The Scoop on Spinning

All the info you need to know about spinning: the what, the why and tips on getting the best workout

Spinning was created by world-class cyclist "Jonny G." Goldberg as a convenient and quick way to train for races. In 1989, he and John Baudhuin opened the first spinning center in Santa Monica, California and then developed a program to certify other spinning instructors. Curious to know about this spinning thing? The following info will help you decide if it's for you:

What is it? Spinning is an aerobic exercise that takes place on a specially designed stationary bicycle called (obviously enough) a spinning bike. As you pedal, motivating music plays and the instructor talks you through a visualization of an outdoor cycling workout: "You're going up a long hill now, you can't see the top yet.…" During the class you vary your pace -- sometimes pedaling as fast as you can, other times cranking up the tension and pedaling slowly from a standing position. This helps you to focus inwardly and work on your mind as well as your body.

Why we love it: Spinning burns serious calories (about 450 in 45 minutes) and offers an awesome aerobic workout that makes your heart pump fast. It also tones your quadriceps (front thigh muscles) and outer thigh muscles like nobody's business! Because you stay in one place with the same basic movement throughout, Spinning doesn't involve a lot of coordination; it's easier to concentrate on your form than in other types of aerobic classes. And although you follow the general instructions of the spinning teacher, you are in control when it comes to your pace. You can finish a spin class, regardless of your fitness level, simply by adjusting your pace or the tension knob on the bike.

Drawbacks: Spinning does not work all leg muscles equally, so if you spin without doing some cross training activities, you may develop muscle imbalances. Spinning every day can also be too much of a good thing -- real spin enthusiasts have to watch out for overuse injuries in their knees, hips and lower backs. If spinning is your main source of exercise, we recommend doing some resistance training workouts that include hamstring (back of thigh), buttock and inner thigh exercises.

Equipment Needed: Other than the bike, here's what you need for a safe, comfortable ride:

  • A stiff-soled shoe with good ventilation. (Running and aerobic shoes, which are soft-soled, may leave your feet numb by the end of the class.)
  • Two towels, one for wiping away sweat and one for draping over the handlebars so your hands won't slide out of position.
  • A full water bottle, because you're definitely going to sweat. Most spinning bikes are equipped with a water bottle cage so you can place your H2O within easy reach.

Insider information: Riding with an incorrect seat setting can also lead to injury. Set your seat height so your knee is slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Set the handlebars so that they are level with the seat. When you lean forward and place your hands on the bars, there should be a slight bend at your elbows.

Hot Tip: Arrive five minutes early for your first class so your instructor can answer any questions and help you with bike adjustments. Make sure you let her know about any injuries that you have so she can help you modify some of the moves. During class, be sure to let your instructor know if you are having trouble with the resistance knob or the general technique. If the class is too intense, just pedal more slowly or take the tension down.

 

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