Diet & Fitness,  Everyday Life

All you need to know about Spin Classes/Indoor Cycling

Unless you’ve being living under a rock for the last 20 plus years, then you will have heard about Spin Classes aka Indoor Cycling. Whether thats through an Spin Enthusiast, Word of mouth or through the media. Indoor Cycling was and still is…kind of a big deal, even today. It has gained huge popularity and a cult like following over the years that shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. And I’m going to show you why.

The start of my lifetime Love Affair with Spinning.

My love for Indoor Cycling started about 5 years ago when i went through my first real fitness phase. Regularly in the gym and weight training 6 nights a week. I came to a point where i needed some variety in my fitness routine. Specifically a way to melt away excess body fat to show off my new and hard earned little muscles. And believe me they were little haha. Don’t get me wrong, I loved weight training. But i needed to mix things up a bit when my progress started to plateau. Which meant i needed to do something different. Something to shock my body into working that little bit harder to get the results. Unfortunately that meant the dreaded C word.

With a solid hate for Cardio, it was a proper chore to be getting on a treadmill or bike. All to propel myself into the abyss (basically the familiar sight of one of the 4 gym walls) for 30 miserable minutes. That is when i came across Indoor cycling. I’d done a lot of research into HIIT training and its benefits. After a few chats with the trainers in my gym, they recommended a change of scenery. A more exciting way to build up my aerobic system and up my game. That’s when i was introduced to none other than Group cycling. It also came with the warning that it wasn’t for the feint hearted.

Never being one to shy away from a challenge and thanks to my overly competitive nature. I booked onto my first ever Spin Class. From that day on my love affair with Spinning started and i have never looked back ever since.

So in honour of my love for this incredible class. In this weeks post i am going to be introducing you to the world of Indoor Cycling/Spinning.

It is alot more Glamorous than it sounds

There is something not so glamorous about joining a group of 15+ Crazy people in a darkened room. Riding through blood sweat and tears to the beats of some motivating music. All while being pushed to your absolute limit. Carried by the shouts and encouragement of an enthusiastic and just as crazy instructor. Their energy know no bounds. Spinning your heart out to release your entire body weight in sweat onto the studio floor.

Yep it doesn’t sound like the most appealing class in the world. But is it invigorating and fun? Do you feel like you can do absolutely anything you come up against when you’re done? Yes! And that’s what Indoor Cycling is all about. The rewards and the feelings of euphoria far outweigh the un-glamorous sweat covered mess you will radiate at the end.

What is Indoor Cycling?

You’re probably wondering how sitting on a stationary bike in a dark room. Full of sweaty humans cycling to all sorts of music could be fun or ‘amazing’ right? But it really is.

Indoor cycling is a group exercise class which uses stationary bikes specifically designed for indoor cycling. You will come across many different bikes depending on the gym or studio you are training at. A typical indoor cycling class consists of Hill Climbs, Sprints, Jumps, Squats and Upper body work such as pushups to name a few different techniques. All of these are done at varying cycling speeds. Whether seated (in the saddle) and standing options (out of the saddle).

The workout is structured by each instructor. It is developed to a set of chosen tracks where the beat accompanies each specific interval you are riding through. You should think of your Spinning instructor as your guide and personal coach. They will have a specific workout planned in terms of movements, intensity changes and pace. But despite all of that, really it is you who that is in control.

Each rider is in charge of their own level of effort. This is controlled by a variable resistance system on the bike that adds resistance to the flywheel. This allows the workout to be your own. So you can make your ride as hard (or as easy) as you want to. Just don’t make it too easy, you don’t want to cheat yourself out of an incredible workout. That’s like turning up and exercising for zero reward or gain.

Classes usually last 45 minutes. Some can vary from 30 minutes to 60 minutes depending on your gym or studio. Studies show that a 40 minute class can burn anywhere from 400-600 kcal. Depending on your weight and how hard you push yourself, that’s up to 1,000 kcal per hour.

By far the most important aspect of the class is the music and the motivation. But is also the visualization and enthusiastic coaching that will lead you through a invigorating ride that best suits your fitness level and goals.

