20 Things You Need To Know About Spin Class

The definitive guide to getting acquainted with spinning.

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a fitness craze hit that has people bouncing up and down on bikes and pedaling like maniacs. That’s right folks it’s spinning. There’s a reason studios are popping up left and right and even your garden-variety gym feels compelled to offer spin classes. So strap on your clip-ins. Here is everything you ever wanted to know about your next favorite workout.

1. What is a spin class?

Spinning is high intensity aerobic exercise that uses intervals of recovery and sprinting. Each spin class consists of five core movements: jumps, seated flat, standing flat, seated climb, and standing climb. Mix all the core movements together and add a dash of music and you get your average spin class.

2. What are the benefits of spinning?

Spinning works to overload your glutes, thighs, and calves. When they get overworked, they get broken down, forcing your body to cope. The muscles you get in return will be stronger and leaner. Your spin class also massively increases your cardiovascular endurance. Love your heart? Want it to get stronger? Then put it in a spin class. Considering that it only takes 15 minutes of exercise three times a week to improve your cardiovascular health, the average 45-minute spin class will have your heart singing in the really good, long-term type of health kind of way.

3. Is spin class good for weight loss?

Spinning can be a great way to lose weight. The fast pedaling and intervals burn a ton of calories. Not to mention that spinning keeps your metabolism running high well after class is over. But just because spinning burns a lot of calories and sets fire to your metabolism does not mean you can eat more than usual or whatever you would like, no matter what your appetite is telling you. Unfortunately, many people fall into this trap and it really delays their weight loss goals. For weight loss to be a reality, you must consume a healthy, balanced diet. And of course, continue spinning!

4. How many calories will I burn in spin class?

On average, you will probably burn around 500 calories per class.

5. What is the difference between a spin bike and a traditional exercise bikes like a recumbent bike or upright bike?

Traditional exercise bikes resemble regular bikes without the tires. However these bikes are designed for comfort and feature wider seats. Additionally, traditional bikes keep you stationary because the pedals, handlebars, and seat are all attached to a base. These bikes are ridden in an upright or recumbent position, depending on the make and model.

Spinning bikes are slightly different. Though both traditional and spin bikes keep you stationary, spin bikes are designed to more closely resemble the outdoor cycling experience. The structure of the spin bike allows the rider to only support an upright position and although the seat is adjustable to the biker, its narrow structure resembles the regular cycling bike.

The biggest difference between the spin bike and the traditional exercise bike is the flywheel. Your spin bike will have a flywheel that is heavier and supports a connection to the pedals with a chain. This means the user will have to work harder to get the pedals going. But once the wheels are spinning, the pedals will keep moving, allowing the user to find a better rhythm and get a better quality workout.

6. What should I bring to prepare for a spinning class?

Spin classes will usually have just about everything you need on site. This includes water and shoes. But it doesn’t come for free. Studios sell water bottles at the usual price and your shoe rentals will cost around $2 per class. Consider bringing these items yourself if you want to save money long-term. Also don’t forget to bring two hand towels. One can be used for the handlebars and save the other one for wiping sweat off your body during class.

7. Should I buy cycling shoes specially made for a spin bike? If so, what type of shoes do I need to buy? SPD or SPD-SL? What is the difference?

Consider buying your own cycling shoes for convenience and comfort. You’ll want to pick shoes that are compatible with the bike cleats in your class. In most instances this will be two-holed SPD cleats. These cleats let you easily disengage from the pedals. Many people find that mountain biking shoes are the best option for spinning classes. They come with a SPD recessed cleat so you can clip in with ease and wont have to worry about scratching the nice gym floor.

What you don’t want in a spin shoe is cleat with three-hole cleat compatibility or SPD-SL. These cleats are used more for road cycling and not many indoor spin classes will be compatible with them. As always you should check with your spin instructor before purchasing a pair. They know their machines like the back of their hands and have great brand specific suggestions for your bike.

8. Should I use my own heart rate monitor while spinning?

Heart rate monitors take the guesswork out of your workout and help you train efficiently. Wearing a monitor lets you know what your heart is doing at all times. Spinning instructors focus on different heart rate zones. It is important to know which zone you are in while working out. Wearing a heart rate monitor will allow you to make adjustments in real-time instead of wondering if you could have pushed yourself harder or didn’t push yourself enough. Heart rate monitors come in a range of prices and are a worthwhile investment.

