Spin class, or spinning, is an indoor cycling training that focuses on strength and endurance. The popularity of spin classes keeps increasing, especially among people who prefer dynamic forms of training. Spin class is a great workout and a fun way to be more active and improve your health so it’s understandable you want to check it out. Before you go to your first spinning class there are some things you should know and we’re going to address them in this post. Read on to check them out.
1. Arrive 10 minutes early
While you probably intend to show up in time for the class and don’t want to be late, it’s a wise idea to arrive 10 minutes early. Why? It’s simple – to adjust your bike.
Just think about it for a second, you will spend about 40 to 60 minutes on that bike. The only way to get the most out of your training is to make sure it suits you. If you have a bike at home, you may want to measure the saddle and set the spin bike to match.
However, if you don’t have a bike at home or you don’t want to measure it, there’s still an easy way to optimize a spin bike to suit you perfectly. For instance, you can sit on the saddle and place the ball of the foot on the pedal. Ideally, your leg should be straight and your hips do not rock. You’ll have a slight bend when you slip in or attach the cages.
You didn’t get these results when you sat on the saddle? It means you need to get off and adjust it so the height of the saddle matches your hip bone (1).
When you optimize the saddle, you will feel more comfortable during the workout. That means you can get the most out of the session and the risk of injuries will reduce.
In case you’re not quite sure how to optimize your spin bike, it’s always a good idea to consult the instructor. They will be happy to help you out.
When the saddle is optimized, you can proceed to adjust the handlebars. Make sure they are not too close when you’re pedaling. In other words, your knees should not rotate into the handlebars. At the same time, handlebars shouldn’t be too far away so that you’re over-reaching to get a hold of them.
2. Learn what “tap back” is
Since you’re going to hear a lot about a “tap back” during your first spinning class, and subsequent sessions for that matter, it’s useful to know what it is beforehand. Simply put, a “tap back” is the most on demand classes today.
Specifically designed to activate your glutes and core by driving the hips backward, the move implies you’re “tapping” over the saddle instead of sitting on it. To do a “tap back” you need to come out of the saddle and then almost return to the seating position, but instead, you lift yourself back up. Then, you need to repeat the maneuver multiple times.
Besides glutes and core, this spinning move also activates your quads. When doing a “tap back” you should avoid a common mistake – flinging the elbows out to your sides. Doing so puts more pressure on the shoulders and takes away the body-blasting effect of the exercise. The best thing to do is to keep arms close to the sides and slightly bend in the elbow as you “tap back” (2).
3. Adequate resistance is more important than you think
The importance of proper resistance in spin class is largely underestimated. During the class, you will be in control of the resistance. Many people make mistakes by overdoing or underdoing it. Before your first spinning class, it’s practical to learn basics related to resistance.
Generally speaking, the higher the resistance, the harder the body needs to work against it. As a result, you burn more calories. However, you should not overdo it. Why? Too much resistance would be like you’re trying to ride through the concrete – you’re pedaling hard and fast, but don’t go anywhere and the only thing you get is a pain in your legs.
On the flip side, too little resistance would deprive you of all the benefits the spin class offers. If your spinning is quick, it may seem like you don’t have the control. You might also notice you don’t have much support, only discomfort.
The trick is to increase the resistance while maintaining speed fast enough to keep the heart pumping. Enough resistance means you’re able to power through sprints and climbs to increase calorie burning and define your muscles (3).
Don’t expect perfection during your first spinning class. Allow yourself to feel the spin bike and its controls. You may want to start with lower resistance and increase it gradually if it feels more natural for you. Remember, consistency is crucial. In subsequent sessions, you’ll know exactly how to control the resistance. It’s also useful to ask other people in the group for tips that work for them.
4. Cycling shoes are a good idea
Some spin studio provides clip-in cleats you can wear during the session. You may want to get informed whether your studio does the same. If not, it may be useful to get them. Clip-in cleats are shoes with protrusions on the sole. These protrusions attach to the pedals and they improve your stability, help you avoid falling down, and allow you to maintain proper position while on the bike. These shoes also make pedal strokes more efficient.
The whole idea of footwear that attaches to a pedal may seem kind of scary primarily because it’s easy to think you won’t be able to get off. To clip them to the pedal, you need to slot in the front part of the cleat and push down until you hear a clicking noise. To unclip the shoes, you just need to push the heels firmly to the sides.
If your studio doesn’t provide clip-in cleats and you don’t want to get them, it’s absolutely fine. Regular sports footwear is always a good idea.
5. Drink water
Drinking plenty of water is crucial for our health and wellbeing. Even more so during the training session! So, before you go to the first spinning class you should pack a bottle of water with your gym gear. It’s not uncommon for people to simply forget to drink water during the training, but you should go into the studio well-aware of how important it is to hydrate properly. Yes, the studio has air conditioning and fans, but the sessions are sweaty and you do need water for refreshment purposes.
Staying hydrated during the workout has many other benefits too. As you exercise, the body sweats in an attempt to return to its optimal temperature. Sweat evaporates from the skin, removes heat from the body, and leads to a loss of body fluid. Therefore, you need to stay hydrated during the exercise to replace the fluids you lose through sweat. That way, you can improve your performance (4).
