17 Things To Know Before Taking A Spin Bike Class
Learn how to prepare for spin class and fully enjoy the ride when you are ready to take your first spinning class session
Cycling is one of those activities that can get just about anyone in the world fit without requiring too much effort. Whether it is riding around in the great outdoors, going for a ride around the neighborhood, training for a race or even cycling on indoor spin bikes, this form of exercise can benefit all sorts of people in all sorts of conditions. One of the most popular ways to go about this cycling in recent times is the spin cycle class. These classes are concentrated on guiding people how to make the most of their cycling sessions, either by burning the most calories or getting the ideal power to energy expenditure ratio.
However, many beginning cyclists are afraid of these classes, as the advertisements always seem to be appealing to experienced cyclists who are “hardcore” and “ready to ride” at any time. What we’ve decided to do is come up with a list of tips and just general bits of knowledge that one should have before they sign up for one of these classes. Even the most experienced home cyclist might be intimidated by their first time spin class. Whether it is a technical aspect (like how to stand up in a spinning class) or a social one (like who are the key players in how the class runs), we’re going to look at all the spinning tips for beginners. In no particular order, let’s hop right into our guide of how to prepare for a spin class!
Overview of How to Prepare For a Spinning Class:
Arrive Early and Eat A Snack
It’s always recommended to arrive early to your first spin bike class. Why is this? You could just arrive at the last minute, slide into the back, hop on a bike and leave before anyone even noticed you were there. However, this could lead to all sorts of problems, from cycling form to generally not knowing how the entire process works. Arriving even 10 minutes early allows you to introduce yourself to the instructor and ask any questions about the format of the class, recommendations on form, or just a general feel for how the class is going to proceed.
Arriving early also has the benefit of letting you meet other participants of the class. If they are beginners, that allows you to bond with them, as they don’t have any more experience than you do. If they are experienced in how that spin class works, then they can help you adapt to it more quickly. Certainly a win-win situation. Often instructors at the cycling classes for beginners recommend eating a small snack half an hour before the gym and another afterwards (especially if you feel weak or shaking).
Set Up The Bike Correctly
Related to the above point, you’ll want to make sure that the spin bike set up correctly. The last thing you’ll want to happen is for the bike to stop working correctly in the middle of an intense workout. Make sure that the seat and handlebars are adjusted to properly feel comfortable for a decently long ride. Fortunately, many modern commercial spin bikes that are used in these types of spin bike classes are extremely adjustable and can fit a wide range of different people. If you need any help doing this, arriving early or even just asking a nearby classmate who knows what they are doing could save a whole lot of grief later down the line.
When sitting in the saddle, it should feel comfortable. The knees should have the slightest of bends at the bottom of the pedal stroke. If you have to lock the knees at this point in the stroke, that’s an indication that the seat is raised too high. Once the seat is properly adjusted, make sure to do the same to the handlebars. Make sure that your knees aren’t rotating into them, but not so far that you are actively stretching out to keep hold of them.
Bring A Towel, Sweatband, and Gloves
Spinning towel can make a big difference in how comfortable you are throughout the workout session. It turns out that sweating will make you sweat – a lot. Those without towels actually tend to be in the minority with these classes, since the majority of people recognize just how much sweat is actually produced. Nobody wants to constantly be wiping away sweat with an increasingly sweaty hand. That’ll make it more difficult to change resistance on the fly and after the workout is over, it’ll look like you just walked through a monsoon.
Do towels solve every problem ever known in these classes? No. Do they solve all the problems dealing with ridiculous amounts of sweat and other bodily fluids? Absolutely. Does that make them worth bringing? That is beyond doubt. Also, keep in mind that perspiration will interfere with your workout unless you wear a pair of gloves to have firm grips and a sweatband to trap forehead moisture before it has a chance to go down into your eyes. This way you can also focus better on your form and easier gain the benefits of spin class.
