Finding Zengo Cycle
A few years ago, after I had completed a few marathons and had gotten into swimming as a form of cross-training for running, I decided maybe it was time to try another physical challenge: a triathlon. But not just any triathlon... a half Ironman.
If you're not familiar with triathlons, a half Ironman consists of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run. After my years of running, I figured I'd be fine with that portion of it, and I'd been incorporating swimming more and more into my fitness regiment, so the only part I was still needing work on was the bike portion.
I could run for hours and love every minute of it. But the idea of going out on my bike for hours on-end never got me excited. So, instead, I decided to build my cycling fitness in a way that seemed more fun.
I had heard of indoor cycling classes before but had never tried one. I heard there was loud music, riding to the beat, and a dark room. This all sounded foreign to me, but since I love dancing and getting a good sweat in, I was up for trying it out. And I am so glad I did!
One of my first indoor cycling class experiences was at Zengo Cycle, and I remember feeling nervous but really excited. The instructors and studio staff help new riders set their bikes up properly, and then the lights go down, the music goes up, and you enter into a 50-minute dance-party-meets-HIIT-workout on a bike.
Every class is different, which I love, and it varies depending on the instructor teaching the class. Because every instructor's tastes are different, the music in each class is different from the last -- and that's part of the fun! I look forward to the music in each class just as much as the workout itself.
The instructor, who sits at the front of the class, rides along with the class, demonstrating the moves as he/she calls out what is coming next. All the while, he/she is super motivating and inspiring, making everyone realize that they are strong, powerful, and capable of overcoming challenges (both on and off the bike).
At Zengo Kentlands, I love taking Sahar's class. Throughout the class, Sahar makes every rider in the studio feel like they are capable of pushing aside any negativity and self-doubt they may walk into the studio with, in order to break through barriers they might not have even known they had. And everyone feels stronger and more empowered when they get off of their bikes because of the encouragement and reminders that they are strong enough to overcome even the toughest obstacles. Plus, Sahar always plays the best music and leads the best sequences for a super fun ride, every single time.
One of the mantras I take away from Sahar's class every week, that sticks with me through my work day, my personal life, and my fitness, of course, is: "If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you."
To me, this means that, for better or worse, the challenges you're faced with will shape you. If nothing else, you learn from every experience you have, and if you're able to face them with strength and a positive attitude, chances are you'll be changed for the better because of them.
Personally, I love that Zengo classes are fun and incorporate a bit of dancing on the bike (in the form of pushes, tap-backs, and jumps), but more than that, what I love about Zengo is that it is a seriously challenging workout. I've been to other studios where it feels like the whole point of the class is to ride to the beat of the music, but that's about all.
Throughout a Zengo class, riders experience hill-climbing (really heavy resistance at a slower cadence), fast sprints (lighter resistance but keeping a very fast cadence), and heavier-but-quicker intervals. Because of this, I feel like I leave with a true full-body workout, having gotten my heart-rate up for those aerobic benefits of endurance cardio (i.e. improved mitochondrial and cardiovascular system function), as well as the anaerobic benefits you would get from heavy lifting (i.e. muscle-building and toning).
And it's not just the quads and glutes that feel the burn in a Zengo class -- when I say full-body, I truly mean it. Every class incorporates one song dedicated to biceps, triceps, shoulders, and even back muscles (using dumbbells while seated on the bike), in addition to some work the upper body gets throughout the rest of the class by doing pushups and tricep pulses on the handlebars of the bike. Some rides I get off the bike certain that my arms will be more sore the next day than my lower body (in the best way, of course!). In order to maintain stability on the bike, you have to have your core engaged the entire ride, so even your midsection gets a good burn as well.
After I realized what a great workout Zengo was, I rode once or twice a week for about 4 months until my triathlon to prepare for the bike leg. I did a few long outdoor rides on some rural roads before race-day, and I was so pleased that I was able to get through them feeling great, and I attributed that to building my cycling fitness at Zengo.
Race day came, and I was feeling prepared, and it turns out I was! I finished the race and felt so accomplished. I never thought I would have been able to complete a half Ironman, but I did, which is in-keeping with messages that Zengo encourages: empowerment by overcoming personal challenges. And by bettering yourself in the studio, you can be better for others when you get off the bike. And these are ideas that I truly believe in.
In my opinion, tackling physical challenges is 90% mental, and 10% physical. So if you're able to build your mental toughness, the physical will follow. And this will carry over into other aspects of life: being able to overcome challenges life throws at you with ease and grace because you know you can. Zengo sets this example and proudly shares it with its riders.
Because I love physically challenging my body, I know the importance of giving it the fuel it needs to perform at its best (so that I can then get the most out of my workout and reap those benefits).
About 1-2 hours before every ride, I make sure to give my body a bit of fuel. That way, the body has some time to process what I've eaten so that it can be utilized for energy. If you eat too close to when you're working out, the nutrition you've taken in won't make it to your muscle stores in time to be useful, and may actually work against you if you're sensitive to having a full stomach while working hard.
What you eat matters just as much as when you eat. For a pre-workout snack (specifically for a longer cardio workout), I recommend incorporating some quick-digesting, natural carbohydrates such as fruit, along with some healthy fats like nuts to keep your energy up for the duration of the workout. I also like to add in superfoods wherever I can, especially maca, which a root vegetable (which comes in a powdered form that you can buy at Whole Foods Market or other local health food stores). Maca is known for helping with energy levels, hormone balance, and endurance. To make it easy, I've put together a recipe for some tasty, pre-workout energy bites that are sure to get you through your next Zengo ride (or any workout!).
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- 1 cup pitted dates
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- 1 TBSP maca powder
- 1 tsp sacha inchi protein powder
- 1 TBSP hemp seeds
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- 1 tsp coconut oil (melted)
- 1 TBSP gluten-free oats
- (optional for rolling) 1 TBSP unsweetened shredded coconut
- (optional for rolling) cacao nibs
- Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender, and pulse until the mixture turns somewhat doughy, but not a paste. (it should be thick, and chunky, but everything mixed up very well).
- Using your hands, roll the mixture into golf-ball-sized balls, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet or plate. If you want to roll them in coconut or cacao nibs, do so once they are shaped and before placing them on the parchment.
- Place the balls into the fridge to harden a bit (about 10 minutes or so). Eat one or two about 1-2 hours before a workout.
- Store the bites in the fridge.
If you've never ridden at Zengo and you want to give it a try, your first class is always free! After your first free class, take advantage of Zengo's first-time rider package discount: Snag 50% off any 5 class package by using a one-time promo code ZengoRocks at checkout.