Beginner’s guide to Spin Class

You’ve heard your friends raving about the awesomeness that is spinning; you’ve seen celebrities plastered all over the “news” coming out of spin classes looking sweaty, but elated; and you’ve even had a quick peek at a class and glimpsed the incredible atmosphere. But you’re still not ready?!

Yes, spinning is tough, but you’re completely in control of how hard you’re working. You control the resistance, so you can make it as comfortable or as tough as you want. Once you get into it, it’s easy to get hooked and that’s no bad thing. Spinning is a massive calorie burner (by some estimates up to 800 calories during a 60 minute class) and the happy hormone payoff is immense. Spinning is no longer the next big thing, it’s the biggest thing, and it’s time to give it a try.

Anatomy of A Spin Class

One thing you can be sure of, is that you’ll never be bored. Motivating music thumps from the speaker, the instructor is shouting out instructions, you’re changing up your body position, speed and resistance (there’s a resistance knob).

You’re climbing hills, sprinting flats and depending on the class riding along Tour de France routes, in fancy dress, or (tyring) to execute some boy-band choreography. Most bikes can monitor heart rate, calories burned and mileage. If you’re up for it, you can even spin underwater (AquaCycling)!

Classes include a warm up, a main session consisting of numerous styles of cycling and a cool down. Some classes may also include upper body exercises and core work performed either on or off the bike.

One thing spinning isn’t is the plodding along at a steady pace for an hour or so. Spinning doesn’t do boring. Instead, instructors will work though a series of different “maneuvers” that will really crank up your heart rate and calorie burn. After a thorough and specific warm-up, expect some, many or all of the following:

  • Seated sprints
  • Standing sprints
  • Running – staying out of the saddle and using an upright body position
  • Seated climbs
  • Standing climbs
  • Jumps – short bursts of speed designed to simulate breaking away from other riders
  • High tempo pedaling against a low resistance
  • Low tempo pedaling against a high resistance
  • Single leg emphasis pedaling

Music is going to help you get through it; faster music for sprints, slower music for climbs.

The Difference Between Spin Bikes & Exercise Bikes

Spinning isn’t just tougher than your ordinary exercise bike, it’s also designed differently.  Spinning uses specially designed stationary bikes which use a fixed wheel drive. That is to say, you can’t stop pedaling suddenly and freewheel as you would on a normal bike. This can take some getting used to if you are new to it or suffer a momentary lapse in concentration!

Spin bikes usually use large, heavy flywheels which result in a smooth pedaling action and resistance is provided by way of a friction brake mounted on the handlebars.

Most spinning bikes are designed to resemble a road racing bike and so are fitted with “drop” handlebars and toe clips. Some may even sport triathlon-style low profile bars.

Spin bikes will also be fitted with water bottle cages, which are very useful. As you are going to sweat a great deal, it’s essential that you drink plenty of water during the class so you don’t get dehydrated.

How to Set Up Your Bike

If you’re new to spinning let your instructor know before you hop on a spin bike, so they can  This means seat and  should be adjusted and the forward/backward rake of both the saddle and handlebars should be also be adjusted.

Because of the highly repetitive movement, it is essential that your bike is set up properly to avoid short and even long term injuries. Also, lower-back problems can be exacerbated by bad posture. If you are uncomfortable during your class, you may well need to adjust one or more elements of your bike setup.

Spinning is an incredible calorie burner, it pushes you hard and so improves cardiovascular fitness – plus it’s low-impact on the joints.  Spinning also tones the legs, butt and even core.

The use of toe clips and correct pedaling technique means that both the quadriceps and the hamstrings get a good workout during this type of class, as do the calves and muscles on the front of your shins.

To get the most out of spinning, you should try and “pedal in squares” which is not as bizzare as it sounds. Rather than simply stomping downward; focus on pushing your feet forward, down, back and then pulling them back up. This ensures you are applying pressure to your pedals throughout each pedal revolution and not just downward.

Workout Gear

Your normal workout gear fine, especially just getting started. After that, you’ll be a lot more comfortable thinking like a cyclist.

  • Wear moisture wicking clothing – you’ll be sweating buckets.
  • You are going to get hot so make sure you wear a top that can be vented to allow excess heat to escape
  • Definitely bring a towel so you can keep wiping yourself down between sections of the class and water to keep hydrated.
  • Cycling shorts, usually slightly padded, are ideal.
  • If you get really into it, firm cycling shoes are much better than soft and squashy running shoes.
  • Cycling gloves, especially padded ones, can help give your hands some protection and prevent your palms from becoming slippery.
  • Finally, if you become a truly die-hard spinning enthusiast, you may want to consider bringing your own pedals and proper clipless cycling shoes for that authentic Tour de France experience – yellow jersey optional.

With spinning your legs get a great workout, and it burns calories like crazy. Almost everyone leaves dripping with sweat, on a high and feeling pretty much awesome. You need absolutely no co-ordination, there’s no complicated choreography to master.

Spinning tends to be very popular, and you may sometimes find it hard to get into your chosen class. However, you may be able to beat the rush by reserving a bike online. With the emphasis on the lower body, make sure you also do some upper body exercise in addition to your cycling classes.

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