The Beginner’s Guide To Spin Class

Beginner Guides, Cardio Workouts, Fitness

By: // February 8, 2022

Trying spin class is a great option if you’ve gotten bored with running or walking. It’s a fun cardio workout that will challenge and inspire you with a high-energy vibe and motivating music. I’m sure you’ve also heard the buzzwords of SoulCycle or Peloton and started to wonder whether the spin class is worth the hype.

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 spin class will have you hooked!

Use the links below to quickly navigate this guide:

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1. 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!

2. Do I Need Special Shoes For Spin Class?

Pink tennis shoes locked into spin bike

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 stabilize 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!

P.S. A good time to buy cycling shoes is during the winter—most places have end-of-season sales.

3. What To Wear For Spin Class

While we already covered shoes, the next most important thing to consider when it comes to your clothes is comfort. Spin class workouts are notorious for working up a sweat which means you’ll feel best if you come prepared.

A moisture-wicking, breathable shirt will be your best bet. For bottoms, you can choose from a pair of leggings or shorts. Whichever you choose, make sure your clothes are comfortable, breathable, and not a distraction from your workout.

And don’t forget to come equipped with a water bottle to re-hydrate yourself during and after your intense sweat sesh.

Here are a few of our favorite picks (click on the images to go to the product link):

Young woman wearing teal mesh tank from Athleta Athleta black shorts for cycling/spin Insulated squeeze water bottle for spin class

4. Will I Need To Adjust The Spin Class 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:

  • Your knees should still be slightly bent when your legs reach down to the lowest part of your stroke.
  • When standing next to your bike, the seat should be at about hip height.
  • The positioning of the handlebars is more personal, based on comfort.

5. 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!

Related: Beginner’s Guide To Becoming a Runner

6. 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.

Heart rate zones graphic according to age


Play around with the load on the flywheel, vary your cadence and above all: challenge yourself!

7. Are All Spin Class Instructors The Same?

Some instructors are hardcore outdoor bikers during the warm months and others are group fitness junkies.

Either way, a certified instructor should be friendly, inviting, informative, and helpful in 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.

8. 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 earplugs 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.

9. 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 the class, but you won’t want to go below this baseline.

“What’s your monitor say?”

Woman at home on spin bike

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.

“Saddle up” or “Let’s stand”

Woman standing up on spin bike

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.

10. At-Home Spin Class Options

Peloton bike

Another option for avid spinners is getting a spin bike at home. One of the most popular options on the market today is the Peloton.

The Peloton comes equipped with a built-in monitor that streams live classes and also has on-demand classes.

One of our team members owns a Peloton and loves the convenience of being able to hop on the bike at any point and still get the fun vibe of being in a group class.

There are also other options for at-home spin bikes as well, with and without the ability to stream live classes.

If you’re looking to make spinning a regular part of your exercise routine and like the option to have it in your own home, then doing your research on which bike is best for you might be worthwhile!

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

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on February 3, 2019 at 8:01 AM Reply

Is it true that the seat of the bike is very uncomfortable? And if so, do you recomend something to not have the pain after the spinning class?

    on February 13, 2019 at 1:44 PM Reply

    Hi Diana, there are more padded bike cushions you can use if you're experiencing pain. Any sports goods store will sell them. Or you can try to put a towel down for just a bit more padding.

on February 25, 2018 at 4:05 AM Reply

I am thinging of spin 65 and have atheritis in my knee's.Ive been told its low impact on knee's.Will it be suitable for not totaly unfit as ive done running in the past and other fitness classes.

    on February 27, 2018 at 12:53 PM Reply

    Yes, spinning is definitely more low impact! It's hard to say exactly whether or not it will be good for you without knowing more, but give it a try and if it causes pain, then stop of course, otherwise give it a try!

on August 11, 2017 at 5:35 PM Reply

Enjoyed the article! Have been going 2 weeks, 2x/week - feel like I've lost a full dress size! Will get some of the recommended shoes - plantar issues...

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!

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