If you are knee deep in snow right now like we are here in Minnesota, you might not be thinking of grabbing your bike and hitting the open road … but you can go to your local gym and hop on a spin bike! Escape from the winter doldrums and get a good sweat going with the high energy vibe and invigorating music of a group spin class. Spinning burns calories quickly, provides a safe ride in the comfort of indoors, and it is fun!
Get started. All you need to get started on an exercise bike is comfortable workout clothes and sneakers. Wicking tops and padded cycling shorts can make your ride more comfortable. (I don’t wear padded shorts indoors, but lots of people do.)
Go high energy. Hop on a specially designed stationary bike called a spinning bike for a vigorous workout. As you pedal along, the instructor guides the class through a visualization of an outdoor workout. The pace and speed varies throughout the workout, sometimes requiring break-neck speed, and other times pedaling happens from a slow, standing position. The instructor will offer alternatives so you can adjust your intensity according to your own fitness level. A novice might participate in a cycling workout for 30 to 45 minutes, while a more advanced athlete could ride 60 to 90 minutes.
Forget about intimidation. If you are intimidated, don’t be … it’s the least intimidated group fitness class I know. I have been teaching group fitness for 23 years, and many classes have choreography to follow, but the bike is the easiest thing, just like riding outside. No one knows how much tension you put on your flywheel so start out easy and dial it up if you are feeling great. Dial it down if you feel like you need a break. I always tell people “you are in charge. I’m here to motivate you, but you do the work” and really no one knows how hard you are working.
Know your cycling math for results. It’s a math equation: tension on the bike + cadence = results. Results may be calories burned, mph, power, heart rate zone achieved, etc. Bottom line: play around with the load on the fly wheel, vary your cadence and challenge yourself! I play movies in my class of biking like the Tour De France, it’s motivating to be watching the bikers.
Pedal in a pair. It’s great to bring someone with you … pick a friend who is just starting like you or ask one of your seasoned spinning friends if you can come along. Most likely they will make you feel comfortable and welcome.
Find the right instructor for you. Some instructors are hard core outdoor bikers during the warm months and others are group fitness junkies. Either way, a certified instructor should be friendly, inviting, informative, and helpful with setting up your bike and giving good cues throughout the class about form and pace. Some instructors are more talkative than others so find one that works for your personality and is motivating.
Tune in to music magic. Nothing makes or breaks a spinning class like the music. Find an instructor that plays the music you love to release your endorphins and make you want to work hard. I teach spinning and I love dance music, top 40 and songs with driving bass beats. But some instructors will play 80’s rock or country … my worst nightmare. I always offer ear plugs in my class. I don’t play it too loud, but many of my age group friends (45-60 years old) – like the music a little softer and ear plugs are a nice option. Music is a motivator, especially in spinning because you aren’t using your arms and you aren’t dancing around or focusing on choreography. It’s just you, your bike, the music and your mind! So get your mojo going. Music can be the big differentiator!
Hopping on an indoor bike gives you an opportunity to use different muscles, freshen up your winter routine, do some cross training and burn calories faster!