So you're thinking about taking a spinning class, but you're not sure that it's the right workout for you.
Well, let me ask you a few questions:
Are you sick of your same old boring workout?
Have you reached a fitness plateau?
Do you want more definition in your legs and butt?
Are you looking for a time-efficient hard-core workout where you can get both cardio and strength training?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then what you want is a spin class.
Now I'm not going to sugar coat this for you: Spinning is a killer workout.
It will be tough.
You are going to sweat a lot. You're probably going to be sore afterward.
But it's also crazy fun, and it will leave you feeling great both mentally and physically. It will also make you look great naked.
Not too bad, huh?
What Is Spinning?
Spinning is a genuine whoop-your-butt full-body workout that you do on a stationary bike.
It's low impact and very gentle on your joints.
Keep in mind:
Before you start thinking that maybe it's a wimpy workout, let me assure you that it's not.
It's incredibly intense, and it gives you both cardio and resistance training in the same kick-ass workout.
On top of all of that, it's also an explosion for your senses.
Between the lighting, the killer music, and the instructor motivating you on, you will work harder and sweat more than you have in a long time. And you will love every brutal minute of it.
Now for the bennies
10 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Spinning
Here's all you need to know before you take your first spinning class:
1. Show up early
For most classes at the gym, showing up a couple of minutes late is no biggie. Spinning is different, especially if you are new to it.
I tell all of my classes to show up at least 10 minutes early for spinning.
And there's an excellent reason for that:
Unlike other classes, it takes a few minutes to set up the equipment.
If you are new, you will want to be sure that you set your bike correctly. You need to adjust the height, the seat distance, and the handlebars.
Don't be afraid to ask for help!
Because the bike set up is essential for a safe, effective workout.
The video below will show you how to set your bike to fit your body:
One suggestion that I would give is about your handlebars. If you are new to spinning, I suggest that you set your handlebars at their highest setting. As you get stronger and accustomed to the workout, you can gradually lower the bars.Eventually, you will set the handlebars about even with the seat.
Some words of caution:
If you get any pain in your lower back while you are riding, it likely means that your handlebars are set too low. So stop for a second, and adjust your bike.
Another warning sign is if you're getting pain in your knees while you're pedaling. Spinning should never bother your knees. If it does, then you likely have your seat set too low or too close.
Whatever you do, don't continue while you're in pain. Just stop for a minute and make your adjustments. That's especially important when you first start.
The good news is, once you get the bike set correctly, you will know for every future class exactly where to set it.
2. Let's get familiar with the "Tap Back"
The "tap back" is a very popular move in spin classes.
The video below will show you how to do the movement:
Looks fun, right?
Get familiar with it because you will be doing it a lot.
Here's what you should know:
Basically, what you do is to come up out of the saddle and then nearly sit back down before standing up again.
It's an advanced move that majorly works your glutes, quads, and core.
The beauty of the tap back is that it will make your butt look better naked. That's a damn good reason to try spinning right there.
However, you have to work for it.
Tap backs are not easy. And they are going to make you sore, especially when you're new to it.
But hey, if getting a great butt was easy then everyone would have one, right?
The Wrong Way to Do Tap Backs
As you start to get tired it can be easy to cheat yourself on the tap backs. When your legs and butt are burning, it can be tempting to use your arms for the movement.
Using your arms will put too much stress on your shoulders and not enough on your glutes. You want that great butt, don't you?
Then don't cheat with your arms! Focus on using your core to stand up and down.
If you find that your arms are taking over, sit back down on the seat and rest for a few seconds until you can stand up again.
3. About the resistance level
Different kind of resistance!
The resistance level is critical in spinning. You will be adjusting it throughout the class.
The first thing I want you to know is that you should listen to your body. Don't worry about the guy riding next to you who keeps turning up his resistance.
Ignore that guy.
Newbies to spin tend to either over-do it or they under-do it. You don't want your resistance set too high, and you don't want it set too low. What you're looking for is the sweet spot.
If you set your resistance too high it will feel like you're trying to pedal through wet concrete.
Now you might be thinking that you'll get buns of steel if you ride that way.
Instead, you'll end up using muscles like your lower back to do the work instead of your legs and butt. If you start to feel every pedal stroke in your ankles and lower back then you need to ease off on the resistance a bit.
