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
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
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
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!