by Leslie Farin,Publisher, 50Plus-Today
I often invite friends to join me for a spinning class, but rarely does anyone take me up on it. The thought of walking into a cycle studio seems to intimidate people. Do the instructors yell and play the music too loud? Will I be pushed too hard? Do I need special shoes?
They seem to envision a room full of ridiculously fit young riders in cute trendy cycling attire on seemingly endless rows of indoor bikes. This is not the case. And everyone is a beginner their first time at the studio.
Hopping on a stationary bike is hardly a new way to get exercise, but over the last few years boutique cycle studios seem to have popped up all over. Despite their popularity and cult-like following, many are hesitant to test out even a free class. Here’s what you need to know for your first cycling class.
The first cycle class: what to expect
Even if you generally tend not to sweat, you will here (alot), so if possible wear moisture wicking clothing with form fitting shorts covering your thighs to avoid chafing. They don’t have to be expensive- but they should provide comfort for you while cycling. For example, inexpensive bike shorts can be purchased on Amazon. Good cycling shoes that clip to the bike pedals are important to provide good support and the best workout. These shoes are provided at most studios at no cost in many sizes, and cleaned after each class. I purchased my own shoes after using those at the studio for about a year because I cycle regularly and wanted shoes that are molded specifically to my feet and consistently fit well. I like Tiem Cycle Shoes for the fit, comfort and price.
The class will not be hours long! Spin sessions offered at most studios are 45 minutes long, which isn’t a huge chunk of time. Many cycle studios offer a 20-30 minute class for beginners. Yes, a cycle class of any length of time requires effort, but you go at your own pace, adjusting the tension on the bike higher or lower to meet your current fitness level. One of the instructors is always available at the start of class to help with setup for those unfamiliar with the bikes.
Keep in mind you are competing only with yourself; try to enter the class to improve your own fitness level one step at a time and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. You can choose to add your name to the board if it motivates you to see where you stand in the group, but if the possibility exists that seeing your name toward the bottom of the list will be a negative distraction, then don’t.
Spin class is more than just a good leg workout that burns 400-600 calories in one session. It is set up to be a total body workout, working all the major muscle groups in addition to improving endurance and cardiovascular health.
- Core. Use your core to stabilize your body throughout class to help to achieve overall balance, especially when standing.
- Upper body. Use your upper body to support yourself on the bike. Many classes incorporate upper-body exercises using dumbbells or resistance bands.
- Back. Maintain a strong, stable spine throughout the class to help strengthen and tone your back muscles.
- Glutes. Feel your glutes working with each pump, especially when you stand up from your seat, do an incline, or increase the resistance.
- Quadriceps. Your quadriceps are the main muscles used as you pedal and climb hills, resulting in strong, toned legs.
- Hamstrings. Spinning helps strengthen and loosen your hamstrings, which lift the pedals up with each cycle and stabilize your joints.
- Lower legs. You’ll work your calves with each cycle, which helps to protect your ankles and feet while spinning and during everyday activities.
It’s true the instructors yell, but not in a mean way. They strive to motivate you to be the best you can be. That’s a good thing, right? They are not there to humiliate or embarrass you; actually, quite the opposite. Staff members are well-trained to help riders with proper form to avoid injury, and to provide a truly effective way to release some of the stress from your day. They need to yell to be heard over the music.
Sometimes I like the music, sometimes I don’t. I definitely think it’s too loud, and those with whom I ride aged 50+ all seem to agree. Thankfully, most studios offer earplugs for those of us who want them. The beat of the music is motivational though, and the higher volume seems to increase the efforts of the riders.
I love my cycle community. It is a very supportive and fun group of people. The staff even plans events for people to gather outside the studio. It’s nice to have a chance to get to know fellow riders and instructors in a different setting as there’s really no time to talk during class (plus the music is too loud!). Even when I’m not in the mood to spin, I can usually push myself to go because I want to see the many happy smiling faces at the studio.
The Bottom Line
Give spinning a chance. Cycling is less stressful on the body than some other types of exercise, so may be ideal for active older adults. Of course, too much of a good thing never is…start slowly and practice moderation as you build your fitness level. Above all don’t take yourself too seriously; after all, you are riding a stationary bike, in the dark, going nowhere. And it will be over in 45 minutes.
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More about the Be the Difference Foundation:
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