You’re in a dark room, surrounded on all sides by hot, panting bodies. Dance music is pulsating loudly in your ears; sweat is flinging off your body; your legs are pumping furiously, burning so hard that you think they might fall off.
If this scenario sounds like a scene straight out of your worst nightmare, well, it’s not. Welcome to a typical spin class.
Spinning is one of the hottest workouts today. Trendy studios like SoulCycle have taken major cities by storm, notorious for their wildly expensive class prices and cult-like devotees. It’s not hard to see why millions are saddling up to the spin bike: Far from a passing fad, indoor cycling is one of the most tried-and-true, effective exercises on the block. In a typical hour-long spin class, you can expect to torch up to 600 calories while toning your legs and glutes, boosting your metabolism, and blasting fat.
“A spin class is a great way to get your body into top physical condition,” says Felicia Walker, a Certified Spin Instructor based in NYC at The New York Health and Racquet Club. “It’s one of the most efficient ways to burn a ton of calories in a relatively short amount of time.”
In other words, prepare to sweat—a lot. Because spin classes often alternate between short, intense bursts of “all out” effort followed by brief recovery periods, spin is a prime example of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, a training technique proven to burn a maximum amount of calories in a minimal amount of time. At the end of class, you’ll be flooded with a rush of endorphins that rivals that of the famous “runner’s high.” But, unlike running, spinning is low-impact and easy on the joints.
Never tried spin? Contrary to popular misconception, you don’t need to be mega-fit to do a spin class; it’s a great workout for all ages and abilities. In order to reap the full benefits of your spin class, however, it’s important to adhere to a few guidelines. Below, Felicia Walker shares her top tips for getting the most out of your spin session.
Arrive early. “Arrive five minutes early to set up your bike properly so you can be seated and ready when class starts,” Walker says. Failing to properly set up your bike can compromise form and increase your risk of injury. Not sure how to set up your spin bike? “Ask your instructor for assistance prior to class,” Walker says.
Resistance is key! According to Walker, one of the biggest mistakes she sees her clients make is failing to put enough resistance on the bike. “There are people who never seem to add enough resistance because they don’t want to feel the discomfort in their muscles,” she says. “Riders should embrace a variety of resistance levels, as cued by the instructor. When riding on a flat (less resistance/higher pace), the intention is speed endurance. When riding on a hill (more resistance/slower pace), the intention is strength endurance.”
Don’t be intimidated by other riders in class. Feeling self-conscious? Don’t be! You might think that everybody is staring at your during class, but trust us—they’re not. “There is always a range of abilities in the room, and as long as you do your best you will get stronger each and every class you take,” Walker says.
Focus on form. Correct positioning on the bike ensures that you will engage the correct muscles and get the most out of the class. “Frequently, especially for new riders, the body may be hunched over or tensed up in some way,” Walker says. “As an instructor, you are always observing and correcting form during class.” During class, listen carefully to the instructor’s cues about form and constantly tweak or adjust for the best positioning possible.
Sit closer to the front/instructor. “If you are closer to the instructor, you tend to be more engaged in the class and therefore work harder,” Walker says.
Wear cycling shoes! “Cycling shoes have a stiff surface, allowing the foot to stay flat and connected to the pedals. Sneakers, which can be worn in most gyms, do not give you the same smooth and even pedal stroke.”
Stay on the ride. Walker says: “Every transition should be a moving transition, not a break (unless you need one). Transitions are a key component for building stamina.”
Don’t get discouraged. “Remember, effort is all you need; results will follow. Keep pushing and don’t stop moving,” Walker says.
Have fun. Tune in to the music and the rhythm of the class while tuning out the outside world. “The more connected you are to the experience, the more positive you will feel not only during class, but afterwards,” Walker says. “A sense of physical accomplishment, especially when dripping with sweat, really does feel great.”
Drink water. Try to drink whenever you can while you ride. If you don’t, drink after class. “It’s very important to rehydrate after an intense spin class,” says Walker.