Spin, Strengthen and Stretch With SPENGA

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Balancing running, riding and/or swimming with real life can be difficult enough without making room for the extra “little things.” Lifting a few times per week; stretching; trying other forms of cardio; all of that training time adds up, and when you’re going for a PR, it’s tempting to skip strength and stretching for more miles. Unfortunately, though, that makes you more susceptible to injury and burnout.

Combining three forms of cross-training into one hour-long workout, SPENGA is the answer for any time-strapped athlete. The hour-long SPENGA includes 20 minutes each of spin, strength and yoga, offering a fresh and multi-purpose cross training option for busy athletes.

I tried a SPENGA class at the new studio in Moneka and Downers Grove, and I felt I did get a full-body workout.

Spin


We started with a high-intensity six-song spin set. With Justin Timberlake blasting over the speakers and stage lights flickering in the dimmed staging area, it made for a fun cardio warm-up. With standing climbs and sprints, it was your standard spin session in many ways, except for its unique “sweet spot” training method.

Instead of telling us to hit certain RPMs (revolutions per minute) or resistances, instructors instead coach us to reach our unique “sweet spot” number, a power rating corresponding to about medium intensity.

SPENGA members take their “sweet spot” test upon registration, so I wasn’t riding toward my own number during class. But as someone who’s constantly confused during spin class, that “sweet spot” methodology provides really useful clarity. These individualized numbers also make the workout more inclusive to newcomers and enable riders to track their progress.

But the sweet spot is only a baseline; the six-song set featured many higher-intensity power sprints and climbs. In only 20 minutes, it certainly warmed me up for the following strength section.

Strength

From the bikes, we moved to spacious free weight stations, each stacked with TRX suspension systems, dumbbells and BOSU balls. The 20-minute TABATA-style intervals (four 30-second sets of each exercise with 15-second rest periods) focused on all areas of the body. My particular session featured more arm work than usual – bicep and tricep curls and pushups with the TRX ropes – but still incorporated some leg and core work.

But with these very short work periods, the workout is only as good as the instruction. Thankfully, our instructor marked the stop and start periods very clearly, as well as providing form tips and modifications as needed.

Yoga

The class ended with 20 minutes of yoga, split evenly between strengthening and stretching moves. Given the slower pace of yoga, we couldn’t fit as much into the yoga portion. Only during yoga was I a bit disappointed with the compressed time, but we still fit in some vinyasas, yoga push ups and a quick Warrior one and two flow. Afterward, we moved into a welcome stretching and relaxation portion.

Overall

Overall, SPENGA was an entertaining and useful workout. Initially, I was concerned that the transitions would eat into the workout time. But during the last exercise of one discipline, our instructor provided set-up instructions for the next. The short, seamless transitions between disciplines utilized time efficiently while still allowing a quick stretch break.

As a runner who would rather run in negative wind chills than go to a gym, I really enjoyed SPENGA’s variety. If you’re seeking serious gains on the bike or weights, SPENGA’s 20-minute sessions probably won’t be sufficient. On the other hand, SPENGA is an efficient way to squeeze in multiple forms of cross-training during intense training segments.

Sound fun? SPENGA offers a free first session, followed by 30, 90, and 180-day packages ranging from $119 to $179 per month. Check them out in Mokena and Downers Grove, with more locations to come in Glenview, Oak Park and Elmhurst.

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Kathleen McAuliffe is a graduate journalism student, freelance writer, distance runner and overall enthusiast. Ever since high-school cross country, she's been hooked on the high of racing; after finishing her first marathon at Fox Valley last fall, Kathleen is looking forward to another marathon this fall and a few half marathons along the way. "Running is my favorite way to meet new people and explore new places, so I'm thrilled to be an ambassador," she says.

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