tortuguero but we also saw a sloth scratching itself high up in the tree, we saw capuchin and squirrel monkeys, we were woken up by howler monkeys on more than one occasion.

There were iguanas we saw in the branches on our boat trips but there were also a few massive ones in the trees in a local park where we stopped for a short rest. You know, the way you see squirrels in London. You look up and there is a huge iguana chilling in the shade.

Not to mention that on one of the first days we saw these:


We also saw a little crock from a little bridge on a river that we were cycling through. It was all a bit surreal. And our guide was fantastic at spotting all these wonders.




Food in Costa Rica

If you are a cyclist you know that if you face a long ride or a short but hilly one it’s important to fuel up beforehand. We all know about the benefits of slow energy releasing porridge etc right? Wrong. I have been converted: RICE AND PEAS rule! We had breakfasts and lunches the Costa Rican way. That means loads of fruit, yes. Great coffee, yes. Juices – especially the fresh fruit frozen in portions and then put through a blender with some water – mhmmm… But also rice and peas (black beans) at least twice a day. And eggs. Huevos. Scrambled huevos. And plantain. This is like rocket fuel people! And my IBS didn’t mind it either 🙂

Don’t get me wrong: you can get burgers, pizza etc but “casados”: rice and peas + chicken/beef/pork/fish, are the staple. And plantain. Boiled or fried. Loads of it.

You also get to taste bananas, watermelon and pineapples that were picked RIPE and not green and RIPENED AT HOME. What a difference. And a welcome refreshment midmorning when you are on the road. especially when the bus driver takes them out from the cooler.

Oh, and you can drink water from the tap. Everywhere. Yes, it tastes like water from the tap but the point is – it’s safe to drink it.


I just came back yesterday so 21st of November and we got there on the 7th. It is almost the end of the rain season which meant hot but dry (as in clear skies but humid in most places) until 1-2pm. Then generally the downpours start. They are very warm though but can be torrential and last for quite some time. Not fun to cycle through. But the rains finish in December so that is something to consider.

Temperature? It was about 25 to 30-something degrees all the time. Apart from the high altitude places in the mountains. Hot hot hot! You can take waterproof jacket for hikes but believe me – you will boil wearing them so it is better to get a bit wet…


I went out there with Exodus who I went cycling with before and it has proved again to be a company worth recommending. You can check out their offer here. There were people in my group who have done 20 trips with them and have never been disappointed.

Costa Rica is a poor country and when you look at the houses as you pass by through villages and small towns you can see people live simple life – even though they all have smart phones 🙂 The accommodation we were put in over the two weeks though was incredible. There were couple of basic places especially in big towns like Fortuna where the room looked more like a motel room but all the remote location were dreamy.

Warning: little lizards you can sometimes find on the walls in your bedroom? Harmless and eat all the mosquitos. Use loads of bug repellent anywhere you are. Nights in the jungle are very noisy: insects, frogs and some very annoying birds. Then the howler monkeys. Sometimes bats fighting with birds on your roof. Sometimes things running on the deck of your cabin? You may want NOT to check what that is. Just use earplugs 🙂

Cycling in Costa Rica

We spent two weeks on these beauties:


These were really MTBs with suspension but they were perfect as we had a couple of days off road. Same gearing as my beloved Pinnacle Hybrid made it very easy to ride. And when caught up in rain or on gravel etc they give you a great grip. We spent a few days cycling on the PanAmerican highway with loads of traffic, big lorries, buses and four-by-fours. They are noisy and fast however the road is really wide so you don’t feel squashed and you soon get used to the noise etc.

The bikes we were provided with had the Cat’s Eye odometers and then I used Strava to document our rides.

Costa Rica is made for cycling. In some parts the hills are crazy difficult and the heat makes it twice as hard to climb them. And the altitude. Then the descents are deadly in places because of all the tight turns and oncoming lorries. I managed to record a little over 40mph downhill which is a record for me.