Figure Out The Cycling Shoes
For those who are going to their first cycling class, the shoes they wear really don’t matter that much. Just about every bike out there supports regular running shoes and will keep your feet firmly in place. However, if you enjoy that spin class and intend on coming back (which you most definitely should!), you might want to look at investing in a pair of specialized spin shoes. Note: Don’t buy shoes until you know what type of spin bike pedals are installed on the studio’s spin bikes (shoes and pedals need to be compatible).
These specialized shoes and cycling cleats can often be provided by the spin class, yet it is always nice (and hygienic) to have your own pair. These clip-in pedals have protrusions on the sole that attach to the pedals of the spin bike. They may seem scary or intimidating if you haven’t used them before, however, these can be quite useful. Wearing them can increase the efficiency of your pedal stroke since you are able to pull up as well as push down. This allows for your hamstrings and glutes to work harder and get more out of the workout. If you need help attaching these cleats, then all you should do is just ask the instructor or a nearby cyclist who has connected them correctly.
Drink Water and Stay Hydrated
This is a pretty straightforward one. You’ll want to make sure that you have some amount of water with you when you are participating in one of these spin bike classes. Some people recommend one bottle, others recommend two. Generally we recommend taking one to start with and if you find yourself running out in the middle of the session, then you will want to start bringing a second bottle for future sessions. Bringing multiple bottles might feel a bit like overkill and you might get self-conscious about it, but it’s better than having a dry throat in the middle of a spin class.
Water helps transport nutrients, allowing you to maintain a high level of energy. Of course, you don’t want to overdo the drinking while you are exercising. According to the American Council on Exercise, you’ll want to drink 8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up. Then, drink 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise. Once you are done with the class, drink 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise. This should keep you well hydrated for cycling and ready for the evening or the next day.
If Needed, Take A Break
This is one that even experienced cyclists have a bit of trouble with sometimes. If you are unable to keep up with the intensity of a certain section of the class, then you have the complete freedom to stop pedaling and take a breather. The instructor will not come over and call you out in front of the entire class. They are trained to teach a wide range of cyclists, so they fully realize that not everyone will be able to keep up the entire time. There’s no shame in not being able to keep up with the more experienced riders.
To avoid this, you generally want to follow the instructor’s guidance on what sort of resistance and intensity you should be on throughout the ride. If you find yourself struggling at some point, but don’t want to take a full break, lowering the resistance by a couple of levels can be a nice medium between the two “extremes”. Certainly don’t let the perceived judgement of other riders stop you from taking a breather. Everyone had to start at some point, so nobody should be passing judgement for you doing the same.
Don’t Give The Handlebars A Death Grip
On the more intense spinning bike workouts, this can become a bit of an issue and give you what is known as indoor cycling hand numbness. Going for maximum power or stretching for a personal goal might have you gripping the handlebars as though they are going to fly off the spin bike beneath you. You don’t want to do this, as it will likely lead to injuries further down the line. Nobody wants hand injuries in an activity that is mainly focused on the lower body.
You’ll want to keep your shoulders relaxed and focus on transferring the power from your legs on to the pedals. Your grip should remain loose, so that you can keep the pressure away from both your wrists and elbows. At times you might even be doing the death grip unconsciously, yet you should still keep an eye out for this grip and try to eliminate it as much as possible. After a while, it becomes more natural to have the relaxed position that is generally better for the cyclist. This is a challenge that every experienced cyclist has gone through, so you certainly are not alone in this regard.
Don’t Overexert Yourself Too Early
Another issue that many beginner riders find themselves a victim of is going all out in the beginning 10 minutes of a 45 minute class. As fun and rewarding as it might be to show up everyone else in the class, you will probably find yourself regretting that decision. It’s really the same case as any type of cardiovascular exercise. A nice little warm-up of 5 minutes will help get the blood flowing and will prepare you much better for the upcoming workout session than starting cold.
