A low impact, high intensity form of exercise, spinning takes place atop a specialized stationary bicycle. This type of bike consists of three or more position changes and varying amounts of resistance, which are all controlled by the rider.
“Spinning is a great form of cardiovascular exercise as well as a strength workout,” says Dan Timm, personal trainer, certified spin instructor and athletic director/ops director at Area Spa & Club. “It can burn up to 600 calories in a one-hour class, and it has little impact on the skeletal structure, which makes it a great form of exercise for all populations.”
Train Through the Off-Season
Timm believes spinning is an ideal way to train during the cycling season as well as in the off season.
“It increases leg speed, cycling stamina, leg and core strength. Interval training is great cardiovascular conditioning, and interval training on a spin bike is easier than on the road, due to weather, traffic, conditions and terrain,” he says.When winter hits, mountain bikers don’t have to give up riding just because the weather turns nasty. Spinning can help cyclists improve their power, cadence and pedal technique in the off-season just by continuing to ride a bike.
“Muscle has memory, so consistency is key,” says Justin Fuchs, certified spin instructor and owner of South Shore Bicycle and Fitness.
In fact, it only takes three to four weeks of no training to drastically affect a person's overall stamina and fitness levels, says Jason Bressler, personal trainer, certified spin instructor and owner at Revolution Spin in Evanston, Illinois.
Maintain Your Strength
In certain areas, cycling in the fall and winter months can be outright miserable, and hooking a road bike up to a stationary rider will not give you close to the same type of benefit in stamina, speed and endurance that a properly-taught and executed spin class will.
“It's of critical importance to not lose all the work that's been done in the warmer weather months by stopping the training program because the weather is bad,” advises Bressler.
Cyclists who do a lot of riding in warmer weather can end up taking a step backwards because they’re off the bike all winter. A spin class can be used to complement their outdoor rides and maintain their strength. This will allow them to avoid the agony (trust me) of re-introducing their bodies to cycling when spring hits.
Stay In Control
The intensity of a spinning workout can be adjusted through cadence (the speed at which one pedals), resistance (the amount of friction placed on the freewheel by the control dial) and effort (how hard one decides to work).
“Cyclists are in control of the amount of resistance on their bike’s freewheel, which allows them to have complete control over the amount of effort exerted,” says Timm.
Sure, the instructor dictates the course, target heart rate, target cadence, resistance, music and positioning, but it’s up to the end user to push themselves.
Bressler notes that spin is a very personal form of exercise where the rider controls their resistance using a resistance knob on the front of the bike.
“You can quickly simulate climbing a hill, or riding on a flat road and anything in between. You can also ‘climb’ out of the saddle for a full body exercise that works the shoulders, pectorals, triceps and abdominal muscles,” he explains.
Break Through Barriers
Bressler says a good spin instructor will consistently motivate his or her class to push for more to break through barriers.
“The instructor will push for a specific level of exertion. For example, sprints on a ‘flat road’ versus hills or jumps, as well as guide riders as to where their resistance should be. A good instructor will also give the rider examples of how their ride should feel. For example, a teacher might compare a heavy resistance to a feeling of running through wet sand.”
While certain classes allow for an easier ride, others require that you sprint in different intervals. Ultimately, as all instructors mentioned, the rider is in full control.