Josh Taylor - Spinning's Leading Man
I caught one of Josh Taylor’s Spinning® classes a few years back at a packed fitness conference. I remember coming out of the room, dripping with sweat, mumbling, "I’m in love with Josh Taylor, I’m in love with Josh Taylor.”
Well, I’ve only been in love with a few guys in my life. One of them is Billy Idol. Another, apparently, is JT (no, not Justin Timberlake. The other JT—Josh Taylor). I wish I would have remembered this when I interviewed him because I would have made my voice more sexy. Oh well.
So who is Josh Taylor? Josh is THE master instructor for Spinning. And when I say THE master instructor, I mean the guy behind Spinning rides with frightening but intriguing names such as the “Animal Ride,” the “Fighter Pilot,” and the “Everest Ride.” My butt hurts at the thought at the Everest Ride. Just saying.
Josh is a hot commodity at the annual Word Spinning and Sports Conditioning (WSSC) conference and many other fitness conferences. He has taught classes filled with up to 1,000 instructors all around the world, sharing his passion for the original indoor cycling program that has changed so many lives
A Spinning Master Instructor for 17 years, Josh is also a former competitive cyclist. He can be seen in a variety of Spinning instructional videos, too, but it’s always great to catch him in person.
Why should you read this interview? Because Josh has answers to these burning questions you might be asking:
- Does Spinning give you big thighs?
- What are the benefits?
- What are some dumb things instructors do?
- Is it OK to lift weights and do pushups on the bike?
- How often should you take Spinning classes?
- Isn't indoor cycling dead?
- Why can Spinning class make you cry?
- What is a strain gauge? (OK, you've never wondered that, but the answer is still here.)
Josh and I had a nice little chat, and I was more excited to talk to him than some of the rock stars I have interviewed. I got to meet the man behind the power thighs. Josh is, indeed, a force to be reckoned with. And humble too.
Don't you hate that?
To borrow from the other JT (Mr. Timberlake): Josh Taylor is “bringing Spinning back. Yeah!” Read on.
Helen M. Ryan: I took one of your classes at an IDEA Fitness Conference and I'm going to say it was probably the best class I've ever taken. I'm not sucking up to you. It was amazing.
Josh Taylor: I appreciate that. I've been doing it such a long time just because Spinning started everything. I've been around, good grief, 17 years as a master instructor. I still can't believe it to this day.
HMR: Spinning is such, I think, a great ‘gift’ for a lot of people and I bet when you were doing your cycling and your racing, that you never thought that Spinning would actually take you where it's taken you now.
JT: It's so funny. I remember talking to some of my old teammates. I retired a few years ago and I remember just throughout the years being a Spinning instructor and a bike racer, talking to some of the guys who have been on the Tour and other places. They were looking at me like, ‘really?’ I never would have thought in a million years that I would be doing what I am doing. And it continues to grow.
"Indoor cycling isn't going away, that's for sure. It seems to get bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and bigger."
HMR: I noticed a little bit of a lull a few years ago and now it's really starting to pick back up again. Why do you think it's starting to come back again, as strong as it is?
JT: I think a lot of is people are starting to becoming a little bit more educated in their fitness and these smaller studios, these 'one off' studios, are starting to pop up where they are offering a very specific type fitness program—whether it's Zumba Fitness, Spinning, Pilates or yoga. The fitness industry seems to move very slowly, but when it starts moving in one direction everybody will go.
Indoor cycling and Spinning, being the leader of that, has definitely seen resurgence because of that and people are realizing that yeah, ‘this is a really good calorie burn and it's a great way for me to up my metabolism.’
It's safe for the most part. There is not a whole lot of movement. There is no impact. The sky is the limit with what you can do mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically.
HMR: Cycling, I think, is the most grueling sport I have ever seen.
JT: Hands down it is. Believe you me, there were times in bike races where I was asking, ‘what am I doing here?’ Years ago I raced against Lance and all those guys and you're going 35 miles an hour down a straightway for 10 miles, into a headwind and you are just turning yourself inside out. It's such a hard sport, but it's such a great, great thing. I think the sport of riding a bike period just lends itself to indoor cycling, because you don't have to worry about weather, cats, dogs, motorcycles, cars, anything. That's what makes indoor cycling so great.
"It's easy, fun, and effective"
FRIENDS WITH BENNIES
HMR: If you were to summarize briefly for someone what the main benefit that someone would get out of a Spinning class, what you would say?
JT: The main benefit? Cardiovascular benefit is probably the number one. I always say that Spinning is great because it kills two birds with one stone. Not only do you get that cardiovascular benefit but you also get the benefit from some strength training.
You're going to tone and you're going to get all the benefits of lowering your blood pressure, strengthening your heart, upping your metabolism.
HMR: So what do you say to those women who are afraid of getting big thighs?
