Last month I committed to reviewing a class each month, and as I was up at the crack of doom for a spin class this week, it seemed apt to feature it this month.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, spinning is basically an indoor cycling class. It uses a special kind of stationary bike which is closer in feel to riding a real bike than your standard exercise bike – spin bikes are more adjustable so you can get a more comfortable position. As a newbie, your instructor should be able to help you get set up to ensure that you don’t put too much pressure on your knees etc. They also have adjustable resistance, so you can simulate going up hills for example.
Classes are generally 45 mins (or shorter) due to the intensity. Only some kind of masochist would knowingly sign up for an hour. It’s done to music, and most instructors will choose songs which reflect the activity. Usually, there are tracks which involve sprint intervals (designed to induce vomiting), variations on simulated hill climbs (where you progressively increase the resistance and may well stand up out of your saddle – designed to make you feel like you’re wading through treacle) and sometimes various other moves like hovers, squats and jumps (designed to make your quads feel like they have quite literally been set on fire).
On the plus side, many gyms have special spin studios, where they may well dim the lights so the rest of the class can’t see that you’ve turned puce. My gym even has disco lights, to remind you that you’d rather be in a club with a drink in your hand than going through one of Dante’s inner circles of hell. They are particularly unwelcome when doing the 6.30am class.
Like all classes, how you find it will have a lot to do with the instructor and the music they choose. The bikes at my gym helpfully give you a reading on your wattage, heart rate (if you’re wearing a compatible monitor), calories burnt and distance, so you can feel totally inadequate because you’re grinding out 120 watts and the instructor is barking that you should be “at least at 200 by now”. The particularly shouty one at my recent class gave regular feedback on the level of the gears we should be aiming for (“MINIMUM 18 TO START!!!”). I could barely turn the pedals at 15, so I can only imagine that my bike was incorrectly calibrated and the fact that my heart rate was 179 BPM was a better indicator of how hard I was working.
Joking aside, if you get good music it can be, er, tolerable, and it burns a shitload if calories in a short space of time, so it’s does the job in an efficient kinda way. If you’re a cyclist who finds it hard to get out on the roads in the winter, it’s infinitely better than (shudder) the turbo trainer, and having done a fair amount last winter, it did help improve my leg strength and speed when I got back on the road bike in the spring. It does also improve your general cardio fitness if done frequently. Of course, you don’t have to use a high gear or push as hard, but my view is you might as well go hard or go home, and you can eat more (sugar free) cake as a result.
So yes, I probably will be back there before the month is out – my gym is currently extending the spin studio and putting in new bikes, which I’m sure will be correctly calibrated.