The gym isn’t for everybody and sometimes the weather and family or work commitments mean it’s not always possible for you to go for a ride on your bike; but a lot of gyms are putting on regular spin classes that represent a short, sharp form of exercise so you can keep your legs going.
There are a lot of forms of exercise that are seen as fads, coming along and getting a bit of publicity for a short while before disappearing from public consciousness as the novelty wears off. Spinning isn’t one of these and is still without a doubt one of the most popular fitness classes – and forms of training – that you can do, even if you’re not a competitive cyclist.
If anything it’s a common misconception that you need to be a cyclist to take part in a spin class. In actual fact, you just need to be up for the challenge! It’s just like riding a bike – only in very hot, sweaty conditions with an instructor encouraging you to put in maximum effort. If you’ve never taken part in a spin class before, or don’t fully understand what one is, we’ll give you a run through here.
What is spinning?
Spinning is an excellent form of exercise and also a great way for keen cyclists to keep their eye in when the weather isn’t great outdoors or when you’ve only got a short space of time to get on your bike due to other commitments.
A high intensity form of exercise, spin classes are usually anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes in their duration and focus on sprinting and hillclimbs, ideal for getting the blood pumping and to keep your fitness levels up.
Set to music to help you find a rhythm on the bike, the classes will work a number of core muscle groups including the thighs, calves and muscles; although some instructors will build in routines that work different areas, too. For instance, some will encourage participants to perform press-up style routines in order to work the arms and legs at the same time, while also using the core (abdominals) to come up from a seated position to a standing position to climb.
What should I expect from my first spin class?
Let’s not beat about the bush here, even if you’re a fairly competent and experienced cyclists your first spin class is going to be pretty hard – but it’s meant to be! It’s not a casual family bike ride, it’s designed to test and improve your fitness on and off the bike and for that reason the instructor is going to be encouraging you to work harder and harder.
While the aim is to get the RPM up and cover as great a distance as possible, you are able to go at your own speed and shouldn’t be afraid to do so. You’ll be told when to change gear (or the resistance, at least), and when to push, but if you’re struggling you’re well within your rights to drop the resistance down or ease off the sprints.
What equipment do you need for a spin class?
It almost goes without saying that the spin bike is provided for you by the gym, and you definitely don’t need a helmet! Other than that, there is minimal specialist cycling equipment or clothing required, but you do have the option to wear a pair of proper cycling shoes if you wish, clipping yourself into the pedals as you would on your road or mountain bike.
Perhaps the two most important things that you need to take with you to a spin class are a towel and water bottle, because trust us, you’re going to sweat! Quite often the spin classes are held in small rooms which get very warm with around 20 to 30 other cyclists taking part and there is little (or no) air conditioning to keep you cool.
Staying hydrated is always vitally important in any form of cycling whether it’s an indoor cycling class, professional road race or a short blast down the mountain bike trails in the woods near your house.
In terms of your clothing for a spin class, we’ve already mentioned how you don’t need to be wearing the full gear, but you definitely should be comfortable. You don’t want to be wearing floaty tops or baggy MTB shorts in a spin class as you’ll be in and out of the saddle for the duration of the class, so the most important thing is to wear comfortable tops and shorts that give you freedom of movement and help to keep you as cool as possible.
Are all spinning classes the same?
In terms of the muscle groups worked and a lot of the physical positioning on the bike, most spin classes are fairly identical; but in terms of the spin class itself they can be very different depending on your gym and the instructor. A lot of chain gyms will have spin classes taught by different instructors who have all undergone the same ‘chain training’ where they have all learnt how to deliver the same class.
On the other hand, there will be some instructors – even at those same gyms – who create and adapt their own classes. The music will be tailored and so will the classes themselves, and many of these classes are much more enjoyable as a result. If you start getting into a routine of attending regular spin classes then you may find that the structured chain gym classes get quite repetitive, but if you can find an instructor who mixes the music playlist up – at the very least – then you might just find the class flies by and you really enjoy it; despite the hard work, sweat and next-day aches!