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Jennifer Ward Headshot

What is your favorite pre and/or post-workout meal?

My favorite pre-workout meal is oatmeal/almond/plain yogurt and dark sweet cherries or bananas. My favorite post-workout meal is my homemade black bean burritos with sweet potato, spinach, carrots and red onion. I packed a bunch of them when I did the 200-mile relay across the state of Massachusetts to raise money for the Jimmy Fund. They worked like magic. I ran a total of 30 miles that weekend and I was still able to run sub-seven-minute miles on my last 10-mile section.

What is your regimen for warming up before a ride?

I always love doing some sort of pedaling efficiency drill (we can never get too efficient). If I’m warming up on my own for an intense interval ride, I will start at a heart rate of 120 and ramp it up about 5 beats every 3 minutes up to about 155-160. I then ride easy for another three minutes before starting.

How do you recover after a difficult ride?

I recover by adding in 15 minutes of really easy riding on the Spinner® bike or a combination of drinking water and light jogging.

What type of weight/strengthening exercises do you pair or alternate with Spinning®?

Right now, my schedule is crazy with work and my kids’ activities. Since endurance training is my favorite form of exercise, I am often tempted to skip the strength training when I am time-crunched. So I find just doing 3 sets of the following 5 exercises – leg press, lat pull-down (or seated row), dips (or bench press), the Nautilus ab machine and back extensions – I can target more than 80% of muscle groups in about 15–20 minutes.

Do you have any tricks or phrases that you say (or think to yourself) during a difficult ride or climb?

One trick I like to use is instead of thinking “when is this going to be over”, I challenge myself with taking the time that I have and seeing how much distance I can cover.

How do you pace yourself and continue to build throughout the ride?

I use a heart rate monitor. If I knew (in my 20s) what I know now (in my 40s) about pacing, I would have blown away all of my personal records.

How do you make Spinning® more fun? (example: family rides, themed classes, etc.)

Among my favorite rides ever are:

  • A disco-themed ride. I love the 70s and regret that I was too young to fully enjoy that era.
  • A Race Day ride inspired by the Heart of New England Road Race course. I had some students in a break, others in a pace line to catch the break, some chasing off the back. What made it fun was creating the same crazy stuff that happens in real life racing. I got in trouble from my program director for giving the participants ‘finishing places’, but we all had an amazing time along with a killer workout so it was worth it!
  • Throwing in participation games. Another one of my favorite rides was created during a Creative Climbs workshop. We created a climbing sequence. Each lap one student got to pick a number, but when they picked it they had no idea how that number would be worked into the ride. Each time a number was given, that change was maintained throughout the ride and then another number was given to add to the mix.
  • The WSSC Conference! I LOVE teaching jump rides there. I can never really do them during the standard continuing education sessions because they don’t exactly fit into the curriculum.
  • Back to theme rides – I taught an Every Woman’s Interval Ride years ago at WSSC. The music was all the stuff any woman would listen to after getting really pissed off by a guy. The funny thing was at the end of the ride a guy came up to me and told me he had been through a bad divorce that year and that ride was just what he needed.
  • Two years later, I taught an Every Man’s Interval ride at the first Boston Balance. I couldn’t use angry man’s music because angry man’s music is just too …well, angry. So I used a mix of classic rock and 80s hair band music. I was able to get an attendee to ride on stage with me. He was about 6’4” and we broke the group up into 2 teams and competed against each other. For many months afterwards, I had attendees sending me CDs with their own “Every Man’s” mixes or telling me about how they were driving and heard one of the songs on the playlist that brought them right back to that experience.

What is one piece of equipment (ex: heart rate monitor, saddle pad, earplugs, etc.) that you find necessary for your workouts?

Right now, I would have to say my Scott cycling shoes. I don’t even remember what model, but to date they are the best shoes that I have ever owned.

Example of bike stances or techniques for targeting specific parts of the body (ex: thighs, calves, glutes, arms, etc.)

By far one of my favorite techniques for those rides designed to build anaerobic fitness is using a shift up, speed up technique. In racing or riding, if you want to drop the pack you need a bigger gear coupled with a faster cadence. This can work with any movement.

How long before a workout should you eat a meal?

If you have 4–6 hours before training, you can eat a large meal. If you are eating 2–3 hours before training, choose a light meal. Finally, if there is only about an hour before training and you are hungry, choose a snack.

Define one of your favorite Spinning® terms.

