Spin Instructors are Cycling Coxswains

Chris Abraham rowing sweep heavyweight 8 man crew GWU

Chris rowing in 1989

I know we call them spin instructors, indoor cycling instructors, or even CYCLESTARS, like we do at CYCLEBAR, to me, they’ll be forever known as my Cycling Coxswains.  I know for a fact that when I leave CYCLEBAR Columbia Pike, I have left so much sweat, effort, watts, and heart our of those dripping Schwinn Carbon Blue bikes and those soaked rubber mats, that I can’t congratulate myself so much as thank Sylvia, Natalie, Sam, Damion, Danny, Shane, Dwayne, and others.

According to Wikipedia, the role of a coxswain in a crew is to:

  • Keep the boat and rowers safe at all times
  • Be in command of the boat at all times
  • Coach the crew when the coach is not present
  • Provide motivation and encouragement to the crew
  • Provide feedback on the crew’s performance both in and out of the races
Chris Abraham and Sylva Hříbková

Cycle Coxswain Sylva Hříbková

I performed pretty well when I rowed in a heavyweight 8 sweep boat in college and I finally know why: there was always someone slight of stature yelling at me to hurry up, slow-ass! My coxswain!

I always made every boat I tested for because my coxswain screamed at me when I spent time on the erg doing my 2k erg tests and even workouts.

He or she tricked me into doing HIIT way back before that was a thing by running us through sprints, high-stroke-rate pieces, power-10s and power-20s.

Our cox kept us on pace, on schedule, and motivated to give way more than I was prepared to give of my body. I was 6’3″ and around 200 lbs and so there was a lot of strength and potential for me to work with–but I never really had the personal drive to be a power athlete.

I often preferred to be an endurance athlete–and rowing, though you do accumulate millions of meters, you are only ever judged on between 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000 meters of all-out various degrees of sprinting, from “I can’t do this” to “I really can’t do this” to ” are you crazy, you must be mad, I am going to die now.”

Usually a petite woman or a slight-of-build man–what jockeys are to letter in High School and College college (Is horse racing a letter sport?)–a coxswain is a very small personal trainer who has the authority and the lungs to berate between two-and-eight men over six feet tall (in my case) into pushing their bodies to where they can go, not want to–or think they can–go.

And that’s what I get every session–every class–I attend when I go to CYCLEBAR!

And if you think that maybe there’s a huge difference between the placid river and the hollow slaps of paddles against the water and the rigging. No!  Most of the time a coxswain yells at you in a small, dark, dank, boathouse or gym–with music!

So, in a couple hours I will be walking the mile to attend a 45-minute studio session with my cycle coxswain Natalie! The music will be loud (I wear plugs), the lights will be mostly off, and I will be pushed to within an inch of my physical capacity–and it’s just a Tuesday! Happy Tuesday.

Spinning isn’t just dancing on a bike to disco, it’s actually quite a profound and challenging workout–if you pick up the gauntlet and take the challenge!


2 thoughts on “Spin Instructors are Cycling Coxswains

  1. Gini Dietrich

    I love this analogy, Chris! Not only are they your coxswain, but the workouts are HIIT and cardio and muscle formation and fun all in one little class. Like you, I don’t mind being yelled at by someone who is forcing me to push my body harder than I would on my own. And, because I cycle competitively outside of cycling classes, I’ve been able to increase by power by nearly 40% during this last winter season. Plus, there’s always the added benefit of going to the doctor and having your vitals taken and have everyone marvel at how low everything is. I’m proud of you and am excited to see more!

    1. Chris Abraham

      As a single, middle aged man of a certain weight, I hope my cardiologist is blissed out. I know that my resting heart rate has gone down and my recovery is quickening and I’m very proud of that. Thank you so much for popping in here and encouraging me because I really do need it way more than you can ever imagine, even though I am a middle aged adult male. So, yes, I admire you for rocking out and I hope, in the next year, I can make your bike racing into my racing on the river in single sculls. You personally motivated me to make it to class tonight and probably over the next month. So, please, Gini, please keep coming back!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.