It’s important for people to get outside of their typical workout routine and try new things. So why not try an indoor cycling class? If you’re rolling your eyes—we get it, but hear us out. Cycling is a great way to combine cardio and muscle building, plus it’s a perfect low-impact option for those suffering from joint pain or injuries. And did we mention you’ll have a blast doing it? Not convinced? In most cases when you try something new for the first time, it can cause a bit of anxiety and uncertainty. That’s why we’re here to help! In this article, we’ll breakdown the basics and provide you with everything you need to know so you can have a successful, stress-free first class. Let’s get to it!
What to Bring?
Spin class requires little equipment; most everything is usually there for you! Most studios will provide special shoes that have clips on them to lock into the pedals, but just in case, wear a pair of normal running or workout shoes that you will strap onto the pedals. You’ll also want to wear clothes that are moisture-wicking, since you’ll be sweaty—don’t believe us? Talk to us after your first class.
Here are a few other items to bring:
- Water bottle
- Sweat towel
- Heart rate monitor
When to Arrive
Some spin classes are high in demand, which can mean the bikes get taken quickly. For your first class, we recommend arriving at least 10-15 minutes early in order to claim your spot and get situated. Some forms of spin classes will have you grab light weights before starting to work out your arms as you ride. Your instructor will demonstrate different actions throughout the class, so although it’s tempting to want to hide in the back of the room, a bike up front is actually a better choice so you have the ability to see the instructor once all of the riders get on!
How to Setup Your Bike
Your seat should be at hip height.
When standing on the ground next to the side of your bike, point to your hip bone—this is your seat height, or where the “saddle” should sit. Positioning at hip height will allow for maximum extension on the bottom of each pedal stroke. When your foot is at the six o’clock position, you should have a slight bend in your knee, and when your foot is at twelve o’clock it should be bent at a 90-degree angle.
If you’re able to, adjust the distance between the seat and handlebars.
If you can, adjust the seat so that it is approximately the length of your elbow to fingertips away. But note: this trick doesn’t always apply as our arms are not always in proportion with our torsos. Basically, your knees shouldn’t hit the handlebars or resistance knob, and you shouldn’t feel like you’re overreaching with your arms.
Raise (or lower) your handlebar height to a comfortable position.
Your handlebar position is all about comfort as people have different preferences. If it’s your first class, we recommend raising them up high, as this will force you to keep good form the entire session. If your handlebar height is too low, odds are that you’ll slump your upper body over, which can put pressure on your spine and lead to back/neck pain and injury.
If you’re unsure, ask! Everyone has had their first class at some point and odds are they had the same questions that you do.
Things to Keep in Mind During Class
Don’t forget about your form (even during those seemingly impossible climbs).
It’s important to pay attention to your form during the session, especially during high resistance intervals and as you start to get tired. Keep your shoulders back and down, spine in a straight line, core engaged, and feet flat.
Rely on your foot cages or pedal straps—they’re there for a reason!
Yes, their job is for your safety and to prevent your feet from flying into the wheels, but they also serve another purpose: they allow you to “pull up” on the pedals. For top performance and power, you want to push down through the ball of your foot and toes, point your heel towards the ground, and finish by driving up through your knee to complete the full rotation. Not only will this translate to more power, it will be a great workout for your hamstrings, quads, and glutes, too!
Challenge yourself, but pace yourself.
You will be in control of your speed, intensity, and resistance knob the entire workout, although the instructor will let you know what your numbers should be; but remember, this is only a suggestion. Resistance is important, but if you find the instructor’s recommended numbers are too challenging—especially during your first class, turn your knob down a bit to pace yourself. There is no point in burning yourself out in the first ten minutes!
Remember that water bottle we told you to bring? Well, you’re going to be glad you did. You’re going to be performing at a high intensity, which means you’ll be sweating lots, so it’s important to drink lots, too! Some classes will take formal water breaks, whereas other classes will expect you to take sips at your own leisure.
Just have fun!
Your first class doesn’t need to be stressful and there is no pressure for you to be an expert rider your first time; it might take you a week, a month, or even longer in order to feel comfortable on the bike—and that’s OK! Try not to be worried about what others think of you. The music will be pumping, the lights will be dimmed (depending on the studio), and everyone is too busy focusing on their own performance to notice whether you turned your knob all the way or not.
What to Do After Class
Most studios will take you through a formalized cool-down with little-to-no resistance, but if they don’t, take some time to stretch out. It can be tempting to jump off of your bike the second the music stops but trust us—it will be worth it!
Try reaching your arms up and to each side, and then circle your neck and shoulders a few times in each direction to loosen up your upper body. Then for your legs, point your toes of the foot closest to the ground to the sky; your heel should be down towards the floor. You should feel this stretch in your calves, hamstrings, and even quads. Pedal half a rotation so that you can stretch out your opposite leg.
As you’re cooling down, or even on your ride home, analyze your energy level post-ride. How do you feel after your first class? Could you have pushed yourself harder at any point? Were there any areas where you should have backed off? It may take a few classes to get the perfect rhythm down, but if you stick to the basics, you’ll be a spin pro in no time!