Unfortunately, those that do perform this mistake most often have some sort of issue with their pride. They want to be the ones at the front, who are showing off and leading the class. Fortunately, these do tend to be one-time incidents, as it is rather embarrassing to be flying so high in the first bit of the class and then be exhausted for the rest of it. The experience will certainly be a lot less enjoyable if you are struggling to even move for the last 20 minutes because you did launch like a rocket in the first 10.
Know That Your Rear Muscles Will Be Sore
It seems like this should be a straightforward fact that everyone should know and acknowledge. However, people still seem to be surprised by just how sore their rear muscles will be after the initial spinning class session. The constant sitting, standing, and bumping on the bicycle seat can take quite a toll on your muscles. While it might not initially feel that bad directly after the class, the real pain continues to wait until the morning after.
Don’t let this pain discourage you from continuing on your cycling journey. You might not be able to sit for a week (a minor inconvenience, we admit), but it does prove to be worth it. Everyone goes through this stage. It will get easier as time goes on. There are a variety of exercises that you can do that will alleviate this soreness somewhat. Bringing the knee to the chest, hamstring stretches and hip abductions are all perfectly valid ways to make those glutes less tight. You also have the option to bring your own seat gel cover to add extra padding.
When on the Bike Focus On Form
In a similar vein to previous points about making sure that you get the appropriate equipment and making sure that the ride is efficient, you’ll want to make sure that your form while riding the spin bike is correct. The instructor should instruct the class on what the proper form and technique of cycling is. The arm and torso positions can really make the difference on how comfortable and how efficient the workout is.
It’s not always easy to get the form right on the first try. Focusing on this form might mean sacrificing some overall speed or intensity of the workout during the class. This is perfectly fine, as any instructor would agree that it is more important to have the correct form and go more slowly than be cycling faster with the sort of form that might end up getting you hurt further down the line.
Get To Know The Spinning Instructor
This recommendation is a bit more flexible. Obviously people are different, so not everyone will want to go out of their way to become best friends with the cycling instructor. However, it can be beneficial to know them on some level above that of “acquaintance”. Those who are more shy or simply prefer to view these classes as something to boost their health instead of a way to build new friend groups (a perfectly valid way of thinking) can simply talk to the instructor in an attempt to learn how they tick.
Different instructors put emphasis on different muscle groups, work at different paces, play different music and train for different terrains. They also have different methods of motivating people. For example, an instructor might prefer to stay on their bike the entire time, or they might prefer to occasionally get off and inspect the various cyclists in the room. You shouldn’t panic about this second type, as they are not a boot camp instructor. They’re likely just checking on form (see the above point) and are going to give the occasional encouragement. Checking online for reviews of different instructors can help give someone an idea of what they are like before they actually take a class, but there’s no real telling until you experience it for yourself.
Know What A “Tap Back” Is
The “Tap Back” is a rather popular cycling move that will likely be used in one of these indoor classes. When the instructor first says this, a beginner who has no idea what the term means could be mighty confused, slowing their momentum and making a less pleasant class.
Put quite simply, the move consists of the repetition movement in order to activate your glutes and quads. You will lift up out of the saddle, go back down to almost being seated before lifting right back up again. This relates quite heavily to the sore muscles that we mentioned earlier. You will feel this exercise for days afterwards, especially if you are new to cycling in general. That’s not to say that it is painful, but you will most certainly feel the work that you are putting in. You might be tempted to use your arms to lift you up further during this movement when tired, but that is not recommended. Going back to the bit about form, you’ll want to consciously make an effort to use your midsection and not your arms.
Keep An Eye On The Resistance Level
Since the riders of the class have the freedom to set their own spin bike resistance levels, you generally want to keep the level that you are operating at in mind while working out in one of these classes. It is generally recommended to stick with the level and intensity that the instructor says to, however they won’t call you out for doing otherwise. You might see some of the more experienced riders doing the same session, just at higher resistance levels.
