8 Mistakes Cyclists Make in Spin Class

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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8 Mistakes Cyclists Make in Spin Class

Spin classes can be a great option to get in a workout when the weather’s bad or you’re short on time. But just because you’re an experienced cyclist doesn’t mean your knowledge automatically translates to indoor classes.

Before you head to the gym for a spin, avoid these eight mistakes to adhere to proper etiquette and get the most out of your experience.

Spin class isn’t exactly like working out at the gym, but it isn’t like riding on the road either. From guys walking in sans T-shirt to cargo shorts and a full cycling kit, you’ll likely see a whole bunch of inappropriate attire at your local gym class. To dress for the occasion and be as comfortable as possible, wear cycling or gym shorts and a T-shirt or tank top. Since aerodynamics aren’t a factor indoors and you won’t need to carry extra gear in your jersey pockets, cycling jerseys aren’t needed. Cycling shoes are also a good idea to use more muscle groups and get a better workout without getting injured. If you don’t have cycling shoes, regular sneakers also do the trick.

Besides being rude to your fellow classmates and the instructor, if you show up late there’s also a good chance the bike you’ve reserved will be taken. Like most fitness classes, spin classes require students to register beforehand. When you show up late, any student who is on a waiting list will likely be given your bike a few minutes before class starts. When you show up, there’s a good chance your spot will be gone. Plus, you miss out on warming up.

Like a regular bike, the fit of a spin bike can make a huge difference in your experience and prevent an unnecessary injury. Since the person before you could’ve been 5-foot-2, 6-5 or anywhere in between, it’s important to make the necessary adjustments to the seat height and fore/aft position along with handlebar height and fore/aft position. If you’ve been to spin class before, you may already know exactly what adjustments to make. If not, make sure you arrive early and let the instructor know you’re new and need help to find a position that’s comfortable and similar to your road bike.

Since most spin classes are also high intensity and last for almost an hour, you’re pretty much guaranteed to work up quite a sweat. While most spin classes have fans and air conditioning, it won’t be the same as the cooling effect you get outdoors from the wind. Because of this, come to class prepared with a towel to prevent slippery handlebars and a puddle forming underneath your machine. Drape one towel over the handlebars and have an extra one on hand to wipe sweat from your face and body.

With all the sweating, you’ll need plenty of fluid on hand to rehydrate properly and keep from hitting the wall. While one bottle might be OK for a one-hour road ride, it’s better practice to bring two to a spin class. You’ll be working hard, and chances are, you’ll drink more than one bottle during a class. Two bottles also gives you something to drink afterward; an electrolyte drink in your second bottle is probably a good idea.

To get the most out of your indoor workout, you’ll need to use proper technique. Avoid tensing up. When the resistance gets cranked up, and you’re working hard, it’s common to grip the handlebars too tight and tense your shoulders and neck. Be aware of this and do your best to stay relaxed when the intensity is high. Focus on pulling on the back stroke of your pedal. Even if you don’t have cycling shoes, the toe cages on a spin bike allow you to pull up on the back stroke. Take advantage of this by trying to pedal in circles instead of only mashing the pedals on the down stroke. Finally, when you stand, keep your butt over the seat instead of leaning too far forward. This keeps power on the pedals. Also, keep your head up and your hands in the correct position — on the bar ends when standing and the bar tops when climbing.

When you go to an organized spin class, don’t decide to do your own thing. There’s an instructor there for a reason. Challenge yourself by upping or releasing the resistance whenever the instructor tells you to, and don’t cheat yourself with a small (or no) turn of the knob when you’re supposed to give it a full turn. Monitor your cadence and intensity to match that of your instructor if you aren’t sure what to do.

Whether it’s a round of stretching or a post-workout shake, you’ll need to take steps toward recovery following a high-intensity effort. Heading into the gym to lift weights or perform other workouts can be dangerous, especially if you aren’t used to the efforts or haven’t attended spin classes frequently. Make sure you eat a healthy meal afterward, rehydrate the rest of the day, and take it easy the following day with a rest day or recovery workout that doesn’t include another high-intensity effort.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.

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