On the flip side, if your resistance is set too low your pedaling will feel super quick and almost out of control.
When you ride like that, you will start wiggling your back and shifting in the saddle. Not only will this not give you that great butt, but it also will not help you at all.
Save yourself the torture on your girl parts or your boy bits and dial-up that resistance.
If you've never done a spin class before you're probably thinking, why on Earth is this instructor reminding me to breathe?
Well, let me tell you, once you're pedaling as hard as you can, you're sweating buckets, and the music is pounding, it's very easy to forget about your breathing.
I've even had people in my classes unconsciously hold their breath when they're sprinting as fast as they can.
Don't do that!
First of all:
Holding your breath like that when you're working out makes your blood pressure go way up. And let me state the obvious, your body needs that oxygen when you're working this hard!
So I want you to make a conscious effort to think about your breathing. Take nice deep breaths through your nose.
Exhale through your mouth.
The first time that you do a spin class, you will see that it's a major explosion to your senses. Just don't get so carried away with your new experience that you forget to do the basics, like breathing.
5. Wear the right clothes, and bring a towel!
Okay, now let's talk about what you should wear.
For spinning, you should not wear baggy or bulky clothing because it could get caught up in the bike.
Keep it simple:
Remember that you're going to sweat.
For women, I recommend that you wear shorts or tight leggings and a sports bra. Ladies, I'm putting extra emphasis on the supportive sports bra. You'll thank me for that later.
For men, I recommend that you wear shorts and a t-shirt or tank top that isn't too loose.
Beyond what you wear, two things are essential to bring to every spin class:
6. It's all about full circles, my friends
While you are pedaling, I want you to concentrate on making full circles with your strokes.
Let's think about it in slow motion for a minute:
As you begin the stroke, you are pushing down, activating your hamstring. As you get near the bottom of the stroke, allow your toe to point down. Then pull up with your leg to get to the top of the motion.
Once you pass the bottom of the stroke, it can be tempting to let your leg go limp and make your other leg do the work as it begins to push down.
But don't do that!
Instead, keep both legs working, including when they are moving upward.
It's not about just switching from leg to leg to push down in the stroke. It's about pedaling in full complete circles. At no point should either leg go limp.
7. Weights too? Oh yeah!
One of the things that I love about spinning is that it is a combination exercise, meaning that it works both cardio and muscle at the same time. However, it doesn't work your upper body as much as it works your core and lower body.
For muscular balance, that means that you should also do some kind of resistance training for your upper body separately.
Keep this in mind:
Some classes take that into account and give you some weight work for your arms mixed into the class.
If you take a class that uses weights, you will be pedaling as you use your arms to keep your heart rate up. Don't go too heavy on your weights. Two to five-pound weights will be plenty.
A word of caution:
While you're using the weights be careful that you continue to control your pedaling in a steady rhythm.
You don't want to pedal so fast that you get out of control or start wiggling or bouncing in the seat.
Your legs must be stable to give you the balance to sit up holding the weights. And your core should be engaged throughout the exercise.
8. That's my jam!
The music is one of my favorite parts of a spin class. It's high energy and will get you pushing yourself throughout the workout.
I see this all the time in my classes:
A killer song comes on, and everyone gets hyped. Heads start bobbing. And inevitably people start dancing in the saddle. Who could blame them? Killer tunes just make your body feel like moving to the beat.
I get that.
But as much as I love to see everyone jamming out to the beat, I don't want to see you dancing with your butt in the seat. If you really want to feel the beat then use your legs. Let your pedaling do the dancing. Spin to the beat.
Keep that butt still in the saddle.
9. No need for a death grip, relax those hands!
In my classes, I often take finger breaks where I ask everyone to wiggle their fingers.
Seems silly, right?
I suppose it is. But the point is to remind everyone not to use a death grip on the handlebars.
It's a very natural thing, especially for beginners to hold on with all their might. The problem with that is that it puts too much pressure in your arms, shoulders, and wrists.
Gripping like that is taking the workload off of your core, where it belongs, and putting it into your shoulders and wrists.
Don't cheat yourself like that.