If you are a beginner, we generally don’t recommend trying to mimic these more advanced riders unless you are sure you can keep up. This relates back to the overexertion we talked about earlier. It might seem easy at first, but burning yourself out at the beginning because you wanted to train at a higher level will end with a rather painful last period of the class. On the flip side, if you are just trying to get a hold on the form and feel of what these cycling classes are about, you might want to adjust the level of resistance to slightly below what the instructor tells you to.
There Might Be Weights Included
An increasing trend with these cycling classes is the addition of weights to complement the workout your lower body is getting. Many figure that if your lower body was getting such a good workout, there might as well be some option in order to allow the upper body to get in on the action. These are often high repetition, low weight affairs, as it would be impossible to lift the heavier hand weights while cycling at medium or higher speeds.
If your class does involve these weights, you’ll want to keep pedalling unless the instructor tells you to stop. You don’t want the legs to cool down before starting the next set, nor do you want the workout to actually stop on the lower body. These upper body workouts are simply additions to the more important lower body one.
Dance With Your Feet, Not The Hips
One of people’s favourite aspects about these classes is how they cycle to the music. There’s something about working out in time to different beats that can truly get the blood flowing and the heart pumping. This can really make one want to sing and wiggle the hips around while they spin their feet on those pedals. However, despite what Shakira might profess, dancing with the hips while exercising on the spin bike is not the greatest of ideas.
The core benefits of these cycling classes are lost when more energy is spent on dancing rather than the actual act of cycling. Remember that “Tap Back” move that we talked about earlier? Yeah, you don’t want to put effort into dancing when there’s sections like that. Holding the core strong and pedalling along to the beat of the music is a much better “dance” to perform during the class. Singing while riding is also a much better use of energy. It doesn’t sacrifice the core experience of riding, yet allows you to express yourself and your enjoyment of the music. Just remember to save some breath for when the going gets tough!
Have Fun and Enjoy Yourself!
Whether you are at one of these classes to simply improve your fitness or to make a whole new group of friends, the world of these cycling classes is a fun one! Make sure that, regardless of what happens the first couple of sessions, you maintain an upbeat and optimistic attitude throughout it all.
Cycling is more than an exercise in the modern day. It will open you to a whole new world of friends and ways to burn those calories. Even if you don’t intend for it to be a long-term project we still recommend giving one of these classes a shot.
Cycling in a Studio vs Cycling at Home
What many people don’t seem to realise is that there is a significant difference between cycling at home and attending one of these sessions. Obviously, the main difference that is immediately apparent is that instead of cycling from the comfort of your own home, you are out with other people. Unfortunately, this does take away some of the nicer options that you might have from home. You can’t just hop on, play whatever music you want, wear as many or as few clothes as you like and so on. You will be among other people and will have to dress and act according to societal norms.
Fortunately, this does not mean you will have to cycle in a pin-up suit or dress. It is an athletic zone, so exercise gear, casual t-shirts and other comfortable clothing is perfectly acceptable. The community that forms at these sessions can actually turn out to be quite a boost to your performance, especially as the more experienced cyclists encourage those who are newer at the activity. Many of these communities actively look for and embrace new members, so it’s not as though you will be trying to barge into a closed community.
Another of the huge differences between working out in a studio versus working out at home is the instructor. While you can technically have an instructor at home if you have one of those fancy new bikes that come with indoor cycling apps compatibility, it isn’t quite the same as having a live person in the room. This instructor will push you and offer words of encouragement to you directly. Certainly, as they get to know you (and you them), this can turn into a really positive relationship that will benefit everyone’s mental and physical health. Also, some spinning studio subscriptions allows you to use other cardio machines (treadmills, ellipticals, weights, etc) in the health club as well.
That’s our list of the top things to know before taking one of these spin classes. As always, this guide is a recommendation rather than a rule of law, but there are certain parts that we think are crucial. The water bottles, arriving early and focusing on form can all play crucial roles in how enjoyable a cycling class is. But perhaps the most important factor that we listed is to have fun at these events. Now get out there and get cycling!