Tips for Taking Your First Spin Class
What do you see when you walk pass your local gym's Spin class? Likely lots of sweat and dogged looks on participants faces, but most seeming to somehow be having fun. You hear loud music and an even louder instructor barking commands that don't make complete sense. It looks tough, no doubt, and maybe even complicated. Should you try out this Spin class? Absolutely.
What Is a Spin Class?
Spin classes utilize indoor, stationary cycles with a certified instructor leading the way to a solid hour-long (or less) workout. Indoor cycling, as it is commonly referred too, is well suited for most fitness enthusiasts. This cardio workout is low-impact, easy on those joints, but can pack quite an intense cardio punch. The beauty though is that you can customize this workout. You are in control. Much of the work is a marriage of cycle tension and speed that can be adjusted according to a your ability or just how you feel that day. The instructor guides you on a challenging and fun ride but you are still in control. As a certified Spin Instructor, I’m going to provide you with the basics on taking your first class.
What to Bring & Wear to Spin Class
Be sure to arrive to your first class early, about 10 to 15 minutes before it starts. Let the instructor know right away that this is your first time. So what should you bring to class? What should you wear? Here is a list of must haves.
This is a must for any cardio exercise session. You will need to hydrate before, during and after you ride. Indoor cycles have a place to put your water so that you will have easy access during class.
Bring a hand towel or two to class. You will sweat, probably more than you think. A towel thrown over your handlebars will allow you to mop the beads of sweat on your face and will keep the handlebars dry from sweaty hands. Some gyms offer towels to members to take to class but bring a couple just in case they don't or run out.
The best type of fitness clothing to wear to a spin class is the moisture wicking type. You don't need any special type of clothing, like padded cycle pants, but do make sure that you are wearing fitted pants. Avoid longer, wide-legged yoga style pants might get caught in the cycle as you are pedaling. Also beware of shorter, loose-fitting running shorts as chaffing can be an issue.
You will notice many in the class wearing special cycle shoes that clip into the pedals. These shoes are not necessary, although they are very nice to have once you become a regular. You should, however, wear athletic shoes that have a little stiffer support. Shoes such as those used for tennis or cross trainers are a better choice than running shoes. The stiffer your shoe, the easier it is to maintain good form.
Should You Buy Cycle Shoes?
Once you are "hooked" on cycle classes and are committed to return over and over, a smart investment is cycle shoes. Would you wear cross trainer athletic shoes to run in? As runners know, running shoes will improve your run and provide your feet with more comfort and support. The same is true for cycle shoes. They were made for cycling and will make a big difference for your ride. The good news is that unlike running shoes, cycle shoes will last you years. You can purchase shoes at a bike store or online. Amazon is a great website to purchase cycle shoes and you will save money. I highly recommend these Shimano cycle shoes in a mountain bike style that will allow you to walk on the gym floor. Click on the "Buy Now" button below to check out these shoes. Be sure to order SPD clips (these can also be ordered through Amazon for less) so that you can clip onto the Spin bike pedals. They are easy to place on the bottom of your shoes with a simple allen wrench. Most Spin bikes use this clip as well as many outdoor bikes.
Ideally, the cycle instructor should set you up but here are the basics to get you started:
- Seat Height
Standing beside your bike, raise the saddle seat to about hip level. Next, get onto your bike and slip your feet into the pedal cages. Before securing the pedal straps, pedal one leg all the way to the down position and relax and flatten your foot. You should have a slight bend at your knee, about a 10-15% angle. If not, you will need to adjust your seat height.
- Horizontal Seat Adjustment
Most indoor cycles will allow this seat adjustment option. With the ball of your foot positioned over the middle of each pedal, pedal forward until your feet are in the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock position (perpendicular to each other, one front and one back). Imagine a straight line dropping from the top front of your knee to the top of your foot. This "straight line" should line up right at or just behind the ball of your foot. It is helpful to look in the studio mirror or ask a friend to look at the line up. You will need to adjust the seat forward or back to get this alignment correct.
- Secure Pedal Straps
Position your shoe so that the ball of your foot is right over the middle bar of the pedal. Secure the straps firmly around your shoes.
Brands of bikes are slightly different but in most cases, the handlebars can be adjusted up and down easily. The general rule is handlebars need to be at least as high as your seat but can go higher if you prefer. A higher handlebar will give you a little more back support.
A lever or dial on your bike controls the tension. If you dial it all the way up, your pedals will stop. If you dial it all the way down, you will feel no tension. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you always feel some tension, a little on flat roads, more on hills. This is where you can control your ride. If the instructor leads the class on a steep, heavy-tension hill that is just too much for you, dial back a bit. Alternately, on a fast flat road, slow down a bit.
Good Form Basics for Spin Class
Make sure you get the most out of your workout with good form. This will also help to make the cycle ride more comfortable.
- Keep Feet Flat
This is much easier to do if you have cycle shoes. If you are wearing athletic shoes, you will need to focus more on this. A good visualization is to imagine you have a ball (golf ball, tennis ball, ping pong ball) resting on the top of each shoe. Don’t let it roll off.
- Relax Upper Body
Drop your shoulders, soften your elbows, and lighten up your grip. Try to take some deep breaths throughout the ride to help you relax.
- Push Hips Back
When you are climbing hills out of the seat, you will need to push your rear and hips back and engage your core. Your hands will be placed on the top front of the handle bars in what is often called “position three”.
Your instructor should remind you of good form throughout the ride. Again, it’s important to tell the instructor that it is your first time so that he or she can make a point to cover the basics and remind the entire class about good form.
The Day After Your First Spin Class
You will likely be a little or a lot sore in your rear area the day after your first (and likely second and third) spin class. This may not seem logical but the remedy for this is to go to more spin classes. Your soreness will improve significantly after you have taken several classes. Resist the urge to purchase pricey cycle pants, as your size might change after cycling for a couple of months. Instead, consider purchasing a padded seat cover for a more comfortable ride, especially in those early weeks of classes. It does the trick and won’t cost too much, about $10 or less.
Gel Seat Cover
Make Your First Few Rides More Comfortable
Purchasing a padded seat cover is an inexpensive way to make your ride more comfortable, especially for the first several classes. You can also use a padded seat on an outdoor bike. This one from Amazon costs less than $10 and will save you from some serious soreness your first few weeks of cycling. You could invest in padded cycle pants but a padded seat is far more economical and it won't become too big like your cycle pants could be after many classes.
Have you taken a spin class before?
© 2014 Marcelle Bell