Exercise Classes: What is Spinning?

Spinning, Studio Cycling, Indoor Class Cycling, or whatever your gym likes to call it, is basically a room full of specialised bikes encircling one leader bike. This is reserved for the instructor who will bark commands at you while you all listen to very upbeat music to help maintain a good pace throughout. The idea has been around since the 80′s and is an excellent way to get the old heart beating and significantly improve your fitness. It is a high intensity cardiovascular workout and as such should not be attempted by complete novices.

How does it work?

Enter the room of Spinning and it can seem quite daunting. Don’t be put off though because if you have a reasonable level of fitness (as a guide your blood pressure should be less than 140/90) then during the class you can set your own level.

Check out the Video

This is a short video to give you some idea of what you can expect in a class.
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Check your heart rate

Strictly speaking everyone in the class should have a heart rate monitor as the whole idea of spinning is a workout that is based around your very own heart rate which makes it much more personalised. However I have been to many where this is not the case.

Adjust your saddle height

Once the class is all there and have been allotted their bikes (don’t hide at the back thinking you won’t be seen as the instructor is trained to watch everyone) you should begin with setting your bike’s saddle up at the correct height for you. This is measured so that when you are sitting on it your leg should be outstretched for the lowest peddle with a slight bend in the knee. If the bend is too much raise the saddle, if your knee is locked straight then lower the saddle. A warm up should follow this which should involve some stretching and limbering up. Next should follow the start of the program which should always commence with a not too intense cycle in a seated position. After about 5 minutes (which should be long enough to get the muscles and heart warmed up) the class should really kick off.

Increase the resistance During the class the instructor will inform you of what intensity you should be feeling. They will ask you to increase the resistance on your bike, which you do by turning a dial or knob on the front of the bike, they will also ask you to stand up on the peddles to cycle and change your hand positions. All of these commands help replicate real outdoor cycling where the ground is not always flat and increase the intensity of the workout.

…and finally: cool down and stretch

The classes can last anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour and should always include a cool down and a stretch at the end. However if this does not happen it is your responsibility to do so. The first time I did one of these classes I was very ill, it is very intense so don’t expect too much from yourself in the first few attempts. Keep persevering though because it can be worth it.

The Benefits

This class is specifically designed for your heart and lungs. It is a cardiovascular workout that is focused on the biggest muscle group in the body and therefore can have some of the biggest gains for weight loss and fitness. It is an intense workout where you have someone in control of what you are doing and it is for this reason that you will get more benefits from this than using one of the regular gym bikes by yourself. Motivation is one of the biggest problems in training but you will have no problems with that in this class.

What should you expect from the Instructor?

The instructor’s role should primarily be motivational and make what is quite a gruelling workout fun! (or as fun as it possibly can be!). They should also be aware of all the members of the class and be able to spot anyone struggling. Anyone struggling should be instructed to slow down and peddle at a lower level to recover and then join back in again. Whilst it is difficult for the instructor to give each student individual attention they should be aware of everyone and not just go through the motions of the class on autopilot. If you feel that the instructor is not giving the best class find out if there are other classes run by a different instructor.

And a Warning…

Spinning is a very intense workout and whilst it can be adapted for a range of people if you are new to exercise or have a high heart rate then do not start with this. Get your level of fitness up in the gym first and then build up to a Spinning class. You should definitely have a blood pressure reading of less than 140/90 before you even consider this. I would also avoid this class if you have a heart condition, or any knee or hip injuries. Also give it a miss if you suffer from a bad back. If you are still determined to take it up then please check with your doctor before commencing any new exercise routine, especially one as intense as this and remember to buy and use a heart rate monitor.