JT: Well, because it's an endurance-based movement, it's not going to give you those massive thighs. You might see a little bit of quad increase in size when you start Spinning and that's just because the muscles underneath are kind of developing to the movement. But then once your body starts going ‘okay, I'm going to start dumping off these fat cells’ and upping your metabolism, then they're going to see the thinning and elongating. Hang in there, don't sweat it. Just get through a few weeks and you'll start to see the other side.
But consistency is going to do that too. They can't just come in once a week.
HMR: No and that's the important thing. What do you recommend for people? How many days a week should they spin?
JT: I would say two to three. If you're going to start going over three, then you really need to start monitoring your intensities because most of the classes you are going to go into are going to be an interval-based class. You've just got to say, ‘okay, I am going to do this more than three times a week I need to watch the next two I am going to do and take it a little easier than what is being called out in class.’ That's the beautiful thing about Spinning. You are in full control of your intensity and your resistance, and you have the ability to do that as long as you're in the safety guidelines of the Spinning program. Two to three to a week. Three is probably optimal. That way your body adapts and you see growth out of that. If you're doing something once or twice a week, you're really not going to get a whole lot out of it.
HMR: 10 years ago I was a size 20 and I dropped 80 pounds, a big portion of it through Spinning. What people don't understand is the fact that I was consistent about it.
JT: That's the key. Yup. Absolutely that's key. Consistency is number one. Week after week after week after week. It drives me nuts. January 1st, here we go. Health clubs get crammed and people get into that vicious cycle. It's that cycle that is not good. You can even make it easier on yourself if you just do something a couple times a week.
IT'S A LITTLE MENTAL
HMR: I think what is underplayed is the mental benefit of Spinning and the fact that you can really get in your zone.
JT: Exactly. I think the simplicity of that lends itself to giving you a chance to really almost shut off and be in the moment. I hear a lot of Spinning instructors say ‘flow.’ Just be in that feeling that you are talking about. That's what drew me to it, as a cyclist. I will be totally honest with you. Just the sheer fact that I could close my eyes and go full gas and not worry about a single thing but working on myself is intriguing. I loved it. That's what's pulled me in.
You can change people's lives. You really can. That definitely motivates the entire master instructor team. I had a woman one day write me a note.
"She said ‘I take Spinning to help me get through chemotherapy.’"
That changed the way I viewed what I was doing immediately. That's huge because—you're right—it really is like a white wash for people who can just come in and get a mental cleansing.
HMR: Yeah, take a moment. I tell my students to take a moment. Disconnect from your day. Find a moment for you. It's true because we don't know what our students are going through but they have been through some challenging things and that moment when they are there… I've had people cry because they felt this release of all the things they have been going through.
JT: But they are just letting go, right? I've never, ever heard of that in an aerobics class. I really haven't. With yoga you hear about it every now and then but I think Spinning definitely lends itself to reaching in there and pulling some stuff out. A lot of times people when you physically tear them down a little bit, when you get in there you kind of drop some walls.
AN ARMY OF LEAN MACHINES
HMR: What you're doing with training master instructors is you're almost creating an army of people who are going to go out and change lives. I think that the amazing power you have to affect a larger range of people is pretty cool because you're affecting more than just the people that are in your room.
JT: Right. That's a great way to put it. That's an absolutely great way to put it. I think when you think about it, I've been in classes, let's say it's a big fitness convention in New York where I've got 100 bikes in the room. That means I've got basically 100 Spinning instructors in the room and I've actually stopped a room in the middle of a ride and said, ‘okay, we've got to fix this’ because I think about the implications of if they are not doing something right, how many people are they affecting? Spinning’s job is to make sure that that army that is out there is not hurting people but making them better. That's why our education is what it is.
HMR: I see that all the time. I see people doing push-ups on the bike. I see people laying on the handle bars, gripping on, sprinting for dear life. I can tell when people come from another club because they have no resistance on the bike. They come out 100 miles an hour right out the gate and they are looking at me because I am moseying along, warming everyone up. They are thinking, ‘hey when is this going to get started?’ Then when they hit their first climb and they are like, ‘whoa!’ because they are not used to it. They don't know what a hill feels like because they've never been outside.
JT: Right and that's the job of the instructor—to coach them through that. I think what you're describing is a difference between a great coach and coaches that are basically not coaches. There is a big difference. It's so weird. All this stuff we're dealing with coming out of New York City now and the media. My stomach just turns. They are using one pound weights on the bike.
HMR: Spinning class teaches you to keep going no matter what. A challenging spin class will help you get through life.
JT: Absolutely, absolutely. Why shouldn't it? That's what makes Spinning so great. Really, think about it. The spinner bike is probably the most boring piece of equipment in a health club. It doesn't have any fireworks on it. It doesn't play music.