The way you avoid that trap is to pull your fingers off the bars occasionally. If you feel unsteady when you wiggle your fingers that means that you're supporting yourself too much with your arms. If that happens, you need to squeeze your abs and engage your core immediately.
10. Water! Water! Water!
As we've discussed, you are going to sweat your butt off while you are spinning.
But it also poses a risk if you're not drinking enough water.
It can lead to dehydration. If you're dehydrated, you're not going to have the strength to finish your class or work at the intensity level that you should be.
So to avoid dehydration, I want you to do three things:
So to avoid dehydration, I want you to do three things:
You should also be drinking water throughout the day.
The recommended guidelines say that you should drink between 8 and 12 glasses of water every day.
On the days that you do spinning you need to drink even more than that.
Science and Stuff
The brilliance of the combination exercise
Are you short on time?
Do you want to workout in the fastest most efficient way possible?
Here's what you need to do:
A combination exercise is one that gives you both cardio and strength training in the same workout. It's the smartest way to train your body.
Spinning is an excellent example of that.
Look at it this way. You could either go to the gym four times a week to do cardio. And then go to the gym on the remaining three days of the week to do resistance training. Or you could train smarter and cut your time in half.
Every single day at the gym?
Come on man. This is a no brainer.
Other examples of combination exercises:
Cross training is where it's at
The best thing that you can do for your body is to cross train. That means doing many different workouts, rather than the same thing every day.
You will be in better shape if you cross train. Cross training will also keep you from being so sore when you spin.
The other beautiful thing about cross training is that it prevents you from hitting a fitness plateau.
Do you work out every week but you no longer see changes in your body? You've likely hit a plateau because your body has adapted to your routine. You need to keep your body guessing. The more you vary your workouts, the less likely your body is to adapt.
So mix it up! Try something new.
Forget that boring old treadmill today.
Expand your horizons!
You should spin often
I recommend doing spinning one to two times per week.
Holy Soreness Batman!
I'm just going to give it to you straight:
If you are new to spinning, you are going to be sore.
The first time that I ever tried spinning was at a fitness convention in the 90s. It was brand new at the time, and I was excited to try it out. Now I should preface this by telling you that I have been a fitness trainer since I was 21 years old and I don't think there's a workout out there that I haven't tried. I was in great shape when I took that first spin class.
It kicked my butt!
I loved it though. And I could tell during the workout that I would probably be sore afterward because it was very different from my regular training.
But holy moly Batman. I was walking like John Wayne and sitting nervously for four days!
First of all:
It takes a while to get used to the seat on the spin bikes. I'm telling you now that it's going to make you sore.
Then there's the actual workout itself. My quads, hamstrings, and butt were dead. And because I used my arms too much, they were sore too. Even my abs were sore.
Don't worry; you will be fine
If you're like me, then you love that soreness because you know that it means you worked hard.
You will eventually get used to the workload, and the soreness will subside.
The best advice I can give you about the seat is to spend at least 50 percent of your workout out of the saddle. The longer you're in that seat, the sorer it will likely make you.
Other things that will help with that are bringing a padded seat to your class or wearing padded biking shorts.
Yes, it's true.
They make bike shorts specifically with padding on the crucial parts. I wasn't sure about them at first because they look a little funny.
Trust me, they help.
What the heck is DOMS?
Another thing that is very common after spinning is the delayed onset of muscle soreness or DOMS.
Here's what I found:
Have you ever done a super tough workout that made you a little sore the next day, but in the days that followed the soreness got worse? That's DOMS.
Sometimes it can take a couple of days before you start to feel sore. The cause of the soreness is tiny little tears in the muscles that you worked.
They will heal just fine, and they will end up making you stronger.
But the healing process can be painful.
Some tips for the soreness
The first thing that I would recommend if you're incredibly sore after spinning is taking a day or two of rest. If you have DOMS, then you may still be sore after taking two days off.
In that case, you can help yourself by doing some gentle cardio.
However, you should wait before jumping back on the spin bike until the soreness subsides a bit. It comes down to the degree of your pain.
If you're only slightly sore, then get back in that saddle.
But if your pain level is extreme, then you should cross train and do something different.
Don't misunderstand me though:
I'm not suggesting that you stop spinning just because it makes you very sore the first time. That's the opposite of what I'm telling you to do.
