Spin 101: How to Get the Most Out of Your First Class

In 1989, the body conscious of Santa Monica flocked to Johnny G’s Spin—the first indoor cycling center of its kind—to burn calories and get fit. Johnny Goldberg, an endurance cycler who founded the gym, had once had a close call with a car while riding his bike on the street, inspiring him to take cycling indoors.

Thus, spinning on a stationary bike was born.

Two decades later, spinners all over the world are cycling to pumped-up background music, taking part in routines that simulate hill climbs, jumps and downhill sprinting. Everyone leaves the class with their quads shaking and heart pumping.

You’d be hard pressed to find a gym in the United States that doesn’t offer spin classes these days. In fact, it has become a staple of modern fitness, standing the test of time in a world of short-lived fitness fads.

Curious what the big deal is? Read on to learn how you can get the most out of your first spin class.

Class Format

Spin classes happen in studios jam-packed with rows of stationary bikes. Almost all follow a similar formula:

  1. Set Up
  2. Warm Up
  3. Intervals
  4. Cool Down

The Set Up

At the beginning of the class, your spin instructor will work with you to set your bike to your height and frame. They’ll help you set your seat height, your distance from the handlebars, and how to tighten your foot pedals. After that, you’re off to the races!

Focus: Comfort and alignment. Make sure you feel settled in your positioning.

The Warm Up

The purpose of the warm up is to gradually get your muscles warmed up and flexible. This helps protect you from strain as the workout gets more rigorous. It’s also a good time to get your heart rate to ”working level.”

Focus: Warm up your body. Make sure you breathe easy and relax.

The Intervals

This is where the real work happens. The bulk of most spin classes is a mixture of something called “intervals”—bursts of energetic cycling at high intensity, mixed in with heavy weighted climbs and extended periods of endurance. Basically, you get the best of both worlds: muscle-based strength and cardio-based endurance.

You’ll also have access to a dial that will help you control the intensity of your workout. As every spin instructor will tell you, “This is your workout. You do you.”

Focus: Channel your energy into the workout. Do the work. Sweat. Keep breathing. 

The Cool Down

The hard part is over! At this point in your routine, your instructor will help you settle into an easy, lightweight ride while your heart rate comes down and your breathing slows. This usually lasts for something like 3-5 minutes. Once you’ve slowed down, you’ll have a chance to stretch your calves, your quads and your hips.

Focus: Ease off and cool your body down. Focus on breathing deeply and don’t forget to stretch out.

Spin 101 Care2

Why Spin is Such a Hit

There’s a reason spinning has been so popular for so long: it’s familiar. In an age where group fitness classes are getting more and more specialty—more and more complex—riding a bike feels like something anyone can do.

And yet, it’s still productive! Spin classes activate both fast twitch and slow twitch muscles, ensuring you grow in both strength and endurance (and burn a ton of calories) each time you attend. Plus, it’s a whole body workout, so nothing gets left out.

How to Get the Most Out of Your First Class

1. Wear fitted clothing you can sweat in.

Because you’ll be standing up on your bike and riding for long periods of time, make sure you’re wearing fitted clothing that won’t catch on anything. Also make sure it can breathe…you’ll be sweating.

2. Make sure you’re secure in your bike.

When you’re standing up climbing or doing sprints it can be difficult to stay in control. Make sure the straps on your feet are secure and that you are focused on staying balanced, even while doing high intensity intervals. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it!

3. Start slow.

Spinning is intense. Really intense. So start slow and ease into it if you’re attending for the first time. You want to get a great workout, but it’s important that you don’t burn out too fast. Over time you’ll get stronger, and before you know it you’ll be able to go full throttle!

Have you tried spinning? What did you think?

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joan silaco
joan s1 months ago


Patrice Z
Patrice Z2 months ago


W. C
W. C2 months ago

Thank you.

William C
William C2 months ago


Patricia D
Patricia D2 months ago

Makes my knees ache just thinking about it!

Sue M
Sue M2 months ago

I didn't realise that this was called spinning lol

JT Smith
JT Smith2 months ago

I think I'll stick with riding a proper bicycle. That way I can actually get omewhere without having to pay to go nowhere.

JT Smith
JT Smith2 months ago

Spinning always makes me dizzy.

Richard A
Richard A2 months ago

Thank you for this article.

Peggy B
Peggy B3 months ago