For optimal enjoyment, click “play” before you start reading. Unless you can’t read and enjoy music at the same time.

I received an e-mail a while back from one of my lovely readers, asking about spinning/group cycling. She was considering taking some classes and wanted to know what she should (or would want to) know ahead of time. When I replied to her, it occurred to me that there might be other people out there who might be able to use the information, so I decided to edit my e-mail a bit and post the 4-1-1 here. If you have never tried a class before but always wanted to–or maybe are just thinking about it–read this! (Heck, read this anyway, even if you could care less.)

In my 10 years of spinning (teaching for about 5-ish), I have found that, after trying class for the first time, the majority of people either LOVE it or HATE it. There aren’t too many people in the middle. The people who hate it complain about how sore their, um, parts are. (That goes away and can be decreased by purchasing padded bike shorts) They also complain about it being “too hard”, or being intimidated by the others in class, or the instructor. Those who love it are inspired by music they like, or an instructor, or just love working different muscles. There are tons more likes and dislikes, but I won’t go on… I will say that if you try a class and you hate it, try it two more times over the next 10 days or so. Often by doing it more than once, the hate feeling turns into just a “Wow, this really can be hard but I’m going to try to get used to it and work at it until I feel more comfortable.” People who give it more than one shot usually adjust to it pretty well.

The nice thing about spinning as compared with another cardio class like aerobics or kickboxing is that you are (obviously) on a stationary bike and you won’t fall, and you don’t need to worry about choreography. Also, even if the class is way harder than your current level, in Spin it’s ALWAYS modifiable to whatever your level is. What I always tell new people in my class is, “Please just don’t leave. Whatever you do, even if it seems really hard, just sit and pedal. Try to enjoy being there. Enjoy that you’re making your body move, enjoy the music, enjoy the people in class, whatever you can find that you can enjoy just a little bit, focus on that.” If we are doing a lot of up and down stuff, I advise newbies to try it if they want, but not to get frustrated if they find that standing up is too advanced: just sit back down. Baby steps. Spinning utilizes different muscles from running or aerobics in a different way; that’s why it’s a good class to throw in there as part of cross-training. A good companion for spinning is pilates, because spinning really works your strength and endurance but can tighten you up, and pilates focuses on strength through stretching, which will loosen you up again!

What you need to get started:
First, you have to try to not be intimidated. Going with a friend is a good idea for your first time if you can, but you obviously don’t have to. As an instructor, one of my favorite things as far as new people go is when a new person gets to the studio between 5-10 minutes before class begins, introduces herself/himself, and tells me that she/he needs help setting up. I have had new people come in AFTER I’ve started class and although I’m happy to help them set up, it’s hard for me to give them the focus they really need because I have to keep cueing everyone else at the same time. So, arriving early if possible is great. (Not only that, but it’s more stressful for you as a new student to come in late; being ready with a few minutes to spare before class gives you the time to get used to the bike a little bit.)

Once you’re in class and set up on the bike, just go with the flow. A good instructor will, if they know you’re new, not pressure you to work as hard as everyone else, and a good instructor will definitely not say something like, “Hey Girl in the Yellow Top, stand up like everyone else! Come on!” (If that happens, you should leave immediately, tell management, and then find another instructor.) A good instructor is a good observer.

Speaking of that, all instructors are different. They have different personalities and different music. Would I enjoy going to a class that is taught by a quiet instructor who cues very little and plays country music? Absolutely not. But many people do. My Wednesday evening class is NUTS. I adore them. We shout playfully at each other and I crank the music up superloud, and it’s mostly techno, dance, and electronica. And ‘80s tunes for Linda. But my class isn’t for everybody either. Try out a couple of instructors that would fit into your schedule before you make up your mind about if you enjoy spinning or not.

Once you find the class/instructor that has the qualities you personally enjoy, you will automatically feel more comfortable. And if you’re ever in the Chicago area on a Wednesday, come and see us! We’re a tight group that expands very easily for newbies, and a Wednesday evening with us just might change your life!

(Speaking of Wednesday: get well wishes to Dave and his knee! We missed having you in class last night but were thrilled that you stopped in to say hi before we started!)

I think I covered just about everything, but if anyone has any questions, leave them in the comments section and I’ll answer them!