9. Should I bring a saddle cover or gel seat to make my workout more comfortable?

This depends on your particular comfort level. The saddle seat of your average spin bike is not the most comfortable thing in the world. Though many people build a tolerance to it after a couple of classes, it’s not for everyone. If you’re one of those people, a gel seat may be just the ticket. The seats are not too expensive and they will be a valuable investment if you’re going to spin several days of the week.

10. Should I wear padded cycling shorts for my workout?

Again this depends on your personal comfort level. Most people come to class in dry-wicking and tight-fitting pants. But if you just can’t deal, padded cycling shorts are an option. One negative to consider with these pants is that they are quite expensive. A single pair can cost upwards of $40 and if you’re taking several classes a week you will need to have more than one at hand.

11. Do I need to bring my own music?

Definitely not. Spinning builds a group camaraderie while working out, making it a really fun experience. One of the ways instructors do this is by playing upbeat music over the loud speakers. Spinning enthusiasts report that the music is one of aspects of class they love the most.

12. Is spinning a low impact exercise?

Absolutely. Low impact exercise is defined as keeping your feet in contact with the ground or another surface at all times. Since spinning keeps your feet on the pedals for the entire workout so it’s a great low impact option. Low impact exercise is great for people who don’t want to put a lot of force on their joints is also ideal for overweight people. Trying to do high impact exercise while being overweight can lead to stress and injuries. People who are arthritic and pregnant women can also benefit from low impact exercise like spinning.

13. How do I perform a jump?

Jumps in spin class consist of transitioning in between a seated position on the saddle to a standing position. Doing jumps helps improve your overall strength and balance. To do a jump, start from a seated position with your hands on the center or the curve of your handlebars. Now transition to standing. Your hands should move to the upward curve of the handlebars if they were not already there. Your rhythm should stay the same between sitting and standing. Once you have gotten the hang of it you will start alternating positions pretty rapidly.

14. How do I perform a sprint?

A sprint requires performing with maximum output and will send your heart rate skyrocketing. The good news is that the sprint lasts around 30 seconds and you get to recover afterwards. You will start in a seated position with your hands in the center of the handlebars. Your resistance level should be at a medium. Now transition to a jump and move your hands to the upward curve of the handlebars. Increase the resistance on your flywheel. Move back into a seated position but still maintain the sprint. Finally, spend 1.5 to 3 minutes in active recovery.

15. Why shouldn’t I pedal backwards?

The force of pedaling backward on the knee joint can easily tear cartilage and is a good way to damage your knees. And if you are pedaling with any speed, which you most likely are since you are in a spin class, your legs can easily become overextended. Not to mention that pedaling backwards encourages the pedals to become unscrewed. A damaged bike is surefire way to cause unnecessary harm.

16. Do I need to be in good shape to participate in a spin class?

Spinning doesn’t require a certain fitness level. It does require enthusiasm and effort. If its been awhile since you’ve exercised, make sure to talk with your instructor. They are more than happy to make modifications for you during the workout. Keep in mind that spinning is about your personal commitment, which can be hard to keep track of while you are in a group setting. But if you workout to your own capacity, it will not be long before you start seeing results.

17. How old do I need to be to participate?

This is tricky because each facility will have their own requirements about age-appropriateness. In general, sixteen seems to be the minimum age to participate. This is mainly because of physiological details. It is not recommended that preteen children participate in resistance training, a staple in all spin classes. Maturity and safety issues are also a concern for children younger than sixteen. Most facilities will have teenagers under eighteen sign some sort of waiver.

18. How tall do I need to be do join a spin class?

The consensus for minimum height appears to be 4’10. In participants are not tall enough, it becomes very difficult to make the proper adjustments for seat and height, a predicament that can easily lead to injuries.

19. What is the maximum weight a spin bike supports?

Most spin bikes will support a weight range between 250-350 lbs.

20. How can I find a spin class near me?

You can find an official Spin® class over at this link. Otherwise – try googling, “spin class near me”. Spinning® and other types of indoor cycling is a popular form of exercise and many areas have exclusive studios or gyms that offer classes.

(Spin® and Spinning® are trademarks of Mad Dogg Athletics.)

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