Unfortunately I got into a bit of health problems right before the day when we were to face the hardest 8km climb and all I could do was to be the team photographer:

Who is this type of trip for?

EVERYONE! Man, you would not believe the fitness and determination of my team of 16 🙂 Were they pros? Nope. Apart from Brendan who was nothing short of a tank on that worst hill and climbed to the top even before the tour guide 🙂 Elaine only started cycling outdoors 3 months ago.

I didn’t ask everyone for their age but I know the youngest in the group was 34 (the mechanic was 19 but he’s a Paralympian cyclist – yes, you have heard that right) but there were people in their 50s, 60s and maybe more than that.

One of us (I hope he doesn’t mind me mentioning it) is even a Parkinson sufferer who keeps fit by cycling around the world with his wife. We all had one thing in common though – the love of cycling and the great outdoors.

Our guide Memo and Dionisio (our mechanic) took turns at leading and closing the group and we could all cycle at our own pace which was fantastic. And having the bus with us all the time meant that when I got into trouble I could just follow everyone from the bus. A couple of times when the temperature soared a few more people chose the bus for a part of the day too.

At the end of each day though we all smelled just as bad as each other regardless of age and profession, we were all just as hungry as each other and we could not wait to cycle again the next day.


I could not have asked for a better group of support team in Costa Rica. I think my next trip may be this one (the one I thought I had booked all along):


Have you been on a cycling holiday? Would you recommend it? Did you organise it alone or used a tour operator? I did a few long weekends with family and friends like Amsterdam or Norfolk  or West Sussex using just Airbnb accommodation. If you have any questions about my trip just drop a line in the comments.


The crazy Canadian Lindsey and Guillermo the guide.

“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.” – Jerry Rice (#1 NFL Player Of All Time)

We have a lift off! 1st of November has arrived which means Izabela’s 50 Class Cycle SMART Challenge has begun! You can read more about it here but in a nutshell it’s about completing 50 classes in 120 days. You can do 50 cycling classes or 25 cycling and 25 any other classes that your gym offers. Last year was a great success but this year we are going tougher yet.


Each month you will have an option to join a Challenge Within a Challenge: 30 day extra focus. In November we are taking on 30 day #greensmoothie challenge. Check YouTube for my good friend’s Sergei’s recipes and advice here.

There is a 5min video for every day. Please note: it’s not about giving up food and replacing it with smoothies! It’s about adding a green smoothie to your every day.

Here is mine from today 🙂



To sign up: go onto my FB page and send me your e-mail address so I can send you the progress chart. Set yourself a smart goal or two. Take your measurements and/or “before” picture and you are good to go. 120 days to complete 50 classes and achieve your goals. Check my previous post (link above) for details.


Staying on track will be hard at times: weather, Christmas rush, overindulging etc because life happens. That’s why I encourage you to:

  • keep an eye on the FB page for motivational messages and videos (one is up already)
  • talk to others who signed up – I am giving away yellow wristbands to all Challenger; when you see someone wear it use it as an excuse to talk to them
  • any questions are welcome on here, FB or twitter @spinbella


What is stopping you? I will be away for 2 weeks in November so keeping up will be tough but it is at the end of the day a CHALLENGE, is it not? 🙂

What do you think will be the toughest part? How can we help?


8 Leg Exercises for #Indoorcycling Instructors

Guys, this is a really concise article packed with great advice from Tom

Indoor Cycling & Spinning(r) Blog

As an indoor cycling instructor, there are several, brief-duration leg exercises that will help you reinforce the endurance, strength and stamina you acquire while coaching classes.

Although many instructors incorporate cross-training as a way to remain fit, these eight specific leg exercises are primarily intended to help you pre-empt injuries or nagging pains such as PFPS, IT Band Syndrome and others. The eight exercises described below are ones that I personally perform a few minutes prior to the start of an indoor cycling class, or when the class concludes (some of the studios I teach at offer full fitness equipment).