I don’t have a favorite “term” so much as favorite continuing education trainings. My two favorites by far are the 4-hour Heart Rate Training workshop and Spintensity: Periodization. I was very lucky when I started teaching because I worked for another Master Instructor, Mark Santella. We had heart rate monitors zip-tied to every single piece of cardiovascular equipment at our facility. We did poor-man threshold tests on every single member when they joined and taught structured, specific Energy Zone™ rides. The fitness level of our members was astounding.

Random training works for a while, but then it doesn’t. That’s where knowing more about structure and progression comes into play. Spinning® has been around since 1989, and to keep building the program, all instructors need to evolve.

No one should ever have to say, “Oh, I did Spinning® for a while then it stopped working so I had to do something else.” That is simply NOT the case. The program has the ability to address every student’s needs from the very deconditioned to the elite athlete.

What are the benefits of becoming a Spinning® instructor?

I have been cycling since I was 5-years-old, so that gives me 39 years of experience. When I was in grade school, the bike gave me the freedom of having a car. When I was a teenager, I entered my school’s first triathlon and won (before that point, I had never been considered an exceptional athlete). In college, I did 2 years of racing for UMass-Amherst and, to this day, the sport brought me to one of my highest levels of fitness in addition to giving me the absolute best competitive team experience I have ever had. Some of my best friends are the ones that I met on the UMass cycling team more than twenty years ago.

I met my husband through cycling as well. Spinning® is what helped me “break into the fitness industry”. It is also helped me continue to stay involved in fitness long after I switched back into working in dietetics full time. I’ve met tons of amazing instructors who have incredible stories of how this indoor cycling program was part of changing their health and, in some cases, saving their lives.

I now have a 6 and 10-year-old, and one of my favorite experiences with them is our trips on the bike path. I no longer race, but no workout makes me happier than my rides outside.

With that said, cycling and Spinning® have been an integral part of my life. Just doing the sport as intended works. I’ve never been tempted to turn it into a Cirque de Soleil inspired experience. The competitors in the Tour de France are among the most incredible athletes in the world and that all happens by just riding. Riding works and so does Spinning® when done the right way.

How do you get back on track after a vacation or injury, or just when you fall behind on your goals?

I don’t have to get back on track after vacation. I love to train so for me going on vacation is an opportunity to advance fitness. I don’t enjoy eating junk either so eating healthy on vacation is a no brainer too.

As far as reaching goals, I find it is important to be realistic. For example; right now my schedule is crazy. My kids are in school along with about six separate extra-curricular activities. I work a 40-hour job in addition to running Spinning® trainings on weekends. I am also working on becoming Wellcoaches®-certified and I just agreed to this writing project (which probably certifies me as crazy).

So right now, my goal is to keep a moderate level of fitness and to use workouts as an opportunity to do something for myself. I have also had to get really creative with how to fit it in. I try to power walk 2 miles every day at lunch. I never considered walking a workout for me, but it helps to break up the day and during the week this gives me an extra 10 miles of training. My kids spend a total of 2½ hours practicing for swim team for 3 days a week, so I water jog for an hour during that practice. Completing Spinning® classes during training is a given. I have one day off from work each week so I make sure to fit in a long run (more than 10 miles).

How do you motivate yourself when you are having a difficult day, or don’t feel like getting in the saddle?

I never “don’t feel” like working out. I take 1–2 days off or recovery days/week. If I have more energy, I’ll choose a higher intensity ride or something that includes higher impact like running or plyometrics. If my energy is lower or I feel tired, I’ll choose to water jog, bike or stair climb at an easy pace.  If I’m really short on time, I choose lifting because it I have only 15–30 minutes, I feel I can get more out of lifting in that time.

My favorite time to teach a Spinning class is at 5:30 PM. Most of the students were not in a rush so I could add a half hour to the ride or give them an ab workout after we got off the bike.

My favorite thing about my job as a Spinning® instructor is sharing the sport of cycling and giving everyone I train, the tools necessary to become amazing and effective instructors.

A perfect day for me is a day that includes three of my favorites: an epic workout with my husband, kids or friends, a nap, and going out to a dance party (preferably with lots of 70s and 80s music).

In my gym bag you’ll find three different pairs of sneakers and outfits so that I am equipped for whatever I am in the mood for that day.

The number one thing on my bucket list is to meet John Travolta and see Madonna in concert (more on the retro theme).

When I’m not teaching, you can find me probably somewhere in Berkshire County either “sharing the joy of wellness” or at one of my kids’ multiple extracurricular activities.

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