Indoor cycling or “Spinning” classes are just what the first term describes: a cardiovascular group exercise class that takes place on a bike in a studio.
As for the term “Spinning,” it’s actually a registered trademark of Mad Dogg Athletics, the company that partnered up with Johnny G, creator of the first indoor cycling bike over 20 yrs ago. The fitness class, whether an official Spinning ® class or another interpretation, is a great way to work on your cardiovascular fitness. This article outlines tips for your first time in the saddle during an indoor cycling class.
What to Know Before You Go
Before you go to class, prepare yourself by packing a water bottle, towel, and an outfit that will keep you cool. Most classes last at least 50 minutes and although you should take things at your pace, you will definitely work up a sweat! Which brings us to another tip: mentally prepare yourself to make this your own workout before getting to class. Your instructor will tell you to do so, however, when you’re in a room full of experienced participants it can be hard to listen to your instructor or your body. Take things easy your first class and take comfort in the fact that indoor cycling isn’t going anywhere. You’ll be able to take another class and “beat” the cyclist next to you the next time you saddle up.
Beyond The Basics
In addition to having a water bottle, towel, and comfortable clothes, there are a few additional tips that will bring you beyond the basics. First, be prepared for a sore derrière the next day. Someone is bound to tell you this if you reveal this is your first class, however, we wanted to be the first ones just in case you decided to try to blend in on your first ride. Take a few classes and you shouldn't have this problem any more. If you’re worried about this before your first class, you can buy padded shorts or a gel seat to fit over the saddle on the bike at the studio. However, we recommend at least trying the ride gear-free for the first few sessions.
Another beyond basic fact: the pro indoor cyclers will have special shoes. “Spinning” shoes are shoes that attach to the pedals of the bikes in your indoor cycling studio. While you may want to invest in these special shoes after a few rides, save your money until you have settled on a studio you love. The type of shoes required can vary from bike to bike and studio to studio.
First Day of Class
While we hope these tips leave you feeling empowered to conquer your first indoor cycling class, we still urge you to get your first class early to introduce yourself to the instructor. In addition to getting help setting up your bike, arriving early will ensure that you get a seat. Spinning® classes tend to fill up quickly. In fact, it’s worth calling your gym to see if they take reservations for the popular class. (Yes, indoor cycling really is as popular as your favorite restaurant on a Friday night).
What tips will your indoor cycling instructor share? Your bike will have a few knobs which will allow you to make adjustments to seat and handle bar positions. The instructor can help you assess your form as you test out your bike. Waiting for another newbie to get set up? Find your hipbone and adjust the seat to this height.
While this trick is not fool proof, it should get you fairly close to the proper height. You’ll know you've set your seat height correctly when your legs can extend during the ride without causing your knees to lock up. The handle bar position will be about even with your seat height or slightly higher.
Finally, there’s the resistance button. On some bikes it will be a lever and on others it will be a knob. Adding or taking off resistance helps bring the outdoor cycling experience to your studio. Once you’ve set the resistance that matches your current training level, you’ll increase resistance to simulate hills and other terrain changes. To stop the bike you’ll either push or pull on the know or lever. Make sure you know which direction to move the knob before you get into your ride!
Indoor Cycling Terms and Positions
While your instructor should review indoor cycling lingo, we’ll go over the key terms you’ll heat so you’ll be prepared for your ride. One of the first words you’ll hear is “saddle,” which is just another term for your seat. Later in the ride you’ll hear your instructor tell you to get “out of the saddle.” This just means to lift your butt up as you would on an outdoor bike while climbing a hill. Although, you can pretend you thought it meant to leave if you’re having second thoughts at this time in the ride.
Throughout the ride you can expect your instructor to have you check your speed. He or she will likely ask you to do a cadence or RPM check (Revolutions Per Minute). If you have a fancy bike, the RPM count will show up on a screen attached to your bike. Otherwise, you’ll have to do a manual pace count that the instructor will lead. For general spinning (flats and warm-up/cool-downs) 80 RPM is the average pace.
If you are climbing a hill, the pace will lower to around 60 RPM near the top. Sprinting will bring the pace up to around 115 RPM. More experienced outdoor riders may get their RPM higher. Come back to class another time and you’re also likely to notice a difference from bike to bike on how fast you can get at a given gear so don’t worry too much about always being at gear 10 during a flat. Instead, follow your instructor’s lead and make sure you are never bouncing to the music. You should be in control of your bike at all times. Bouncing is a sign that your resistance is too light and the weight of the flywheel at the front is controlling you. Don’t make this rookie mistake! Control your bike and your workout. Save the bouncing for the nightclub or Zumba class.
Once you have started your ride and warmed up, you’ll encounter various drills and cycling techniques. Each one will require a different cadence or speed (the RPM value) and specific hand positioning. For a flat section of your ride your hands will rest lightly in the middle of the handlebars closest to you. Do not lean over the handles or reach for the furthest of the bars. These are used for standing positions.
The outer handlebars are for “second” position on the bike. Move your hands here for a “jump” or standing climb. Jumps are sections of a ride where you stand up for 10-30 seconds and then sit down and repeat this sequence. A standing climb is just what it sounds like. With a higher resistance you’ll stand up as if you are nearing the top of a hill. Gripping the furthest handlebars and leaning forward, you’ll finally move your hands to the third position.
After class thank your instructor and continue to drink water! You will sweat a lot during this intense cardiovascular workout. Your instructor should lead you through a stretching routine at the end of class. If he or she does not, make sure to stretch on your own for a few minutes after class.
Think about how your ride went while cooling down. Did you go at your own pace? Were some segments of class or instructions easier to follow than others? Think about what you personally want to work on during your next class. This way, you’ll always be improving your ride and fitness level. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll even beat your Spinning ® neighbor to the finish line!
Have you tried an indoor cycling or Spinning ® class in the past? Planning on trying your first class? Leave us a comment in the space below with your thoughts. Did you find these tips helpful? Share them with a friend and invite them to brave their first time in the saddle with you!