6. Take a break
When you go to the first class, you want to impress your spin instructor and yourself. It’s natural. Humans are competitive. You have strong motivation to do your best the very first time. This motivation is good because it drives you forward.
However, you should listen to your body. As a beginner, you need to have realistic expectations and acknowledge it may take a few sessions to become a pro. So, strive to take a break or two to drink water, normalize your breathing, and start again.
Do not feel guilty for taking a break. In fact, these breaks could help you improve your performance in the first spin class. Without a break, you’d basically lose too much energy too soon.
7. Pedal in full circles
To get the most out of your very first spin class you may want to pedal in full circles. Proper pedal stroke means a lot to your overall experience with this training. Clip-in cleats can make it easier to pedal in full circles, but you can manage to do so without them as well. Just ensure the cage is tight around the foot so you can truly benefit from the upstroke.
How to pedal in full circles? The easiest approach is to imagine the movement as a clock face. The first phase takes place from 12 o’clock to 5 o’clock and implies you’re pushing down using the hamstrings to extend the foot downward. Allow the heel to drop as you go past 12 o’clock. Then, from 5 to 7 o’clock, you prepare to pull back up while activating your calves and slightly pointing the toe downward. From 7 to 9 o’clock the other leg is on the downstroke. And from 9 o’clock to 12 o’clock you are pulling up.
Throughout the pedal stroke your hips, knees, and ankles should line up (5).
8. Avoid death-gripping the handlebars
When the spinning classes are tough and dynamic, a natural reaction is to grip the handlebars for extra support. Although it seems like a harmless thing to do, it’s not quite practical. Ideally, weight distribution over the bike should be even so that the center of the body i.e. your core is over the center of the bike (6). But, as you death-grip the handlebars put too much pressure on your wrists and elbows.
You may want to keep the hips back over the pedals while maintaining a loose grip on the bars. When you’re in this position, the core and lower body support your weight and take off the unnecessary pressure from wrists and elbows (7). You’ll find your indoor cycling class more enjoyable.
Other Important Things to Know
- You will need a supportive sports bra
- Padded shorts are always a good idea
- Strive to breathe properly
- Pace yourself, don’t blow out in the first 10 minutes
- There may be weights
- Have fun
Benefits of Spin Classes
The benefits of spin class are numerous and it’s useful to learn a thing or two about them before you sign up. So, let’s take a look at some of the most important benefits of spinning classes that are bound to motivate you even more to give them a try.
Probably the most common reason people attend a spin class is to burn calories. The actual number of calories you burn depends on the difficulty and duration of the class. Generally speaking, you can lose about 400 to 600 calories per session. If you spin three times a week, you may lose up to 1800 calories (8).
Spin class is a type of aerobic training meaning it helps you burn calories (as seen above) and slim down. One study of sedentary overweight women found the subjects lost 2.6% and 3.2% of body weight after 24 and 36 indoor cycling sessions respectively. They also lost 4.3% and 5% of fat mass during the same periods. Additionally, the lean mass increased by 2.3% after 24 sessions and 2.6% after 36 sessions. Scientists concluded that weight reduction, without restriction on food consumption, suggests indoor cycling could be effective for weight loss (9).
To lose weight effectively with cycling, you may want to consider these tips (10):
- Eat something 30 minutes before the class and about an hour or two afterward
- Replenish muscles properly with a combination of protein and carbs
- Vary pace and difficulty
- Switch up your workouts
- Sign up for a more intensive class that focuses on calorie burning
Building strength and lean muscle
Spin classes are all about building your endurance and strength, but they can also define your body and lean muscle. Keep in mind this type of training won’t add bulk, you’ll need strength training for that.
The primary muscle definition from spin class shows in legs and core muscles because you use those muscles the most when you ride.
Although most people don’t think about it this way, the spin class can be a full-body workout. Spinning activates different muscle groups such as the core, upper body, back, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and lower legs (11). It’s all about the type of the class and how dynamic it is, but muscular definition will show in the abovementioned muscles first.
To build more definition in upper body muscles you may want to attend a spin class that incorporates cross-training elements (12).
Better cardiovascular health
Spin class is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health. This is primarily because the indoor cycle is a type of cardio training, which is well-known for its potential to improve heart health. After all, the spin class has a positive impact on blood circulation. And improved blood flow is crucial for a healthy heart and brain. For that reason, spin class is ideal for persons who want to improve cardiovascular health without putting too much pressure on their joints. Evidence shows indoor cycling could be more beneficial than bicycling in improving fitness levels (13).
Other Benefits of Spin Classes
- Improved posture
- Better mental health and stress relief
- Improved lung health
- Improved balance
- Lower risk of injuries
- Socializing with other people in your class
- Energy boost
- Confidence boost
Spin classes are beneficial for you, but also fun. They can boost your confidence and improve your overall health and wellbeing. With information from this article, you will go into your first class with the basic knowledge that will only improve your skills and overall experience. Good luck.