Spinning (or indoor cycling) is one of the best cardio workouts that there is, next to running. This great non-impact form of exercise tones the legs and butt and gets the heart pumping like few other machines can.
If you have peeked into a spinning class and witnessed the participants heavily sweating and working hard with the instructor shouting at them to work even harder, it can seem rather intimidating. Despite the apparent intensity, anyone at any level can join a class. If you can ride a stationary bike, you can do spinning! The intensity comes from the cadence (speed of the pedal stroke) and the resistance which you control yourself.
FOR YOUR FIRST CLASS
If it's your first class, arrive five minutes early and talk to the instructor. Let them know this is your first experience and make sure they go through the correct bike set-up with you. Also – if the instructor is aware – he / she can help you through the different components of the class. It's important to understand the different levels of a class: interval training, endurance training, hill training, and speed training. All these components can be used in one single class or a class may focus on just one of these areas.
It will take about four weeks to start seeing results from your spinning classes and for your buttocks to get used to that 'lovely' hard seat. However, the results are undeniable. Keep challenging yourself and work that little bit harder – and you will get one of the best workouts you've ever had!
FOR THE CROSS-TRAINER
If you already feel you are in good shape and you do a lot of running, cycling is the best cross-training exercise. Due to the fact that it is a non-impact form of exercise, it gives the knees and hips a rest.
I personally love the scope that indoor cycling gives. It's great for road riders as they have a safe environment for their winter training and it keeps their fitness level up so they can be ready for the road again once the nicer weather returns. Most clubs will post their classes so that you can see the length of the cycle class and they usually run from 45 minutes to 90 minutes – the latter, a master class for the not-so-faint at heart.
- If you are seeking to really up your training or lose weight and want to beef up your cycling, wear a heart rate monitor. Due to the amount that a participant can sweat in a cycle class, it often leads them to believe they're working harder than they really are. A heart rate monitor won't let you cheat – it will tell you through your entire workout where your heart rate is.
- Always make sure that you are cycling with resistance. If when you are pedalling at speed you start to bounce on your seat, then it means you do not have enough resistance, and even though you may feel your legs are going fast you are not actually accomplishing much. It is speed and resistance that will elevate the heart rate to give you that amazing workout.
So if you have not tried spinning, go out there and give it a go. If you have tried it and don't love it, then try it again with another instructor. It's certainly one of my favourite forms of cardiovascular exercise. Good luck, enjoy, and remember to give it your all! If you make the effort to turn up at a class, you don't want to cheat yourself by being half-hearted about it so throw all your energy into it! You'll be surprised how good you feel at the end! •
Carolyn Hoar has been a fitness instructor for more than 20 years. A two-time breast cancer survivor, she spends most of her spare time raising funds for the Canadian Breast Cancer Society.
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