Disclaimer: I do know how to ride a real bike that moves, but I also live in San Francisco- the city filled with hills, one-way streets, and cars driving in the same lane as cyclists. I’m so easily startled that I worry about OTHER people on bikes. I just can’t use it as a way of transportation here without potentially having heart attack scares constantly. Just can’t.
This is why I love spin class. Getting roughly the same exercise indoors without the risks of accidents, sun burns, and bug bites anytime regardless of the weather outside? Sign me up.
My qualifications: About 20 classes in the past 6 months
What it is: You ride on a bike that doesn’t go anywhere, but you can adjust the resistance to simulate going uphill or on a flat road.
What you’ll actually be doing: Cardio. A whole hour or so of non-stop cardio. Strength & endurance training. The instructors will let you know what pace of a certain number of rotations per minute to follow, and when to add or decrease resistance. They also try to make the class less boring by mixing in intervals, riding off the saddle, or “jumps” where you switch your positions while continuously pedaling, etc. Usually there’s a bit of time for you to stretch in the end.
What you’ll be working on: Besides obviously working the leg muscles and building your stamina, cycling actually also uses your core a lot since you have to lift your knees up to do each pedal, which forces you to contract your abs. It also helps with your hips and rear end. Gotta look good in those leggings or skinny jeans!
What to do about the bike machines: I’ve tried spin at three locations and they all had different machines. Some are more customizable than others in that you can adjust the seat and the handlebars both vertically and horizontally to allow you to be in the best posture. If you’re an average height person (unlike me), then the most basic machine should suit you fine. Some bikes are more high-tech than others with sensors to monitor your heart rate, or have a color screen, etc.
Music you are most likely going to hear during class: Songs that gradually build up, or super upbeat music. All genres besides country, pretty much. Personally I think the background sound is crucial here in a spin class. We can’t help but try to move to the beat of the current track, which is why good instructors know the importance of pre-made playlists. There have been many moments where I thought I was too tired, but when a Rihanna song comes on, I revived and pushed my pedals to the rhythm while mentally singing “WHERRRRRRRE HAAAAAVE YOUUUUUU BEEEEEN ALLLLL MYYYY LI-AYEEE-FE!”
What you can focus on instead of thinking that you really don’t want to move your legs anymore during class:
- As aforementioned, the music.
- Some gyms project videos of real-life trails simulating the route that you’re going on. I LOVE THOSE. I can pretend to be cruising through the Swiss Alps or revisit all the Vegas spots I went during college days without actually going there!
- Anything or anyone that is currently frustrating you. Take out your stress and anxiety by digging your feet.
- Check out your hot coach or your hot classmates. Hey, whatever helps.
What the instructors are like and what they’re likely to say or do: Most spin instructors I’ve encountered are so energetic and cheerful all the time that I wonder if they’re on something (endorphins). It’s very important to find a teacher who shares your sense of humor and has similar taste in music, because you would enjoy the class so much more and push yourself more. Going to a cycling class taught by a teacher whom you don’t find motivating at all and who plays terrible soundtrack to your workout is one of the worst ways to spend a tiring hour of your life.
Who are likely going to be in your class: Mostly ladies. Fitness level really differs since you just do whatever you’re comfortable with. Sometimes there are a few hardcore riders in their biking gear that look kind of like a wrestler’s uniform with logos, clip shoes, and their own heart rate monitor strapped to their chests. Don’t be intimidated by them. They’re here to train for their next race or whatever, not to judge you.
Suggested attire: Any athletic shoes not too puffy to fit in the feet pedal’s straps are fine. Wear something you can really sweat in. For your own good, please do buy some padded shorts to protect your nether regions. It is pretty unnatural to be sitting on a tiny triangular seat for so long, and I can only imagine the discomfort man parts might have to go through.
What you might feel like right afterwards: “OH GOD how am I SO SWEATY?! I feel like I released all my toxins! Okay and my legs feel wobbly.”
What you might feel like the next day: “UGH why is walking upstairs so difficult? Oh right, I did spin yesterday.”
Spinning is great exercise especially for: People with bad knee joints since it’s low impact. I’m guessing it’s also great for people who somehow never learned how to ride a bike- You just move your legs! No need to worry about balancing.
If it’s your first time:
- Ask the instructor to help you find the best arrangements for you on the bike, and remember the numbers on the settings for future references.
- If you know you sweat a lot, bring an extra towel. I’ve seen dudes that use three, including on the ground around them to soak up the little pool of admirable perspiration that gather there. Better to have too many towels than be embarrassed later.
- Don’t push yourself. This class is to know your limits. You have plenty of time to build on this later. I hear tales of overconfident people limping around the next day because of overexertion. There’s no one to tell on you if you didn’t spin the dial to change gear, so you can technically be coasting while the rest of class is climbing a huge simulated hill, and nobody would know. You can go really slow or without any resistance. Just try to keep moving.
Extra tips: Bring the right size of water bottles that will fit in the your particular’s gym’s bike machines. TRUST.
Breathe, you’re almost there!