It doesn't do anything, but it can be the most dynamic when you put it in that class environment.
"You get a great instructor in there with some banging music and some good coaching and good form. It's mind blowing."
JT: My job is sort of special. Actually, I am sitting here working on the "Fighter Pilot" ride for WSSC. That's going to take me about 100 hours to prepare.
I have a ride called Champion. It's based on the story of Secretariat, the thoroughbred racehorse. That's a two hour ride that basically is talking about how that horse, when he was born, had all the tools he needed to be a champion but it took the right scenario and the right coaching, love, and care to get him to be that world record running horse.
See if you can use those stories to help bring a whole different light to the Spinning environment because you can. Man, I love that stuff. This ‘Fighter Pilot ride’ is sort of the same thing. Fighter pilots have a lot of attributes that make them as good as they are. So I am using that as huge theme for my next big ride. I get a chance to do those all over the world.
"This is kind of a crazy job I have"
HMR: But what a great job. I always tell people, I get paid to wear spandex and funny shoes… and I am not a hooker.
Josh: Yeah. That's awesome. I love it.
PEOPLE DO THE WEIRDEST THINGS
HMR: Now, what is the weirdest thing you've seen someone do on a bike?
JT: Go to YouTube (laughs). I am going to knock on wood. I've probably taught, I don't know how many tens of thousands of people in classes all over the world, and I have not had a single person hurt themselves in a class. That's because I teach a safe and effective class but I hear about some crazy things. People leaning and peddling backwards and taking saddles completely off the bike during class.
You'll always see something crazy. People bouncing all over the seat like they are in a rodeo show. It cracks me up. Hey, God bless them for at least getting in there and trying.
It's our job as fitness professionals to try to guide as many of them as possible into the good light and not into that dark tunnel where injuries can occur. The worst thing is when somebody actually says, 'All right, I am going to make the decision to change my life' and they end up not knowing what they are walking into because most people that walk into classes aren't very educated in fitness. Nor do they check fitness instructor credentials.
In the United States, it's a mess. You can walk in and you don't know who is going to teach you. They are up there and they are having you use upper body weights and peddling backwards and leaning or doing isolations. I always tell people, ‘Make sure you check.’ Ask that club what the instructors are certified in. Who are they certified by? So know who's at the front of that room.
"People will get sick of entertainment after awhile. It's almost like watching the same movie over, and over, and over."
You love it at first but then it starts getting old. Then what? Well, you need an educated instructor to give you the ‘then what.’
THE BIKE THAT EVEN JOSH CAN'T BREAK
HMR: One quick question, too. I hear there’s a new Spinning bike coming out.
JT: The Blade ION. that's our latest and greatest. We've been working on that for about three years. The bike is based on the Blade platform, which is basically the most evolved indoor bike I've ever see. It's definitely the most beautiful.
Now, with technology getting further ahead we can now bring power measurement to the masses through the Spinning program. There are other indoor cycling bikes or manufacturers that have what they are calling power on their bikes, but the only way you can accurately measure power or how much force you are putting into the bike is through a strain gauge. Our new bike has strain gauged technology on the bike. So it accurately reads the amount of force or accurately what you are working against on that Spinner bike.
The beautiful thing with that is that it gives you an accurate calorie burn. Now, if you're looking to lose weight, if you need to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound of weight, well it's right in front of you. All of the sudden you have that carrot in front of you that you are chasing and the neat thing with that is that you will start to realize that the more resistance you add, the more calories you are going to burn.
HMR: That's the hardest thing I've tried to communicate. Zooming along is not going to burn as many calories as climbing. Many people don't get it. I think this is a great way for people to actually visually realize. You are not working harder with less resistance, you're working harder with more resistance.
JT: Right. The bike will reflect that 100 percent. It's going to put that number right in your face. I've been saying this a lot. What the Spinner Blade ION is going to do for the power measurement is it's going to take your heart rate training to a whole different level.
We're excited about it. The bike itself is hard-wired, which is nice because we have a generator on the inside of that bike that, as you peddle it, you are powering the head unit. It recharges the batteries itself. So a facility isn't going to have to be replacing batteries every other week in all their bikes, and it's not going to be costing them thousands and thousands of dollars a year to replace batteries. That’s also terrible for the environment.
I've got this little trail out behind the house and a beta bike sits outside in the woods and I let it get rained on… all of the temperature changes. I'll pull it back in and ride it and see how it goes. Drag it back out there just to see if I can get it to break.
"If I can't break it, most people won't"
Star Trac (the manufacturer of Spinner bikes) has been very, very receptive to a lot of things, especially in this next generation of bikes. We see more adjustability, the better Q factor, the strength in the drive train.
I'm so excited about that Blade ION, I can't tell you.
HMR: Thank you, Josh!
RE-PIN this article (with a great quote from Josh).