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Spinning 101

January 10th, 2011 10 Comments

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Well, every spin instructor is different so I honestly can’t tell you how they will lead the ride.  What I can tell you is how to approach and use the bike.

1. Take a breath and relax.

First of all, let go of your fears and hesitations about a spin class.  You’re not going to die.  Technically it’s impossible for a spin class to be too difficult for you because you control your resistance and positioning.

2. Set up the bike so it’s comfortable for you.

A lot of cyclists use a spin bike to train for their outdoor ride, but I think it’s important to recognize and utilize the differences in an indoor bike.  You have the ability to be comfortable and isolate muscle groups unlike you would on a road bike.  There truly is no “right” or “wrong” here.

Check out this video I did with Equinox Regional Group Fitness director Keith Irace.  It shows you the basics of setting up the bike.

Other things to remember:

  • Lift the handle bars up higher.  This will allow you to keep your chest high (that keeps your abs engaged) and take some of the pressure off your legs.
  • Lower the seat a notch to make it easier to push.
  • Make sure you’re close enough to the handle bars so there is a natural bend in your arm and you don’t feel like you’re reaching.

3.  Start off at your own pace and find your form.

Don’t feel like you have to jump on the bike and instantly fit into the groove of the class.  Get your bearings, add resistance slowly, and try to match your feet to the beat of the music, either on the quick double or slower single beat.  Close your eyes to feel each part of your body locking into the correct form:

  1. Flatten your feet.
  2. Pull your knees in so your thighs are parallel.
  3. Engage your core.
  4. Focus on pulling your knees into your core, not just pushing your feet down.
  5. Raise your chest up.
  6. Relax your shoulders.
  7. Lighten your grip on the handle bars.

4.  Understand the key to your ride.

Engaging your core is key to the spinning.  The easiest way to do this is to keep your chest up instead of hunching over, but it’s important to keep reminding yourself to pull in your abs throughout the ride.

Using your abs will help redistribute the weight of the wheel so it’s not all on your quads, help you pull with knees instead of just pushing, increase your endurance, and protect your lower back.

5.  Use the bike to exercise certain muscle groups.

The major benefit to using a spin bike over a road bike is your ability to isolate muscle groups.

You’ll figure this out in time, but here are a few basic positions to get you started.

  • Quads – In the saddle, heavy resistance, butt back off the end of the seat, heels down
  • Quads – Standing, any resistance, hands close to you on the bars, chest parallel to the wall, hips underneath you, flat feet, minimize your bounce
  • Hamstrings and Gluts – standing, moderate to heavy resistance, arms extended to the front of the bars, butt way back, chest up, heels down, squeeze with every step

I like to step to the beat of the music which helps choreograph the ride, but it’s not necessary.

After this post, I realize a new video is absolutely necessary, so I’ll shoot one soon.  For now, I hope this helps!

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  • Love this post! I just got my certification and started teaching in Chicago. Love getting new tips, especially from the perspective of enthusiastic students. Thanks, Mary!

    • Congrats Lisa! You’re going to love sharing your passion with a room full of eager students.

      Just remember to keep it simple, use music you love, don’t scream, and ask for feedback.

      Let us know how it goes!!

  • Lindsay

    Mary, when do you teach at Fit? I would love to go to one of your spin classes!

    • My regular class is Tuesday night at 6:30 and 2 Sundays a month – weird I know, but I do it this way because of my travel. I sub often when I’m in town. If you want I can put you on my email list for classes. We have so much fun!

  • Oh Mary, this is exactly what I needed! This is why I love your blog- I find the answers even without asking the question! :) Keep up the great work, xxx

  • Hi, Mary! New instructor Lisa here again. Can you recommend any online resources for good spin instructor tips? There seems to be a dearth of good info out there, and I’m looking for ways to jazz up my class.

    • Unfortunately I don’t have any online resources to send you to. Everything I’ve found online has been so traditional and uninspiring. I’m not sure where you are, but NYC and LA really set the bar and push boundaries in all areas of fitness. If you happen to visit either, go to Equinox West Hollywood or UpDog Spin and Yoga in LA or Soul Cycle which has several NYC locations and a new one is opening in Malibu.

      I draw inspiration from my personal life because when I am passionate about something I can share that with the class. My best advice is to use music that people know or that has a meaningful or fun lyrics. Don’t be afraid to go old school either. And most importantly, try to bring your riders to a place where they can forget about the world, look past the exercise, and focus on themselves WITHOUT being preachy.

      Most importantly, have fun. And they will too!

  • Thank you, Mary!!! This is great advice. One more question for you: Do you do visualizations? I am in snowy Chicago, so I usually try to get my class to imagine themselves biking down a beach in Southern California or up the hills of Marin. I kind of get into it. But I’d love to hear if you do this sort of things in your classes. And thanks again for all your advice and inspiration.

    • Every class I change it up, but whatever I’m compelling them to do, I have to feel it for myself. I encourage my class to close their eyes, let the rest of the world go, and quiet there minds to find a focus. Sometimes I paint the picture for them, other times I tell them to see their own path. I tell them to poke around inside of themselves, dig a little deeper, and try to find what’s really on their mind, which can be happiness, sadness, anger, anxiety, whatever.

      The other trick is to try and not be so literal, but I find this really hard to do. Sometimes it just comes out of no where for me.

      You can’t plan to inspire, you have to feed off the energy of the room and watch their faces. They will lead you as much as you lead them.

      It’s also important to have a sense of humor. Acknowledge your faults and mistakes with a giggle and they will do the same for themselves. Let your personality shine when you teach!

  • THANK YOU! Excellent advice, all.