Maybe you’ve heard the buzzwords of SoulCycle or Peloton and started to wonder whether spin class is worth the hype. Maybe you’ve gotten bored with running or walking and have started looking for new cardio workouts to try. Or maybe you’re just up for a new activity that will challenge and inspire you with a high-energy vibe and motivating music. Whatever has brought you to your first spin class, congratulations: you’re about to enter a fun and challenging world where you can burn tons of calories and have a great time doing it. Before you head into class, take a look at this Beginner’s Guide to Spin Class for all you need to know before you hop on that bike. Follow these tips and that first ride will have you hooked!
Use the links below to quickly navigate this guide:
- How Does Spin Class Work?
- Do I Need Special Shoes For Spin Class?
- Will I Need To Adjust The Bike?
- Is it OK To Take Breaks?
- What Should My Goal Be On The Bike?
- Are All Spin Class Instructors The Same?
- What’s With The Loud Music?
- Popular Spin Class Terms & What They Mean
How Does Spin Class Work?
In spin class, you pedal along on a stationary bike as the instructor guides you through a visualization of an outdoor workout. The pace and speed will vary throughout the workout, sometimes requiring break-neck speed, and other times pedaling happens from a slow, standing position. If you’ve never been to a spin class, don’t be intimidated. The first thing you should know is that everyone has been a beginner at one point or another!
Do I Need Special Shoes For Spin Class?
It depends on what class you take: at most gyms, you can wear regular gym shoes and there will be cages to keep your foot on the pedal. But specialized studios (like SoulCycle) use bikes that only work with cycling/spinning shoes. Cycling shoes have hard soles and clip directly into the pedals, which helps stabalize your feet and allows you to more effectively work your glutes and legs when your feet are in the cages. Wearing cycling shoes is also a little safer for spin class because you won’t slip out while pedaling, so if you think you’ll be going back to class, it could be worth the investment! PS: a good time to buy cycling shoes is during the winter—most places have end-of-season sales.
Will I Need To Adjust The Bike?
When you get to class, have the instructor help you set up your bike—it’s one of the skills they learn during their spin certification. You’ll likely need to adjust it according to your height, but also according to the length of your legs and arms and torso. Some general rules of thumb, though: your knees should still be slightly bent when your legs reach down to the lowest part of your stroke, and if you’re standing next to your bike the seat should be at about hip height. The positioning of the handlebars is more personal, based on comfort.
Is It Okay To Take Breaks?
There’s no shame in taking a breather—spinning is hard, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed if you need to pause. To safely take a break during spin class, slowly take off some of the resistance and slow your pedals down until your heart rate recovers. No one knows how much tension you put on your flywheel, so there’s literally zero shame in dialing down if you need a break; the only person who knows how hard you’re working is you!
What Should My Goal Be On The Bike?
What you want out of every spin class may be a little different. When you’re first starting out, it’s all about getting acclimated to the bike and starting to increase your resistance. Some people want to measure calories burned, miles per hour, power, or heart rate zone achieved. You can check the monitor on your bike or bring your own heart rate monitor to track your progress. Play around with the load on the flywheel, vary your cadence and above all: challenge yourself!
Are All Spin Class Instructors The Same?
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.
What’s With The Loud Music?
One thing you should know about spin class: they’re usually known for loud music and lots of people. This is part of the fun—you’re a part of a big group of people and the music is usually motivating and invigorating. You can definitely wear some ear plugs if you’re sensitive to sound, though. 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. 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.
“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.
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.