Intimidated (but fascinated) by the cult-like spinning trend? Afraid the rambunctious regulars will reserve all of the bikes at your studio? Don’t have a clue about what to do when you walk into a cycling studio? Below are five quick tips for athletes new to spin classes – get a leg-up even before you mount the bike:
1. Get there early.
Arrive 10 minutes early for your first class. Be conscious of the sign-up and sign-in policy for your studio to ensure that you can reserve a bike and begin your rough riding career! Reservation systems vary between studios, everything from online scheduling to a first-come first-serve basis. Plan to sign a waiver if you are a total newbie to the studio or gym, and get a quick tour of the space – typically the essentials: locker location, bathroom, and water fountain. Most studios do not allow late entry because moving the equipment is loud and distracting and a warm-up is crucial to the workout – make sure you don’t get shut out!
2. Engage your instructor!
Introduce yourself to your instructor before class. With so many participants in class throughout the week, as an instructor, it is hard to keep track every new face all of the time. Identify yourself as a Spinning Newbie – it’s really exciting for instructors to teach newcomers how to sweat while spinning. Don’t be shy about sharing any physical limitations or injuries; everything can be scaled and modified for athletic ability and physical fitness. Ask for help to set up your bike – proper alignment is crucial for a comfortable inaugural ride. Do not hesitate to ask questions before and throughout class, nothing is too silly! Simply give your instructor a wave. Personally, I feel underutilized when my participants are quiet or reluctant to ask for help.
3. You are the boss of your workout.
Whether your instructor is teaching with heart rate monitors or on a “Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)” scale – a 1 to 10 scale of exertion – your effort is at your own discretion. You decide how hard you are going to work throughout your ride based on how much gas you have in the tank, how you are feeling that day, and what your intention is for your ride. Your instructor will cue the target heart rate range, number of rotations per minute (RPM), or RPE number, but be sure to listen to your body. Do not be afraid to take a breather in the saddle, towel off, and take a swig of your water bottle. Use the recovery periods built into the workout for you – most of us plan our rides meticulously to assure a balanced and dynamic ride. Take control of your ride by checking in with your body over the course of class and allocating your energy efficiently. Pay attention to your instructor’s ride forecast and previews so that the last round of sprints is your best effort, rather than an unexpected surprise!
4. The resistance knob is your new bestie.
Experiment with the resistance knob or lever as you warm up to familiarize yourself with the bike. Your instructor may cue you to add a “bump” of resistance, or a slight increase in the tension on the flywheel. Each bike is different in terms of resistance – some bikes require ¼ of a turn for the rider to feel an escalation, others require an entire turn. The same thing goes for resistance levers – the upsurge varies from bike to bike, so make sure to play around with the tension during warm-up. You will use the resistance to simulate everything from a flat road to a steep hill-climb in the saddle, and as an essential tool to counterbalance your weight when you are out of the saddle. The answer to most Newbies’ initial questions is: “Add more resistance.” If your pedals feel sticky while out of the saddle, or if you are holding yourself up by leaning on your handlebars, crank up the tension. Moreover, resistance assures your safety because it stabilizes you on the bike – it is a fundamental part of your rough ride. You should never pedal with zero resistance because you run the risk of injuring your knees. Get to know your bestie at the beginning of class, and be cognizant that you have an appropriate amount of tension on the flywheel at all times!
5. Don’t hold your breath!
Breathe efficiently: inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Rhythmic breathing is a game-changer, especially during the peak of the ride pyramid when the course gets grueling. Proper alignment will help you breathe well – elongate your spine, and keep your head in line with your spine for optimal airflow. Try to keep your chin up, even on those tough hill climbs. A dropped chin closes your airway, makes it harder to breathe, and leads to early fatigue. Just as your breath guides your Vinyasa, steady and measured breaths can power you over the top of the mountain!