Spin: Everything You Need to Know

Spin classes are a great way to get healthy, build muscle, and burn calories while having fun, but they can seem a little intimidating to beginners. Even if you’ve never set foot in a gym before, you don’t need to worry. Here’s what you’ll want to know before your first class:

1. It offers a ton of benefits.

Spin classes give you the comfort of an indoor workout, with the intensity of an outdoor one. You’ll be pedaling on a stationary bike, while the instructor guides the experience to mimic a workout over varied terrain. You’ll be physically and mentally challenged by it, but that’s not all. Spin classes can burn up to 400 calories a session, give you an endorphin boost, help build muscle in your legs and abs, and improve your cardiovascular health. There’s a reason why they’re so popular!

2. You might need special shoes.

Many gyms allow you to use regular gym shoes for spin, but not all do. Places that specialize in spin will require you to use cycling shoes. Unlike regular running shoes, cycling shoes are hard-soled and are made to clip onto the pedals. This allows you to keep your feet and legs in the optimal position for pedaling, maximizing your efficiency without you having to worry about your feet slipping.

3. Put away your loose, flowing workout gear.

For spin classes, you need to balance comfort with safety. You’ll work up a sweat and generate a lot of heat, so you’ll want to wear gear that’s moisture-wicking and breathable. However, since you’ll be on a bike, you’ll want to skip loose-fitting clothes and go for tighter pants that won’t get caught in the pedals. You might feel some seat discomfort, so go for padded bicycle gear that helps protect your backside if that’s an issue. If you wear a bra, a good sports bra is vitally important — you’ll be much more comfortable.

4. Pack plenty of water (and a towel).

You’re going to need it. As was mentioned previously, spin classes make you work up a sweat. You’ll want to rehydrate well and often. A towel will help keep you from feeling like a drippy mess, and will also allow you to wipe off the bike when you’re finished.

5. Show up early.

Ten minutes is usually good enough. Since you’ll be busy on one bike all class, you want to make absolutely sure that you’re comfortable. Adjust your seat height until your legs are able to fully extend, with a slight bend in your knees. Spin cycle seats are small and not very comfortable, so having them improperly adjusted is a quick ticket to pain. Shift your seat forward or backward until your knee is directly over the middle of the pedal. Adjust your handlebars so they won’t cause you back or neck pain. When you find settings that work for you, write them down so you can save time setting up before your next class.

6. Adjust your tension properly.

Don’t be tempted to overdo it — nobody else in the class will know what your bike’s tension is set at, and there’s no prize for cranking it up higher than you should. You can control the resistance of your bike throughout the entire workout. If you feel like you’re struggling, dial it back. Using too much resistance won’t make your legs stronger, but it will cause you to compensate by using your back muscles, which could lead to injury. If your workout feels too easy, turn it up. Spin involves pedaling quickly, so resistance that’s too low can cause you to be unsteady in the seat and lead to pain. If you feel like you need to take a break at any point, slowly turn your resistance down and take it easy until your heart rate comes down.

Spin is fun, but it’s still a lot of work. Post-riding pain is not uncommon, but most spin devotees point out that you’ll be much more comfortable three classes in. Show up early, adjust your bike, bring lots of water, and wear the right gear, and you’ll be sitting pretty in no time.