Leg Muscles Overview


8 Leg Exercises for Indoor Cycling Instructors

Walk around the gym, and you will notice the Squat rack/area is always occupied. Why? The most popular and favorite leg exercise is indeed Squats. There are several modifications to this popular format: Back Squat, Front Squat, Overhead Squat, One-Legged Squat, Single Leg…

View original post 140 more words

From cover to cover

Every new instructor has to start somewhere. Nobody is going to give you a permanent class a day after you get you indoor cycling qualification. This is how most of us began their careers as instructors: taking on a cover or as American like to call it “subbing” a class.

I will never forget mine. I just gained my YMCA Keiser certificate and was about to volunteer for YMCA as a gym instructor and an occasional indoor cycling cover. Then I went to visit Inka, my instructor friend at my own gym, who says: “I am going home for Christmas. I need my classes covered. I will put your name down. You will be fine!”. God Almighty! I could not sleep between that conversation and the date of the class. Which was a fair few days.

The class was on Boxing Day if I remember correctly so the gym was quite empty. Which was great as I thought that if I failed there would be not too many witnesses. The night before I was waking up every hour… I was a nervous wreck! Only 3 people turned up but it was good. It gave me the confidence.

Then I got onto a FB cover page for London instructors and agreed to cover a class at 7am in Canary Wharf… Very wise Izabela as it meant getting up at 4:30am to make my way across town…

Anyway, with time you get more picky about what covers you accept – mainly depending on transport connections and time constraints but it is an invaluable part of becoming a good instructor whatever you teach, for a few reasons.

1. You become a sound engineer.
From technical point of view you get to teach on various kinds of bikes so you become familiar with their set up and quirks. But the main point is the SOUND SYSTEM! iPod only here, CD only there, finding magic buttons in dark corners of the room which finally make the sound come to life after turning hundreds of dials in various combinations for 10th time. You also learn about existence of battery sizes you have never heard of and you start carrying a bagful of them everywhere you go. Just in case.

2. Turn up really EARLY.
Due to the very reason described above you learn that turning up 30min before the class is not crazy at all. especially if it’s for a 7:15am class, fully booked, and the sound system is DOA and NOBODY from the gym management can revive it. Thanks to a MacGyver though they put your back up CD into the DVD slot so you play your music via TV screen which makes it crap sound quality but beats you having to sing.

3. Back up music.
I use iPad since my iPod died due to sweat damage and overuse 🙂 I have a couple of playlists on my iPhone but also carry back up CDs. NOTE: make sure the CDs are not from 2005 and you actually remember what is on them! And yes, get two: 45min, 60min and a just-in-case-the-other-ones-skip one.

4. Riding gear.
Covering classes especially last minute puts you in good books of gym managers or fellow instructors and you can be sure you will need them to return the favour sooner or later. So be ready! Have a spare kit in your office. I have in the past nipped to my local Sweatshop next to the office to buy a new kit so I could take a class. And on two occasions GymBox have been so desperate for cover that hearing that my only obstacle was lack of kit, they gave me their branded top, leggings and socks 🙂

5. Challenge for every instructor.
You have been teaching your regular classes for a while. They know you and like you. You have your loyal followers. Then you turn up in a new place to cover a class with a smug smile on your face and… they don’t get you. It is a fantastic way of keeping you on your toes. You learn the importance of different types of motivation, how to explain the same thing in a different way. Sometimes it’s the opposite: you know you have a good class but the reaction at the end is a raucous applause as if you just won an Oscar because suddenly your usual jokes are new and so are your catchphrases. It’s a great feel. But the main lesson is that different gyms attract different crowds and your teaching approach needs to be flexible.

