On Wednesday mornings I go to cycle (a.k.a spin) class at my gym with my favorite instructor. Her 8:30 AM class is usually packed and today was no different. All the bikes were taken except one! I’ve been going to spin for a few months now so I’m finally starting to feel like I know what I’m doing. This doesn’t mean it’s necessarily gotten easier – the class is always super challenging and that’s why I love it!
I got to class early today and I brought my old little camera in my gym bag, so I decided to take a few pictures and explain the basics of spinning. I’m no expert, but I’ll do my best!
This is the cycle room at my gym. There are 18 spin bikes inside. The instructor is on the bike in the right corner, where she has access to her iPod and the stereo system.
The room is lined with black lights. Some instructors turn the lights off during class so that only the black lights are glowing. It’s actually really cool, but my instructor prefers to keep the lights on so that she can check our form during class. It’s really important to have good form or you could get injured.
There’s a “Rules of the Road” sign on the wall that details safety information, proper form, etiquette, and other tips. This was very helpful for me during my first few classes when I was still learning the ropes!
Next up – the bikes! My gym uses these Spinner Pro bikes. I know there are different types of spin bikes but this is the only kind I have ever used.
When I get to class the first thing I do is set up my bike. It is important to adjust the seat height so that it lines up with your hip when you’re standing next to it. This should make it so when you sit on the bike, your legs are slightly bent at the bottom of your pedal stroke. The instructor helped me learn how to adjust my bike when I went to my first class. It’s also important to make sure that your arms have a slight bend in them when you are holding the handlebars. If they don’t (if they are bending too much or locked at the elbows) the handlebars may need to be adjusted as well. Mine are usually okay.
I sweat like a beast during spin class so I need two towels. I lay one over the handlebars so that they don’t get slippery when I sweat all over them. I lay the other one folded on top so that I can wipe my face (and arms, and neck, and everything else that sweats) during class.
Some people wear special cycle shoes that have clips on the bottom so they can ‘clip in’ to the pedals. It is supposed to make your pedaling easier and more efficient. I don’t have cycle shoes yet – regular sneakers work fine for now.
This is a little part of the bike but I think it’s the most important – the resistance knob. It is underneath the handlebars and controls how hard or easy your cycling feels.
My instructor teaches on a scale of 1 – 10, 1 being the easiest possible resistance and 10 being the hardest and most difficult. A ‘flat road’ is considered to be a resistance of about 4 or 5 and a heavy hill is an 8 or 9. We hardly ever go above an 8.5 in class – trust me, that’s enough to make you work hard! She gives cues when it’s time to turn your knob up and when to turn it down, usually increasing or decreasing by a half or full turn each time (turning it left makes it easier, turning it right makes it harder)- but only you are in control of your own resistance. One full turn will bring you up or down one number on the scale, from a 7 to 8 for example. One half turn will bring you up or down a half number, from a 7 to 7.5 or vice versa.
During the one hour class, you warm up for about 5 minutes then start the hard work. There are three basic positions numbered 1, 2, and 3.
Fit Sugar explains the three positions well. Basically, positions 1 and 2 are used when you are sitting down on the bike (or “in the saddle”). Positions 2 and 3 can be used when your instructor tells you to get “out of the saddle”, meaning you’re standing up and cycling. In position 2 out of the saddle your standing upright with your body right above your legs. In position 3 you are leaning forward with your butt hovering right over the seat.
The instructor will cue you when to switch positions and get in/out of the saddle depending on the routine and music he or she has planned. Good instructors (like mine) time these changes in position with upbeat, motivating music, and changes in resistance to make it challenging. In a spin class you will experience long climbs and hills, surges (short intervals of heavy resistance followed by recovery), sprints (going as fast as you can), and combinations where you switch back and forth from positions 1, 2, and 3. The class ends with a cool down and a stretch.
An hour later after a lot of hard work and sweat, I usually look like this:
This picture doesn’t even capture how I am literally covered in sweat, EVERYWHERE! When I clean my bike at the end of class it’s also covered, and so are my towels and the mat that’s underneath it. It’s actually pretty gross. But it makes me feel amazing the rest of the day, and I have really seen an improvement in my running since I started cross-training with spinning.
Today in my class there were men and women from my age (twenties) all the way into their sixties and seventies! I know this for a fact because they were very proud of themselves and sharing their ages with everyone. These men and women are there every week and go to more spin classes than I do. So if they can do it, you can too! I used to be so afraid of spin, but I’m so glad I tried it and made it a part of my routine.
This has been my experience with spin and I still have a lot to learn! Feel free to add to what I’ve already said about this awesome form of exercise, or correct me if I said anything wrong.
Try it! You may surprise yourself and love it like I did 🙂