Where it all began: The birth of Indoor Cycling

Stationary and indoor bikes have been around for many years. But it wasn’t until the early 90’s that saw Indoor Cycling first introduced to the world in the form of Spinning. All thanks to the South African wonder that is Johnny Goldberg (Johnny G). An endurance athlete living in California at the time. He was preparing for the “Race Across America” and needed a different form of training. One that would allow him to train regardless of the weather and dangers of riding in the dark. The goal was to have an alternative type of training that would replicate the exact motions and responses as outdoor cycling. But still achievable during the harsh winter months. A time when the weather was less forgiving and to avoid the riskiness of the training on a road during the premature dark nights.

In the late 1980’s he handmade his first indoor cycling bike to compliment his training schedule. Following that he built a few more bikes by-hand and turned his garage into a Spinning™ studio. In 1990, when the demand for his classes grew, he opened his first Spinning™ studio in Santa Monica. It was at this point in time that the name was trademarked. And in 1993 he opened a new studio in Culver City. This was when indoor cycling as we now know it (and love) was born.

Throughout the nineties the hype for Indoor Cycling was growing. And ever since then Indoor Cycling has taken the fitness world by storm. Especially with the rise in popularity of HIIT Training (High Intensity Interval Training) over the last 10 years. Since those early days, we have seen many variations such as Les Mills RPM and Soul Cycle rise like a phoenix from the ashes following the introduction of Spinning.

Spinning, Soul Cycle and Peloton have been the driving force into bringing the excitement that is Indoor Cycling, to the forefront of the fitness and group exercise world. And maintaining it’s popularity in 2019 and the future.

The Bikes

There are many different bikes in the indoor cycling world. Spinner Bikes by Spinning, the M3 Plus indoor cycles by Keiser, and A.C. Performance cycles by Schwinn. These are among some of the most popular and effective pieces of exercise equipment available. You’ll most commonly see these types of bikes at the gym. They all look slightly different and they have their own unique selling point. Some are more sturdy than others and others use different resistance systems. It entirely depends on the brand you choose and some do come with a hefty price tag. The typical bikes you see in the gym are commercial bikes. Made to a much higher quality than the bikes you can get for the home. Specifically made to withstand hundreds of classes over the years whilst retaining the quality of each of your rides.

Bike Set-Up

Whichever brand of bike found at your gym/studio they will all be completely adjustable. This is to ensure that they are the right fit for anybody who walks through the door. The Seat and the handlebars are adjustable to fit all shapes and sizes and more importantly to limit the risk of injury.

The Seat

When adjusting the seat this should always be moved level with your hip whilst standing. When you mount the bike and put your foot on the pedal (on the downstroke) there should be a slight bend in the knee. If the knee is bent too much or is too straight/overextended then this is incorrect positioning and can lead to injury.

The Handlebars

As for the handlebars these should be adjusted to what is comfortable for you. If you are new to Group cycling then it may be more preferable for you to have the handlebars slightly higher to make things a little easier. More experienced riders tend to have their handlebars lower. Whatever your experience level, handlebars should be either level with the seat or slightly higher. This is to prevent any low-back tension.

In addition the distance from the edge of your seat to the middle of your handlebars should be a forearm’s length.

The Pedals

The last and an equally important part of the bike is the pedals. The pedals on all spin bikes typically have 2 sides. Each side of the pedal has a different method for attaching yourself to the bike.

On one side there are toe clips (or cages). This pedal face allows you to insert your trainer/sneaker as you would on a bike in the gym. You secure the cage by adjusting the stirrups so they tighten around your trainer/sneaker.

On the other side of the pedal there is a spring-loaded clip system. This is where you can clip in your cycling shoes and attach to the bike. Depending on the bike at your studio these could be a 2 hole clip (the Shimano SPD Clipless system) or a 3 hole clip (the LOOK Clipless System). It’s likely these will be SPD clips but you will need to check out the bikes in your gym prior to your class.