6. Ask the right questions.
To minimise any unnecessary stress when getting to a class make sure you don’t only ask where they gym is, how long the class is and what the sound system is like, but also what bikes there are, what type of workout people are used to. Are there towels? You may be like: what? towels? Yes! I sweat. OK. A lot. I have to have a towel across my handlebars. Now you’d think it’s a standard that every gym gives you a towel. Some actually would give you two if you are an instructor so I assumed that was a standard across the board. Until I accepted a cover in Brixton and once in Angel. Believe me, here is when coming early comes into play again as I had to rush out and look for an M&S or TKMaxx. I found them on both occasions but have you ever tried to use a NEW towel that has never been washed to dry yourself? Mission Impossible.

I am sure there are a few more points you could add here – feel free to put them in the comments. I like covers to keep it fresh and interesting. And it’s a great way of building a reputation of being a reliable and solid instructor.

Oh, and one more thing: please do not think that every time you cover you have to deliver HIIT class so they all crawl out of the room. Leave an impression of an instructor who “knows their shit”, cares about the participants. Chat to them after the class, get their feedback. They may be instrumental in you being asked back.

You played what?! Classical?!

How do most of us get motivated to push through the comfort zone when it comes to exercise? What gets you through these last 3 reps, last series of 10 press ups or last powerful 15 second sprint? For me it has always been music.

And pep talk. Usually my own. I mean it. I huff and puff and shout at myself. Internally. Mostly. But when I was climbing real hills in Spain on a bike heavier even than my Pinnacle Warhorse, fighting gradient 10-15% for the first time in my life, I was actually talking to myself out loud as if I was a participant in my own class. I may have looked slightly insane but I ploughed through those hills like a tank, first in my group.
But I digress.

Let’s go back to music. Music is the key when it comes to group exercise environment. And I mentioned in my previous posts – if the instructor doesn’t connect with the music, they will find it a mission to get you to connect to it.

Sometimes it is not that big a deal: someone asks me to play a song and as long as I can use it in my profile to achieve a desired effect I don’t have to be the biggest fan of the song. It will only be 4 minutes.

And it is good for any instructor to get out of their comfort zone and play something different from time to time. To shake things up a bit. I know I love my 90s, 80s, dance, but you will also get to hear Elvis, Enya, DJ Khaled and Blackstreet in my classes.

Two of my favourite playlists I have created so far (one being actually compiled in 80% by Robert Baldi for ICA) are the Tour de France “London Calling stage” and one I called “Across the Music”.

The first one includes only British artists and some rock songs which is not my usual cup of tea at all. But the class ends on a flat race of 8 minutes to the phenomenal piece of music that was the soundtrack to the Pandemonium sequence during the London Olympics opening ceremony. It is one of the most powerful pieces I have ever heard and it’s fantastic to use in a class.

I created the second one “Across the Music” trying to get everyone to find something for themselves so I had fun and focused on ensuring every song was from a different genre. there is Lord of the Dance track, dancehall, Elton John, The Prodigy and even Mack the Knife to finish it all off. To see the surprise on people’s faces is priceless. That “Am I hearing this right?!” moment is pure joy.

That positive reaction gave me courage to use classical Carmina Burana composition for a final race in another class. The build up of the tension, tempo, soft voices to the overwhelming choir at the end. I had shivers down my spine. You can’t ignore it! It makes your legs spin up faster against your will!

The most surprising for me though was a playlist that included 50% of old school garage songs. I kid you not: I had people of all ages and cultural backgrounds whooping during and after the class, applause going on and requests for repeat the following week. I was shocked.

I guess my advice is be bold. Don’t assume people’s tastes. Experiment.

I have a weekly class in a small gym in NW London. It is a very particular and multicultural place. Very different from anywhere else I teach as big part of the group speaks English as a second language and I get a few Muslim clients wearing head scarfs too. And yet again when I asked people for song suggestions a girl I would never have thought had a rave past, asked for some Artful Dodger and explained her choice as follows: “You see old school garage resonates with so many people because we all used to go out raving back in the day and this is what we ALL danced to. It takes us ALL back!”