Your Guide To Spin Class: Everything You Need To Know

Never been to spin class but thinking of trying? (Or maybe you’ve been, but felt like you had no idea what was going on). No worries–in this guide we’ll share with you everything you need to know about going to a spin class.

But First, What Is A Spin Class?

A spin class, or spinning, is an exercise class at a gym that utilizes stationary bikes. It tries to mimic riding outdoors, but allows you to do it in the comfort of an air-conditioned room.

Spin class is high-energy and high-intensity, but can easily be modified for any fitness level. Expect lots of loud music, plenty of encouragement, and yes, a bunch of sweat.

The class is led by an instructor who will spend most of the time on a bike at the front of the class, but may walk around and help students out as well. Some classes will also have a screen up front that simulates riding on a road.

Spin Class - Indoor Cycling
Photo credit: Nottingham Trent University / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Tips For Your First Spin Class

There’s nothing like hitting the open road on two wheels, BUT hitting the road on two wheels isn’t always possible.  Sometimes you just need to squeeze in a quick workout on your lunch break. 

Or maybe there are four feet of snow outside.  Whatever your reason for cycling indoors, spinning can be a great way to get in a killer workout and get those endorphins flowing. 

If you’ve never been to a spin class before, here are 7 tips to make sure you get the most out of it.

Arrive Early

Depending on the gym you go to, spin classes can be REALLY popular.  Arrive at least 10 minutes early to ensure that you get a bike.  Getting to class with plenty of time to spare also gives you time to set up your bike (see our next tip), introduce yourself to the instructor, and get a feel for things.

Adjust your bike

Spinning bikes are highly adjustable and are meant to be tweaked for each individual rider.  There are many different brands of bikes out there but expect that your bike will probably have three different settings that need to be adjusted–the height of the seatpost, the height of the handlebars, and possibly the fore-aft position of the handlebars. 

This set-up is usually pretty self-explanatory, but for your first class it is always a good idea to ask for help from the instructor.  (This is why we recommend showing up early).

Pay attention to resistance

Spinning bikes have adjustable resistance to make pedaling easier or harder.  During the course of a single spin class, you will adjust this resistance MANY times. 

The resistance is usually controlled via a knob or a lever.  Again, this is usually pretty obvious, but just in case, ask your instructor before class starts.

For your first class, don’t worry too much about the resistance.  Relax and play around with it and get a feel for things.  If at any point, you feel like it is too hard to pedal, back off on the resistance, regardless of the instructions the instructor is giving to the class.

Bring a hand towel

gym towels for spin class

As far as I am concerned, bringing a towel to spin class is the single most important thing you can do.  Why? 

Because spin rooms are hot and you will get sweaty.  Really sweaty. 

Some gyms have complimentary towels, but just in case, bring your own.  A small bathroom hand towel, or a gym-specific towel,* will do the job.

Bring a water bottle

Did I mention that you’re going to get sweaty?  You’re also going to get thirsty, and you don’t want to be running out of the classroom to the water fountain every five minutes. 

Bring a water bottle to class with you.  Most spin bikes will have a water bottle holder for you to put it in.

Dress comfortably

You don’t need any special clothes for a spin class.  Just wear whatever you would normally wear to the gym. 

Some women do choose to wear a chamois or lightly padded shorts to spin class, but you don’t need to invest in those for your first class.  If you already have cycling shorts, it is your choice on whether to wear them or regular gym shorts.  (You’ll see people in both).

Oh, and make sure you wear a good sports bra.  Unlike riding a bike outside, in an indoor cycling class, you’re going to spend a lot of time jumping up and down out of the saddle. 

If you think, your boobies bounce a lot when you go for a run, spin class will make them bounce even more.  Skip the bra-less tank and opt for something with a bit more support.

For more ideas on cute and functional outfits, read our article on what to wear to spinning.

sports bra for spin class

If you have cycling shoes, bring them

If you have cycling shoes, bring them.  Most spin bikes have pedals with SPD clips on one side, and platforms on the other. 

If you don’t have cycling shoes, don’t worry–you don’t need to run out and buy some.  Wear regular gym shoes.  If at some point you get really into spinning, you can go buy some indoor cycling shoes.

shoes for spinning

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have questions? Chances are, we’ve answered them here.

How many calories does a spin class burn?

The average 45 minute spin class will burn between 400 and 600 calories. Of course, this is variable on how much effort you put in. Ride faster, work harder, burn more calories. And a longer spin class, will also burn more.

Is spin class good for weight loss?

Absolutely. Spinning is great high-intensity cardio and it works big calorie-burning muscles like your quadriceps.

In addition to the calories you burn during class, a hard intensity on the bike can increase your metabolism all day.

That said, it should only be one part of your weight loss plan. If you want to lose pounds, plan on incorporating strength training as well as changing your dietary habits.

What should I eat before spin class?

Eat a small meal about 90 minutes before your spin class. This will give you fuel for your class so you don’t bonk half way through, but will also give you time to digest it before your hard effort.

Whatever you eat, make sure to include both protein and carbohydrates. Good choices are a smoothie with yogurt, eggs on toast, or a turkey sandwich.

What should I eat after spin class?

To help your body properly recover, you want to eat fairly soon after you finish exercising. That said, it can be hard to eat a big meal right away. That’s why we recommend a recovery smoothie.

What will spin class do for my body?

So much good stuff! First and foremost, cycling is great cardio. That improves your cardiovascular health and boosts your metabolism. Cycling also strengthens muscles, not just in your legs but in your core and upper body as well.

What muscles does spin class work?

Spin class works your big leg muscles–your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. But it also works your core muscles, as well as your shoulders and back.

What do I need for spin class?

You’ll need comfortable clothing, a pair of athletic shoes (or cycling shoes), and a water bottle. I also highly recommend bring a small towel to wipe sweat. You’re gonna sweat a bunch!

Does spin class make your bum bigger?

It can, yes! Cycling strengthens your glutes, which can make them bigger, but only if you’re predisposed for larger muscles.

For many women, they’ll notice that their glutes get stronger and leaner with lots of cycling. This doesn’t, however, always equate to a bigger butt.

How many miles do I bike in a 45 minute spin class?

It totally depends on your resistance and cadence (i.e. the harder you pedal the further you go). That said, the average person will bike around 15 miles in a 45 minute class.

How often should I go to spin class?

You should exercise most days of the week, but you don’t want all of those days to be spin class. Switch things up with resistance training and other sports. If you really LOVE spin class, go 3 days a week.

Are spin classes bad for knees?

No. Spin class is great for people with bad knees. Cycling is low impact and easy on the joints. We see many people take up biking because they can no longer run or participate in high impact sports.

If you do have bad knees, make sure to cycle with less resistance. (Use a higher cadence instead). You may also want to avoid jumping in and out of the saddle, and stay seated during class instead.

How can I make spin class for comfortable?

If you’re uncomfortable during spin class, do something about it! Spinning does not have to be uncomfortable.

First, make sure your seat height and position are set correctly. If you’re not sure how to do that, ask the instructor.

Next, if it’s your bum that’s hurting, invest in a good pair of cycling shorts with a padded chamois. Chamois cream can also help with any chafing or saddle sores you’re experiencing.

How long is a spin class?

I’ve been in spin classes as short as 30 minutes and as long as 2 hours. That said, most gyms will offer spin classes that are either 45 or 60 minutes.

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