Recently, I saw someone ask if indoor cycling classes would benefit them when cycling outdoors. To be honest, this is a valid question and some years ago, I honestly thought there was no value in indoor cycling for cyclists.
Back in 2014, when I got a bike for commuting to work, I was sure there was no point to me riding a bike indoors and taking part in spin classes. Why would I cycle to a studio, cycle on a stationary bike, and then cycle home?!
Then I decided to take on a duathlon and realised that my casual cycle commute was not gonna be enough to get me race ready. In that situation, it then made sense for me to add a spin class or two to my workout schedule in addition to cycle commuting. Especially because when you’re commuting, you really don’t get to put in max efforts… it’s more like “junk miles” that will eventually help you build up your fitness.
During the days of me frequenting boutique spin studios, I got chatting to friends and fellow fitness fanatics and for many of them, they were taking part in their first ever spin class! It got me to thinking again about my first ever spin class and I wondered – what does your very first spin class feel like? And why have they never been before?!
My first spin class was pretty daunting but I can honestly look back and laugh now! My friend Lex had been raving about her class instructor and telling me how good the music was. It piqued my interest but I knew how hard a workout it was and at that time in my life I would usually shy away from really hard stuff!
But I went along eventually, and damn, I got worked! Lex had told me that you work so hard you can feel sick… and feel sick I did! I remember recalling the route from my bike to the bathrooms (as it was a new gym for me) ready to empty my guts. I’m sorry.
If it’s any consolation, I was okay in the end and I enjoyed it enough to go on to get my indoor cycling qualification and some. The biggest factor in that experience personally though was the instructor – she was great and her music choice kept me going from start to finish!
After that class, I asked everyone about their experiences… I asked why they’d never been… I asked how they felt the first time…and I asked what tips they would share with a newbie. This is the summation of all the responses…
1. WHAT TO WEAR TO YOUR FIRST SPIN CLASS
If you’re a cyclist, the dress your bottom half as if you were going for a ride; padded shorts, cycling shoes and chamois cream.
Otherwise, just go for a pair of form fitting (tight) 3/4 tights or shorts. That way, you won’t have any extra material flapping around you during your workout. A sports bra is still required (get some sports bra advice here); a medium impact one will do. And then finish your outfit off with a sweat wicking top as believe me, you will sweat.
When it comes to footwear, most studios have dual pedals with tie cages on one side so you can wear regular trainers and clips on the other side so you can use cleats by clipping into the pedal. Some studios will provide cycling shoes free of charge, some will require you to pay and some just won’t offer them. You definitely get a more balanced and efficient workout when wearing cleats but may take some getting used to!
Don’t forget the usual gym stuff too – does the studio provide a towel for during class or showering afterwards? Do you need a padlock for the lockers?
2. YOU NEED TO ARRIVE IN GOOD TIME
This will allow you to be relaxed at the start of the class, find your bike (most studios these days allow you to prebook a bike) and get your bike set up correctly.
The most important adjustment is of the seat height. You can usually also adjust the handlebar height and distance from the seat. The instructor should be able to help you with this if you don’t know where to start.
3. YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT THE SEATS SUCK
If you cycle already you know that it takes a few rides before your nether regions acclimatise to the saddle. It might just have you walking like a cowboy for a couple days at worse. But there are options available in the form of padded shorts, padded seat covers (here’s an option for around a tenner) or you can sit on a towel.
4. PACE YOURSELF
If you are a runner you’ll know all about why you shouldn’t bolt out of the starting pen! We learn to pace ourselves so we can sustain the effort for the duration of the race, or i this case, class. Don’t go full out in the first track… find the balance between pushing yourself and pacing yourself.
5. DON’T GIVE UP – IT TAKES TIME TO ADJUST
It seems most people don’t entirely enjoy their first spin class. But all the feedback I’ve had has said to keep at it. Most people reckon it takes 3 – 5 classes to fully adjust and get into the swing of things. Then, you will love it!
6. HYDRATE BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER CLASS
It’s important to get your fluids in to be able to ‘perform’ at your best. It will help you to sustain your effort through class and then help you to recover afterwards.
You don’t have to wait for the instructor to say “take a sip of your drink!” ….just drink when you want! Oh and the obvious choice is water, but you can also use hydration tablets which replace electrolytes lost through sweating.
7. IT’S YOUR FIRST SPIN CLASS BUT YOU ARE IN CONTROL
My friend Tash had this to say: “First session of spinning was an eye opener, not gonna lie I felt a little bit intimidated! I didn’t understand how everyone was cycling so fast until I found the little dial that puts the resistance up and down and mine was high!“
“My tip: don’t always put your resistance up when the instructor tells you if it’s you first session.“Tash
“I kept stopping and that was because the resistance was too high for me. Get to a comfortable resistance; I think it’s better to do that and keep going rather then stopping and starting – you will build up your stamina.“
“Oh and beware of jelly legs when you get off the bike to avoid a Bridget Jones moment!”
8. THIS AIN’T A CYCLE IN THE PARK
You are there to get a great workout right?! You will hill sprint, hill climb, cruise, be seated, standing… you might even do muscle isolations or use weights! Hand positions change too but just keep an eye on your instructor (and the pro next to you) and follow what they do.
The music will be akin to a nightclub hopefully so you will be feeling the beat at the same time. Tash says: “Its a tough session, don’t go into it thinking you are going for a lovely cycle ride cos you aren’t! It’s hardcore leg abs and shoulder work. Not forgetting your poor butt (the seats are very uncomfortable!) but once the adrenaline starts pumping you feel great!”
9. IT’S THE INSTRUCTOR THAT MAKES THE CLASS…
Neil from @Velocity_Cycle says – “It’s the instructor who makes or breaks a #indoorcycle class. Anyone can be a DJ on a bike, not everyone can instruct :)” …so if one instructor doesn’t work for you …choose a different one.
10. YOU WILL SURVIVE YOUR FIRST SPIN CLASS
Seriously, you will! The discomfort of the seat and all that, is only temporary. You will finish the class on a high having forgotten the moments that you felt like you couldn’t give any more, but you did! YOU WILL SURVIVE!
So what’s stopping you now?! Scared you won’t like it or you won’t be able to do it?! Simple – take a friend along for moral support. There is nothing quite like having someone to glance at when the going gets tough!
Got any tips to add for first timers?!
What was your very first experience of spinning like?