You’re never going to become the person you’ve always wanted to be until you get over the intimidation of the hard work ahead of you. As they say, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” No matter who you are, nothings is quite as daunting as the whir of bicycle pedaling and shouts coming from that room at the gym…you know the one. They seem crazed until you actually join this gang of exercisers who feed on each other’s enthusiasm. In order to help you see the tremendous benefits and understand what to expect, we’ve invited Mike Arlotto, trainer and Pursuit Cycling teacher at Equinox Vancouver to ease your tense ego. A master motivator who uses visualization techniques, encouraging phrases, and goal setting type terminology to motivate the participants, Mike brings energy and enthusiasm to his classes that inspires even the most trepidatious. His intro to proper bike set-up is quickly followed by energy charged music (Arlotto is often known to “dance” from atop his bike during classes). His mindset is that of all participants sharing the experience and a common goal of a personal best. You’re most likely to hear “Yes you can, Yes you will! You are stronger than you know. You've come too far to let go now. Stop wishing for it, work for it. Keep fighting for it. Everything you need is already inside of you, tap into that power right now. Only you stand in the way of a stronger you… get out of your own way.” in Mike’s class. Each session is designed to be challenging “real road rides” characterized by long endurance stretches, steep hill climbs, and fast bursts of high intensity sprint drills. Mike Arlotto stresses that simply making the decision to start is the biggest hurdle. The journey will have peaks and valleys, making it all the more interesting.
Mike’s Own Story and Tips on Getting Started
We all know what intimidation feels like. Feeling not good enough, judged and less than are common human emotional states that even the fittest and strongest among us battle with. The only way past those fears is through them, and anyone who you may feel intimidated by today was once in your position until they decided to “feel the fear and do it anyway”. Once you take that leap, you will likely come to realize that you’re stronger than you realized, and that the only one who was judging you is usually only you. Everyone has to start somewhere, and when people tell me, I’ll come to a class when I’m in better shape, my response is: that’s like saying I’ll take a shower when I’m clean.
My fitness career began in Toronto, Canada after attending my first indoor cycling class when I thought… I can do this! I was instantly hooked into the concept of sweating your butt off in a dark room, with loud music. It felt like therapy, and not only did I want more, I wanted to be the leader in the room. In many ways, it was an instant passion realization. It happened quickly, I approached the instructor at the end of that class who happened to also be the Group Fitness Manager. She directed me to where I could be trained and advised me to contact her once I was certified. I obtained a certification by Schwinn Indoor Cycling that weekend, and started teaching my own classes soon after!
I have always been an avid cyclist, riding around any city I live in. I also ride a road bike recreationally, compete in triathlons and long distance rides for charity (The Ride to Conquer Cancer Toronto – Niagara Falls, twice) so indoor cycling was an easy fit. Earlier on in my fitness career, I would also describe myself as a cardio junky – which had evolved – so I loved the long endurance challenges of indoor cycling. I also love music and fitness so all of these elements combined to create the ideal job for me. Teaching cycling classes truly is a deep passion of mine, and I am grateful every day that I get to do what I love.
Cycling at Equinox
I was fortunate enough to start my career at what I consider the best place to be as a fitness instructor – Equinox. Not only have I been able to grow as a cycling instructor with Equinox, I am able to expand my portfolio and expertise in all aspects of fitness. As a cycling instructor at Equinox I teach a varied of cycle formats including:
Cycle Power – “A metrics driven cycling workout that uses the best in class Stages Console to measure performance, motivate and challenge.” (taken from Equinox website) In this format I am able to develop my own playlists and curate what I call a “Real Road Ride”, where we can lose ourselves in the music and energy in the room while staying true to proper riding techniques.
Pursuit Cycle – “A digitally immersive competition-based cycling experience that uses data visualization and timed, high intensity interval games to build your strength and endurance. An Equinox exclusive.” (taken from Equinox website). This format is one of my favorites to teach. It is my opportunity to really motivate and encourage proper riding form while challenging participants to exceed their own expectations!
Cycle Beats – “A rhythmic cycling class that uses an addictive playlist to motivate, inspire, and challenge”. Build cardio, strength, power and endurance to the beat of playlists that will keep you coming back.” (from Equinox website). In this format, I get to utilize my passion for music and incorporate all of my favorite tracks in a curated fashion to mimic hill climbs, flat road sprints, and long endurance runs out of the saddle.
Getting the Most
I encourage riders to challenge themselves but listen to their bodies. I tell them to drink water, whenever they feel the need to and take a break by simply slowing their legs – but do not stop pedaling. I explain that we will try to mimic riding outside so we wouldn’t necessarily stop to catch our breath. “Slow down when you need to and come back and join us where you left us off.” is usually the way I phrase it.
I emphasize the importance of proper form and technique in my cycle classes, which makes it more of a technical ride. Participants are encouraged to always work with an appropriate amount of resistance – enough that they feel in control of each pedal stroke. Riding an indoor cycling bike with the resistance turned all the way down to zero increases the risk of injury, as the bike literally spins your feet for you. I let participants know that if they are bouncing around in the saddle or spinning out of control, they must add more resistance. The most resistance is added to simulate a hill climb, most likely standing and pedaling out of the saddle. This means that the cadence/RPM is lower/slower but their effort level is high. There must also be a sufficient amount of resistance to be able to stand up safely, as more body weight is placed on the bike in a standing position. Seated sprints require less resistance but once again the rider should always be in control. We use consoles at Equinox that measure RPM. An RPM of 105 or higher is indication that there is not enough resistance on the bike, even in a seated sprint position. I often say: “The bike should not be spinning you out of control. You are in control.” I also add: “This is not spinning class. This is Power Cycle” or “This is the Pursuit Cycle.”
I encourage riders to set a class goal. The console calculates calories burned and distance traveled. How many total calories burned today? How far will you go today? How much further will you go today than you did last time you rode? I also always encourage riders to consider what they are riding for. What got you on this bike today? I often take this time to remind participants that this is their dedicated time to give to themselves, disconnect from their everyday stressors and enjoy their ride.
Overall, my cycling classes are intense but accessible, technical but fun, results driven but designed to allow riders to lose themselves… and allow their legs to take them for a ride. The Pursuit Cycling program at Equinox offers a uniquely competitive indoor cycling experience like no other, and is the reason it is one of my favorite programs to teach. Not only are you competing with everyone else in the room, there is a team building aspect to Purist Cycling classes as well – every class start with a class goal that everyone in the room contributes to. The goals are either set to an overall wattage or total distance travelled. Anecdotally, I can attest to the fact that these classes provide an experience like no other because it plays on our competitive nature to be the best, while encouraging community through common goal setting. Specifically after being forced to disassociate with others, I see firsthand that we are indeed social creatures who thrive through social connections. This is the power of group fitness in general and The Pursuit Cycle elevates that experience even further. It brings me great joy to be the orchestrator in this type of symphony of like-minded fitness enthusiasts out to experience the natural endorphin fueled high you get from physical activity and the myriad of health related benefits that come from exercise.
I would remind participants that while healthy competition can inspire some to push beyond their perceived potential, it may not be for everyone, and that’s ok. The important thing to keep top of mind when it comes to fitness (and all aspects of life) is that we are all special, unique in our own way. Trying to look like or be like anyone else, or better than anyone else is a losing battle. Find your personal best and aim to be the best you can be, in your own way. That’s what it’s all about. The Pursuit Cycle and all of the fitness classes I teach are intended to help people feel better about themselves and bring out their personal best, regardless of how that ranks on the leaderboard. It’s not about being the best, it’s about doing your best and a class like the Pursuit is just where that kind of magic happens.