I promise you, the soreness won't last, and you will get stronger with every class that you take.
I tell my clients to give it five classes. Commit yourself to stick with it for at least five workouts. You can do that. After your fifth ride, you will either love it or decide that it's not for you. But give it a fair chance.
Ways to avoid extreme soreness
How Does Spinning Compare to Running?
People ask me all the time which is better; spinning or running? Truthfully, it's hard for me to pick one over the other. I think they are both excellent for burning calories and fat. If you can do them both, you should.
But a lot of people can't run.
It's very tough on your joints. On the other hand, spinning is low impact, and very gentle on your joints, so more people can do it.
Spinning is also way more fun.
If we compare the caloric output for both, then running comes out slightly on top.
An adult weighing 155 lbs.
"However, a Spinning class is much more intense so you can expect to burn anywhere from 400-600 calories if you push yourself. Woman.thenest.com reports that “a 160-pound person can burn over 600 calories per hour at the leisurely pace of 5 mph. Increase the speed to 8 mph and that figure jumps to over 800 per hour.” That’s a whole lot of calories."
The Best Ways to Survive Your Spin Class
You need to make sure you:
Fuel your body
Before you spin, you have to put fuel in the tank.
Think about it:
Your car won't make it very far if you don't put gas in it. And your body won't make it through an intense spin class if you don't eat.
The best thing you can do is to eat a small meal or snack with both carbs and protein 30 to 60 minutes before your workout. Fruit is another good option before spinning. And as we've already discussed, you need to drink plenty of water.
Now let me tell you an awesome secret:
The very best time to eat is right after your workout, especially after a workout as intense as spinning.
When you finish your spin class your metabolism is in full-on fat burning mode. It will stay revved up like that for about an hour after you finish exercising.
If you can eat within about 45 minutes of completing your workout, you will burn those calories off almost immediately. It's about as close to a free meal as you can get.
Don't be afraid to ask questions
There's no such thing as a dumb question when it comes to spinning.
So don't be shy!
Ask those questions. This is your workout, and your body and you should get everything out of it that you can.
Chances are you're not the only one with that question. Speaking up will likely help more than just you.
Winners never cheat. And cheaters never win.
I am telling you not to cheat yourself in your spinning workout. That means not leaning on your arms too much. It also means pedaling in full circles.
And it means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
But wait -- there's more:
However, I do not want you to mix up cheating with listening to your body.
Listening to your body means that if you have to ease off a bit or pedal slower for a minute to catch your breath, then you do that.
That's not cheating.
That's being smart.
Don't worry about anyone else in the room, focus on your own ride
Taking a class with a lot of other people is fun. But it's vital that you know that there will be all different fitness levels in your class.
Spinning is not a competition with other spinners in the room. It's all about you.
The only thing you should pay attention to is your own body. Well, let me make one exception. Speaking for fitness instructors everywhere, we'd like you to pay attention to us too.
But all those other people in the room?
Don't worry about them.
Let the instructions and the lighting and the music put you in the zone. Tune the rest out.
Don't stop after one spin class
As I mentioned earlier, don't let yourself quit after just one spin class. It's going to be hard, and you're going to get sore. You know that going in.
If you want to change your body and improve your health, then you have to give it a fair shot.
I ask that you give it a solid five classes before you make up your mind about it.
That doesn't mean that you should do only spinning. The best thing you can do for yourself is to cross train with many different workouts. Training that way will also make you better at spinning.
One Last Thing
Well, there you have it, my friends. Now you're ready for your first spinning class.
But before you go, let me share just one more thing:
If you are a beginner, not only to spinning but also to working out, I don't want you to be afraid to try this workout. Spinning is beneficial to every fitness level. I want you to know going in that it is going to be difficult. That's just the truth. However, it's also unbelievably fun and incredibly good for you.
Don't be intimidated. You can do this. Just take it at your own pace. If you need to slow down for a minute or sit back down in the saddle, then do it. Even for people who are brand new to fitness, spinning is fantastic. But don't be afraid to take it slow and listen to your body.
Now we would love to hear from you. Have you tried spinning? What did you think? Tell us about your thoughts in the comments section below.
And then get your butt to a spin class!