The Beginner’s Guide To Your First Spin Class

Fitness: Get Fit

By: // June 9, 2015

Are you an avid runner or walker? A spin class is a great way to mix-up your routine and challenge your body in a different way! You’ll get a good sweat going with the high energy vibe and invigorating music. Plus, spinning burns calories quickly, provides a safe ride in the comfort of indoors, and is super fun! But if you’re nervous about hopping on a bike for your first spin class, we’ve got you covered with our beginner’s guide. From the best workout headbands to wear, to what to look for in an instructor, follow these seven tips and your first ride will be a breeze!

1. Get Started

All you need to get started on an exercise bike is comfortable workout clothes and sneakers. Wicking tops and padded cycling shorts can make your ride more comfortable. (I don’t wear padded shorts indoors, but lots of people do.)

2. Go High Energy

Hop on a specially designed stationary bike called a spinning bike for a vigorous workout. As you pedal along, the instructor guides the class through a visualization of an outdoor workout. The pace and speed varies throughout the workout, sometimes requiring break-neck speed, and other times pedaling happens from a slow, standing position. The instructor will offer alternatives so you can adjust your intensity according to your own fitness level. A novice might participate in a cycling workout for 30 to 45 minutes, while a more advanced athlete could ride 60 to 90 minutes.

Related: Beginner’s Guide To Becoming a Runner

3. Forget About Intimidation

If you are intimidated, don’t be; it’s the least intimidated group fitness class I know! I have been teaching group fitness for 23 years, and many classes have choreography to follow, but the bike is the easiest thing, just like riding outside. No one knows how much tension you put on your flywheel so start out easy and dial it up if you are feeling great. Dial it down if you feel like you need a break. I always tell people “you are in charge. I’m here to motivate you, but you do the work” and really no one knows how hard you are working.

4. Know Your Cycling Math For Results

It’s a math equation: tension on the bike + cadence = results. Results may be calories burned, mph, power, heart rate zone achieved, etc. Bottom line: play around with the load on the flywheel, vary your cadence and challenge yourself! I play movies in my class of biking like the Tour De France; it’s motivating to be watching the bikers!

5. Pedal In A Pair


It’s great to bring someone with you to a spin class, especially if it’s your first couple times.Pick a friend who is just starting like you or ask one of your seasoned spinning friends if you can come along. Most likely they will make you feel comfortable and welcome—and you might have a lot more fun!

6. Find The Right Instructor For You

Some instructors are hard core outdoor bikers during the warm months and others are group fitness junkies. Either way, a certified instructor should be friendly, inviting, informative, and helpful with setting up your bike and giving good cues throughout the class about form and pace. Some instructors are more talkative than others so find one that works for your personality and is motivating.

7. Tune In To Music Magic

Nothing makes or breaks a spinning class like the music. Find an instructor that plays the music you love to release your endorphins and make you want to work hard. I teach spinning and I love dance music, top 40 and songs with driving bass beats. But some instructors will play 80’s rock or country…my worst nightmare. I always offer ear plugs in my class. I don’t play it too loud, but many of my age group friends—45-60 years old—like the music a little softer and ear plugs are a nice option. Music is a motivator, especially in spinning because you aren’t using your arms and you aren’t dancing around or focusing on choreography.

Popular Spin Class Terms and What They Mean

If you’re new to spin, there are a few phrases to know so you can be fully prepared when you’re sitting on the bike. While the instructor may explain these terms, it will help if you come to your first class somewhat familiar with what these words mean. With these phrases in your toolkit, you’ll be well on your way to mastering your first spin class. Here’s a look at seven popular spin class phrases and what they mean.

“Find your resistance knob”

For your first spin class, you should try to arrive early, so the instructor can help you set up your bike. Your instructor will help you adjust the seat and handlebars so that they’re in the right position for your body. Once the bike is set-up you won’t touch anything for the rest of the class, except the resistance knob.

The resistance knob is located right under the handlebars and controls the resistance against your wheel. For most bikes, if you turn the knob to the right, you add resistance. Turning left decreases the resistance. There are also bikes that use a lever instead and you move the lever up and down to change resistance. The resistance is critical, since that will change the style of riding for each song.

“Get on your flat road”

The “flat road” is the foundation for the entire spin class. It’s the point on your resistance knob that gives you some resistance on your wheel to support your ride without pushing too hard. You shouldn’t ride on a bike that has no resistance, so your flat road is a step above that. You’ll likely add and remove resistance throughout class, but you won’t want to go below this baseline.

“What’s your monitor say?”

Most new indoor spinning bikes have monitors on them. These are small screens on your handlebars that show the distance, time and other data about your ride. The data heads in the class will love the monitors, because it lets them keep tabs on their workouts. I’ve also seen others throw a towel over the monitor, because they’d rather focus on other parts of the exercise.

The monitors take some getting used to and if you’re having trouble getting the monitor started, ask your instructor or a neighbor for help.

