Take a Spin! Cycling Class Can Provide Fitness Boost

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • My friend, Brenda, took advantage of a gym guest pass to join me for a few workouts recently.  We decided that we would try the spinning class. Brenda is in much better shape than I am, so she was able to handle the instructor’s urgings to stand up in the pedals to “climb the mountains.” I, on the other hand, remained seated, but easily saw my heart rate climb. When the class ended 45 sweaty minutes, we left energized.

    It’s interesting, though, that many people will avoid this class because they consider it too difficult. It is definitely a challenge, but you can focus on going your own pace. I’ve gone back a few times and have focused on a goal of trying to challenge myself a little more each time.

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    So what are the benefits of attending a spinning class? According to Carrie Kepple, who is Gold’s Gym Group Exercise Director, the advantages of a spinning class include:

    • Improve cardiovascular health and endurance. Heart and lungs get a serious workout since the spinning class takes participants through a series of mixed terrain riding. The workout will require bursts of speed, followed by segments that require active recovery, steady hill climbing, and speed work through time trials.
    • Exercising legs while also strengthening abdominals and hip flexors. Proper pedal strokes and position on the bike help participants to tone their quadriceps, hamstrings, gluts, calves and abdominals. In addition, participants will be asked to keep their core muscles locked on the entire ride and drive the movement of the pedal strokes from their hips. This effort will result in toning for the pyramidalis, rectus abdominus, transverses abdominus, hip flexors, and the internal and external obliques.
    • Calorie burning. Participants can burn as many as 700 calories during a 45-minute spin class, as opposed to 600 calories during a 60-minute jog on the treadmill.
    • Help train for outdoor cycling. The class will help cyclists who like to ride outdoors build their strength and endurance quickly through the resistance levels they choose during the spinning class.

    So, what how should you be prepared to participate in this class if you’ve never gone before? An article by Frank J. Iannotti, the Coordinator of Performance Training Services at Cleveland Clinic Sports Clinic in the Cleveland Clinic’s Competitive Edge newsletter recommends the following guidelines:

    • Set up your bike properly. “Most of the stationary bikes are made of steel – and you are not! So if something doesn’t fit right, something will break. You can bet it will be you,” Iannotti noted. To avoid injury, make sure you properly position yourself, including the degree of leg extension, the position of the knee relative to the pedal, upper body position and reach angle, the foot and pedal spindle, the vertical tracking line of the knee, and the pitch of the seat. (I’d recommend talking to the instructor prior to the class to get help with setting up the bike to best suit you.)
    • Focus on your form first, instead of your speed. “If you have not yet learned to pedal at a high cadence without bouncing all over the seat, it means you need to slow it down,” Iannotti stated. “It takes time for your body to acquire this skill of high cadence.” He also recommends avoiding applying excessive resistance during the first few classes you try so your body can acclimate to the routine of biking at a high cadence.
    • Monitor yourself. “Since stationary cycling is exciting and challenging, becoming overly enthusiastic is easy. Working beyond your desirable level of effort is quite common in a group cycling class – and almost a guaranteed outcome, unless you incorporate some method to monitor yourself,” Iannotti said. “This is one of those occasions when if a little is good, more is not always better!” To avoid over-exertion, he recommends either using technology to monitor your heart rate. You can also go the low-tech way of using the “talk test” (If you can’t talk easily while cycling, you’re working too hard.

    During wintery weather, spin class can help you prepare for future warmer days when you can get out on your bike and explore. Consider it a jump start on spring!

Published On: February 18, 2011