The 2 Major Benefits of Indoor Cycling

If any of you have ever sweated through and survived a spin class then you will know its one of the most exhilarating and endorphin pumping workouts you can have. It is extremely intense. So much so that i like to call it my own personal hell for 45 mins. It’s not really hell because i do really enjoy it and the post workout feels are amazing. But there is sometimes a real mental struggle going on inside. When your body feels like its at breaking point and you can’t push your legs anymore. 99% of the times you can. Except by that point you are completely in your own head and hitting that mental barrier. Exactly like the obstacles a marathon runner comes up against to push out those last couple of miles. But with all that aside spin is a great way to shed fat, build muscle and increase cardio capacity.

1. Cardiovascular Fitness and Muscular endurance

One of the biggest benefits to indoor cycling is that it has both aerobic and anaerobic benefits:

Aerobic exercise is the pumping of oxygenated blood from the heart to working muscles. This type of exercise is fueled by oxygen. In the case of Indoor cycling this could be intervals such as Jumps or Pushup’s. When you are at 60-80% of your maximum heart rate over a greater period of time. This is to build cardiovascular fitness and endurance.

Anaerobic exercise means without oxygen where demand for oxygen is greater than the available oxygen supply. This type of exercise is fueled by energy stored in your muscles consisting of shorter, more intense bursts. So in the case of Indoor Cycling this would be Sprints and a Rolling Hills with steep climbs. This will require maximum exertion of upwards of 80% of your maximum heart rate over short bursts. This is to build muscle strength and endurance.

Spin Classes provide an excellent all round workout for everyone of all different abilities. This helps you develop a Healthy Heart and lungs to use oxygen more effectively . But it also helps develop improved muscle strength (the extra oomph when needed to perform) and burns fat.

And even if you are thinking that you are unfit and out of shape, that doesn’t matter either. Anyone can develop their overall fitness level. After a few weeks in the saddle you will be amazed at the results. By how much your lung capacity, Muscle strength and stamina has improved in a short period of time. There is a reason Spin is classed as an explosive endurance exercise. And why professional athletes use these classes to improve on their power output and endurance.

And if calorie-burning is your main goal, then indoor cycling is an excellent choice. Especially if you are like me and push yourself to the limit. Just to make sure you feel like aren’t cheating yourself out of a hard workout. And to know you’ve earned that Cookie or Treat you want so bad. Indoor Cycling also helps strengthen the glutes, calves, quads, and hamstrings too.

2. Low Impact Exercise

Another benefit of spinning is that it is a low impact exercise. Now low impact exercise does not mean low effort. Sometimes low impact exercises can get your heart rate up higher than high-impact exercises. Overall it puts very little stress on the joints. This makes it ideal for those who find they can’t engage in other intense forms of exercise, such as running.

Indoor Cycling really is an activity for all ages and abilities. Especially for those people recovering from an invasive surgery or rehabilitating injuries. If you have an upper body injury, as Indoor Cycling is primarily using your legs, you can still jump on the bike and get involved. Albeit take it a bit easier so you don’t bounce around in the saddle. And stay in the saddle through jumps and climbs.

It also gives you healthier joints for the long term. When we are constantly engaged in high impact exercise over time, the soft cartilage that cushions your joints wears down. The more impact those joints are exposed to, the quicker they deteriorate. Which is when you start to see joint problem such a sore knees, ankles and hips later in life. As we age we must listen to our bodies and not over-do it. Low impact exercise is an awesome way to work out. For those who already have joint pain or those who don’t. It allows you to experience intense exercise whilst being kinder to your joints and bodies needs.

And That’s a wrap

Whether you are new to indoor cycling or fitness in general. Indoor Cycling really is a great way to get fit and have fun while doing it. By being part of a community and tribe such as the Indoor Cycling community it really helps you to stay motivated and reap the rewards. You are all in this together and pushing yourselves to new limits. It really it a great way to exercise and to actually enjoy what you are doing. Yes it is intense but the classes are short, sweet and leave you feeling on top of the world.

Have you ever been to a Spin Class or thought about taking the plunge and getting involved? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Amy xoxo

If you are new to the fitness world or getting back on the horse after an extended break. Make sure you check out my post on 7 Truth’s about entering or re-entering the Fitness World

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