It would be simple to just say, “Come and ride my spin class, it’s high intensity, low impact, loads of fun and we’ll be done in 45 minutes.” That may all be true, but it doesn’t quite do it justice and would tell you very little about why you should go and ride a bike indoors.
Probably the best thing about spinning is that you are in control. For 45 minutes, that is your bike and you are in charge of the resistance and how fast you make the pedals move. The instructor will certainly be guiding your ride. They should give you ranges and specific targets. A good instructor will be able to establish a baseline and have progressions and regressions around that baseline, to cover everyone in the room.
Sometimes I “strongly suggest” people work harder when I can see them slacking off in my class at Flywheel Dubai, but ultimately it can never be beyond you because you have control. The only thing I demand from my clients is effort. If you can’t do what I’ve asked of you then that’s my failing, not yours, but if you can do it and just won’t, then you should expect to hear from me.
Spinning instructors are defined by their ability to motivate, engage and place realistic but challenging demands on their riders. Key to this motivation is the atmosphere and ambience created by the music they play. Exercise to music is far from a new concept, but structuring challenges that mirror the rise and fall of a class is a skill. So find an instructor that understands music and you will feel as though you are doing less when you will actually be achieving much more. Most instructors will have a particular style that they should be very happy to share with you, so ask them what sort of music they play and ask them about their delivery style. Some military style instructors are the best in the business, but if you know you’re the type of person who needs an arm around your shoulder, find an instructor like that.
If you are new or returning to group exercise, you might have concerns about your wellbeing, so the next point to make is that it is very safe, while being incredibly effective. Of course, you don’t have to deal with traffic or the heat when you’re riding in an air-conditioned studio, but the point about safety pertains to the reduced impact on the body from less stress on the joints. This enables you to push yourself harder for longer, relative to your fitness level. This in turn could be massively improved with a well-structured class. The dynamics of cycling, especially spinning, allows the rider to maintain form and control over crucial joints such as the knee and ankle. Most studios will use a cleat-based pedal system which basically means your feet will be “clipped in”. This only allows the foot to flex and extend, which minimizes the chance of “rolling” the ankle, which could cause discomfort and/or damage. The knock-on effect of this to the knee is that it will then also only flex and extend, meaning it is largely protected. To complete the setup here, note that the saddle height should be maximised relative to the length of your leg. Measuring the seat against the top of your hip when standing beside the bike is a good rule of thumb.
There are studios everywhere and there are plenty of good instructors out there. Most studios offer a free first class, so shop around and find the right setup for you.
Alex Cox is a spinning instructor at Flywheel Dubai, as well as a fitness consultant and freelance writer. He has been coaching private and group fitness and sports for more than 15 years and across three continents. He has a background in physical rehab and working with people returning to exercise. He works with anyone from complete novices to competing athletes.