Going to Your First Spin Class? We Asked an Instructor Everything You Need to Know

Spin classes are definitely having a moment, but personally, I find them a little intimidating. I just have so many questions! What am I supposed to wear? Are there different kinds of classes? Do I need to bring shoes? The list goes on. And it’s not just me—I’ve heard these questions repeated time and time again by my friends. Since I’m no expert, I knew I wasn’t the right person to clear the air—so, I got the inside scoop from Jordan Shiley, a College Fashionista Community Member and long-time spin instructor on how to actually use the bike, what to wear to spin class, and more, so you can be 100% ready for your first cycling experience. Read on for the ultimate guide.

How does a spin class usually work?

Unclear as to what actually goes down during a normal class? Jordan says that it typically starts with a brief warmup on the bikes, then “the class either keeps building up all the way until the end or functions like a bell curve depending on the class or instructor.” Because each type of class is different, it’s important to know what to expect before going so that you can prepare for the type of workout it’s going to be. If one sounds better to you than the other, be sure to call the place you’ll be attending class to find out more about each instructor and their teaching styles.

Are there different types of spin classes?

While it may seem difficult to carry a lot of variety with such a simple concept, there are actually tons of different types of classes depending on the what the location and/or instructors offer. According to Jordan, the location she taught at offered the following classes: an express cycle, which is a brief 45-minute class; an endurance cycle, which is a longer 90-minute class; cycle core, which is a class consisting of both cycling and an ab workout; cycle circuit, a class consisting of both cycling and high-intensity interval training; and namaste cycle, a class consisting of both cycling and basic yoga. Other locations and instructors may even offer more or less classes than these, but the variety showcases that practically any spin class can fit your specific workout needs. To find the right class for you, research different locations before you commit to one.

Do classes vary by instructors, or are all instructors pretty much the same?

According to Jordan, they typically vary “depending on drill preferences, taste in music, energy, the language they use throughout the class, teaching background, certifications, and style.” For example, Jordan says her own teaching style is both fun and difficult, and she likes to focus on music selection and intensity with the bikes. But, another instructor may lean on the easier side and have less emphasis on tunes. Many instructors will have brief descriptions of how they teach their classes, so, as mentioned before, it’s best to do your research before going to a certain instructor’s class!

Do I need to bring a certain type of shoes?

Certain studios may require specific shoes depending on which studio you go to. According to Jordan, studios like SoulCycle require a specific type of sneakers, but this information will often be available on the studio’s website. If it’s not stated, you should attend the class with whatever pair of athletic sneakers you feel most comfortable in, or call ahead to ask.

What should I wear to spin class?

Because spin classes require a lot of mobility with the bikes, your attire is extremely important in achieving the maximum amount of comfort. Jordan says, “If you wear anything shorter than knee-length shorts, your legs will be uncomfortable from chafing when cycling.” She prefers to wear leggings, a tank top, and sneakers when teaching, but everyone’s preferences differ depending on how hot you get while working out and how much you sweat. As long as your thighs are covered, any form of athletic wear that you are most comfortable in will work.

Is there anything specific I should know about using the bike?

The most important aspect of spin classes, besides yourself, is the bike, so knowing how each one works is crucial to getting the best workout. According to Jordan, “the seat should be about hip height when standing up, and this makes sure your knees never lockout when riding. The handlebars should be almost equal to the height of the seat for more core engagement, but if you have any lower back pressure you’d like to relieve, I suggest raising the handlebars about two to three inches higher than the seat.”

At the end of the day, it’s best to ask your instructor if your bike is adjusted properly, as each adjustment will provide a different form of workout and safety. Also, Jordan states that some bikes are different than others, and she recommends finding a studio with RealRyder bikes because “they burn 30% more energy than standard bikes because they move from side to side, which makes you use your core more to find balance and control of the bike.”

Are there any spin-specific terms I should know?

Spin classes carry a unique terminology, and knowing what each term means can lead to a more informed class. Jordan explains a few terms that instructors will use quite frequently.

  • Climb: This refers to adding resistance during a drill, which you can adjust on your bike whenever desired.
  • RPM: This frequently used acronym stands for rotations per minute, or how fast you are cycling on the bike.
  • Sprint: A sprint is when you speed up the bike about 90 to 110 RPMs.
  • Jump: “Jumping” on the bike simply means to stand up out of your seat on the bike, which could provide a more intense workout.

What happens if I need a breather during class?

It is by no means necessary to endure a spin class without taking a break, especially because it is a high energy workout. Jordan actually recommends taking a breather (or two) during classes. She says, “Take resistance off of your bike if you need to. Grab water. The best time to do so is in between songs to grab sips of water and towel off. Always remember to listen to your body over the instructor.” At the end of the day, your safety and well-being is the priority, so if your body tells you that you need a break, take it.

How often should I be taking classes?

Because every person’s needs vary, there is no right or wrong answer to how many classes you should be taking a week. However, Jordan suggests taking them three to four times a week if it’s your only form of fitness. With that said, you may be doing other types of physical exercise at the same time, so this might be overkill. Jordan says, “Personally, I use spinning as my form of cardio, so I like to take it twice a week because I like to also lift weights. Because of that, I don’t want to lose muscle mass by doing too much cardio. I solely use cardio as a way to expand my lifespan and keep my cardiovascular system healthy and happy!” At the end of the day, it solely matters what your needs are, so doing it only once a week or four times a week are both completely acceptable options.

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Opening image by Brittney Hughes.