Spin workouts seem to be an area of contention within the cycling community. Some claim that they are a great option on cold wet nights or when the heat gets unbearable. Others state they are nothing but aerobic hype with little benefit to ‘real cyclists.’ The truth is probably somewhere in between. Regardless, indoor cycling in general has become increasingly popular in the last decade.
A spin workout class or “spinning” is an intense indoor cycling workout led by a qualified instructor who will guide you through a 40-60 minute program. Usually set to music, these workouts are short but intense, with a focus on building your overall cardio.
The first thing you may notice is the name, it is called ‘spinning’ rather than ‘cycling’ for a reason. These stationary bikes are not set up like a road bike. Very few have drop bars, so you will be in a different position than you’re used to. The external factors are also very different including temperature, humidity, music, or the presence of an instructor. Most classes are set up for overall fitness and cardio, not necessarily for the cyclist putting in 10 hours a week in the saddle.
Depending on your training plan, you most likely have a different goal than simply burning calories. Spin classes can be a great addition to your training, but are not a replacement to your road cycling or indoor bike trainer sessions.
The benefits of spin workouts for cyclists
It gets you out of solitary training
Most people work harder when there are other people around, it’s just a simple fact. You will likely push yourself more in a class with 20 other people than you would alone in your basement. Having a community is so important, especially for beginners, as helps you build both muscular and mental strength.
Effective strength training
Spinning allows you to add some serious resistance. Step up out of the saddle, and really give it everything you have. Yes, it may be different than tackling a physical hill, but it’s targeting all the same muscle groups.
If you are getting your heart rate up and maintaining for 45 minutes to an hour, you are challenging your cardio ability and conditioning your body to the feeling. Like cycling itself, spinning is a great way to work on your range of motion and better your overall fitness through low impact training.
Sitting on a stationary bike is the perfect time to focus on your pedalling technique. There are no distractions, so really concentrate on pedaling in a circle, making to most of every part of the rotation. For more information check out, “The perfect pedaling technique.”
How to make the most of a spin class
- Warm up – Show up as early as you can and hop on the bike for a proper warm up. As the classes rarely break an hour, if you put in time before or after you are lengthening your workout and mimicking the length of a real ride.
- Use a power meter or heart rate monitor – Perhaps the most important factor to ensure you are pushing yourself and are gaining strength and endurance is the use of a power meter. If your spin class does not have power meter on the bike, then bring your heart rate monitor and keep track of your own progress.
- Never use zero resistance – There’s no such thing as a zero resistance road, so just don’t go there.
- Mimic real life conditions – Many cyclists choose to take a bike at the back of a spin workout class and have a bit more control over their workout, rather than following the instructor step by step. If you are pushing up a “hill,” imagine yourself out on the road and push up and over the top of the hill, reducing your resistance us your crest the hill into the descent.
- Find a spin instructor that is also a cyclist – Make sure you find an instructor that is themselves a cyclist. They will run their sessions as more than just an aerobics class and will work on building strength and endurance that will help maintain all your hard work out on the road.
Spinning can potentially benefit every level of cyclist, but especially beginners who need the extra incentive to stay motivated. There will be days when it’s not possible to get outside, and the greatest benefits to spin class is the structured time, precise control of intensity levels, and the social aspects of riding.