Unspoken Rules of Spinning: Don't Go 'Round Clueless

M.A., Health Writer
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If you find yourself frequently going in circles — your legs anyway — you may be a devotee of indoor cycling. You can't get enough of these energizing low-impact workouts that burn up to 600 calories per session.

When you're with others in close proximity, it's good to know the rules, both written and unwritten. They're interpreted here by two seasoned experts who shared with HealthCentral in a phone interview: Jennifer Sage, Certified Personal Trainer, international fitness presenter and master instructor, and founder of the Indoor Cycling Association, along with Krista Popowych, global director of group education at Keiser, manufacturer of elite indoor bikes.

Here's how to bike indoors with the best of 'em:

Chat outside: "We know there's a social aspect to coming to class and people may want to talk while warming up," Popowych says. Please chat before or after class — to others or on your phone — to respect your instructor's presentation.

She recalls a fellow instructor humorously quipping to a student: "Since you're on your phone, you must be checking GPS to see where you're going!"

"Remember your instructor put time into planning class and putting together your music," says Sage.

Don't be a hero: If you can't go as hard as everyone else, or standing becomes too difficult, or if something feels too hard, it's always OK to back off or to sit out an interval, especially if you are new, says Sage. Go at your own pace.

Share to be fair: “No one has ‘their own bike’ all the time," says Popowych, but some people choose the same spot in every class, which may feel territorial.

"Sometimes it's about being in your comfort zone," she says. "People rush into class, they've got excess frenetic energy, and they may just go to the same, familiar spot to feel more 'secure.'"

Bikes may be used on a first-come, first-served basis. Etiquette rules are typically posted in advance so the instructor doesn't have to play "good cop, bad cop," says Sage.

Keep it real: If you wouldn't do it on a bike outside, don't do it inside, says Sage. That includes lifting weights or doing crunches or push-ups. "Done while pedaling they are ineffective and won't make you faster, stronger, leaner or fitter. They also take away from pedaling, so doing both at once negates both efforts."

It's OK to be "new": The sooner you show up at the club, the more time you'll have to get set up and ask any questions. That can save you potential issues or discomfort because you "didn't know," says Sage.

Do tell your trainer you're new so they'll know not to push you as hard as more seasoned class members. Remember it's a class, not a competition, she says.

Pick your pace: Faster is not better when it comes to exercise efficacy, says Popowych. "Peddling super fast, with no resistance or tension, doesn't provide as effective a workout or burn as many calories as with resistance. To increase your power output, find a challenging balance between velocity and resistance to get the biggest benefit."

“One way you’ll know you don’t have enough resistance is when you bounce in the saddle," says Sage. "This means you’ve lost connection with the drive train."

Dress for cycling success: That gals' cute little midriff outfit or those baggy shorts for guys don't cut it in cycling, so please be practical, Sage says. "Super low-cut bra tops don’t make sense because you're bent over facing the instructor!"

Cotton holds moisture so skip the cotton t-shirt. "Do wear padded cycling shorts or triathlon shorts — always the most comfortable," she says.

Express yourself: You'll pick up on the culture of the club pretty fast, says Sage. "I like it when people are excited to be there."

There is a limit, though. She remembers one rare class altercation in New York City when a male participant shoved another because of that person's obsessive "grunting."

"Silence is good and means people are focused, maybe on that 10-minute climb and then a sprint to celebrate," she says.

Mean clean: Please wear clean clothing and not yesterday's dirty shorts. "If you really heat up, and you will, you are going to smell," says Sage. Be courteous, just as you'd appreciate others doing the same.

Take a moment: Take time to reflect on what you're doing and why, says Popowych. If it's not working, readjust.

"Ask yourself what you need to get out of class, what motivates you and why you keep coming back," she says. "That ensures you make the most of your time."

Watch your clock: Coming late and leaving early isn't polite to anyone, Popowych says. "Sure, you may need to drop off the kids before you come into class, but leave sufficient time to do that." Advise your instructor about any deviations in schedule before they occur, if possible.

Leave it like you found it: That means using a towel to remove dripping sweat from the bike when you're done, Popowych says. It also means returning the settings to a position as requested by the instructor or the studio policy.

Speak up nicely: If you really didn't love your class, and you're being reasonable, please have a quiet chat afterwards, says Popowych. "Maybe the bike wasn't properly set, or you tried to do a standing climb and just didn't get it. We want bums in seats and that includes yours."

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