Related: 8 Things I Learned In Group Fitness Class

“Gear up”


“Gear up,” is another way of saying, “increase resistance”. If you do have a monitor, you’re able to know exactly how many “gears” you’re increasing, because it will show which gear you’re on. Otherwise, instructors will typically say give the knob a quarter or half turn.

“Let’s stand”

What may come as a surprise is that you can “stand” in spin class without getting off your bike. To stand, you shift your weight forward so that your booty is out of the seat and your weight is over your pedals. Standing can be challenging when you first start spinning, so feel free to sit down whenever you need a break. Also, when you do stand, having extra resistance on your wheel will make it easier to ride.

“Have a smooth pedal stroke”

Your pedal stroke is the act of turning your pedals in a circle. Throughout the entire class, your goal is to keep your pedal stroke one smooth motion. If you feel like your pedals almost stop at the top and bottom because there’s too much resistance, take some of the resistance off, so you’re able to pedal evenly the whole time.

“Now, we’ll do intervals”

Intervals are parts of the ride that are segmented out by time. For example, the group fitness class might do 20-second intervals with a 10-second rest in between. Typically, intervals are a maximum effort, like a sprint, so instructors expect you to work as hard as you can with breaks in between. If you’re just starting out, you may need to work up to being able to do an exercise full out for 20-seconds. You know your body best, so be sure to push yourself in a way that feels right to you.

Now that you’re familiar with a few common spin phrases, you can join your first spin class feeling confident that you’ll be able to follow along. And remember—every person in that room had a “Day 1” just like you.

READ THIS NEXT: A Beginner’s Guide To Barre Class

Printed from


on May 28, 2017 at 1:06 AM Reply

Thank you so much for this great article... I've been so afraid to try it-- these suggestions and the lingo really help. THANK YOU!

on March 15, 2017 at 6:36 PM Reply

hi - i am currently in recovery from 3 fractured vertebrae (december) and trying to get healthy again.. wondering if a spin class will put a lot of pressure on my back? i'm currently just trying to do some swimming every day and a little bit on the cross-trainer for low impact cardio as well as regular physio. i will talk to my physio but i just want to hear opinion of a spin-veteran ! cheers, isabella

    on March 16, 2017 at 2:00 PM Reply

    Hi Isabella - I'm not sure exactly what vertebrae you fractures, but if it's your cervical or lumbar, spin may put lot of pressure on them because you're leaning forward, however you could talk to your doctor about it and see if you could do it sitting up rather than leaning forward. Good luck!

on March 6, 2017 at 8:35 AM Reply

As a 55 year old in fit man, the photo's in this article do nothing to improve my confidence. How about some pics of real people ?

    on March 6, 2017 at 9:59 AM Reply

    Hi David - we try our best to put a variety of photos all over our site! Thanks for the note.

on February 19, 2017 at 11:22 AM Reply

Best shorts i've ever had, trimbo workout shorts for women, crazy heat and sweat, thighs on fire during spin class, i lost weight initially through sweat (water loss) but weeks later genuine weight loss, only problem is they get soaked in sweat so 2 pairs really needed if u r a gym goer.

on February 17, 2016 at 5:11 AM Reply

I've seen girls in my spin class wearing trimbo workout shorts, anyone tried them??

on January 28, 2016 at 2:51 PM Reply

I've been teaching a Spin class in our small community for the last year. Any advice on where you find your inspiration/routines/profiles for class?

    on February 5, 2016 at 10:50 AM Reply

    Hi Nikki - I get a lot of my inspiration from music playlists that I change up often. Lifetime Fitness, the gym where I train, also gives out lots of training and I attend of lot of professional classes too!

on May 6, 2014 at 9:03 PM Reply

Water and a towel are a must. And I find a heart rate monitor very useful to make sure I work at in intensity that keeps my heart rate in the appropriate zone.

on May 2, 2014 at 4:12 PM Reply

I found Spinning while I was in the process of quitting smoking after 22 years and losing 60 lbs. I needed a lower impact cardio exercise because of my knees. I loved it so much I became an instructor and have been teaching for 5 years now. Something I found was very beneficial when I was starting out that I always passed on to newer riders was to wear a firmer soled shoe. It didn't have to be a cycling shoe but a shoe similar to a cross trainer could help a lot, especially when you are learning to stand and climb.

on April 24, 2013 at 4:34 PM Reply

Hi Chris - I love attending spin classes but they aren't always at convenient times so I just launched an app so you can hop on a bike at the gym when class isn't a class and use our app to get a great workout. It is also a great tool to build up your confidence before attending an actual class.

on March 13, 2013 at 10:14 AM Reply

I've been on the fence about spinning because I'm inexperienced. But now that you mentioned no one else has to know how high my tension is set, I think I'll give it a go!

(This will help us personalize your experience so that you can get the best advice possible from us!)

Send this to friend