15 Tips to Have a Successful First Cycling Class

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If you’re considering taking a spin class for the first time, you may be intimidated thinking about what you can expect from participating in one of these classes.

It may seem like spinning is an exclusive club, full of super fit people who all know each other and all know the ropes.

But don’t worry! Spinning is a fun experience that also makes for an excellent workout, whether you’re a beginner or a fitness professional.

Spin classes simply involve mounting a stationary bike that you will pedal while following an instructor’s directions who will guide you through an intense workout.

With the help of fitness experts and real spin class instructors, I have compiled 15 of the most important things you will need to know before going to your first spin class.

During your first spin class, cycling instructors agree: Take it easy. Don’t try to keep up with the instructor or advanced class members right out of the gate. Keep the resistance low, mind your form, and try to learn how the class works and how your body responds to the workout. You can kick the intensity up a notch at your second, third, and fourth classes!

Let’s take a closer look at how to prepare for a cycling class and how to make sure you’ll want to come back again and again.


1. Don’t Burn Yourself Out Early On

Spin classes are a marathon, not a sprint.

Pace yourself early on, and don’t try to keep up with the more experienced students in the class if you cannot handle it.

Many beginners will push themselves to go as fast as possible, and within 10-minutes, they are already exhausted with 35-minutes to go!

While you should still push yourself during the class, keep a pace that you can sustain for a more extended period.

Everyone has started at some point, so don’t worry about going slower than the others.

After you have attended a few spin classes, you will notice you can start going quicker and keeping up with the instructor easier.


2. Dress for Success

To get the best out of your first spin class, you need to dress the part.

Wear clothing with moisture-wicking material that is breathable but also isn’t too baggy.

Try to stay away from wearing cotton clothing because it tends to hold water, and you will have difficulty regulating your temperature during class.

For general riding of a stationary bike, wear a stiff shoe without too much flexibility or a shoe meant for spinning — here are the best shoes for a stationary bike.

If your spin class requires cycling shoes, which most do, they will provide you with the shoes that can clip onto the pedals of the bike — sometimes for an additional fee of a few dollars per class.


3. Show Up Early

When I asked Marisa Michael, M.Sc, RDN, and CSSD — and the author of Bike Shorts: Your Complete Guide to Indoor Cycling — how to have the best first spin class experience possible, she said:

“To have a great class, you need to come about 10 minutes early. Introduce yourself to the instructor, say you’re new and ask for a bike fit.”

Even if you are experienced in taking spin classes, you should still arrive at least 10-minutes before the class starts.

It is even more important to arrive early if it’s your first time taking a spin class. Showing up early will allow you to introduce yourself to the instructor and have them help you set up your bike.

With this added time, you will not feel rushed and will have the opportunity to find the perfect spot to clearly see the instructor and pick a bike that you will use for the next 45-minutes.

Once you have your bike set up correctly, you can chat with the members around you and get comfortable before the intense workout begins.


4. Bring Water and a Towel

Towels are an essential piece to bring with you to your first spin class.

These workouts are no joke, and you will be sweating a lot during the class!

If you don’t have a small towel to bring along with you, the studio will often offer small towels if you need them.

Along with bringing a towel, bring a large water bottle that you can keep close.

Spin class will likely be more challenging than you would expect, so bring more water than you think you will need. Take small sips of water throughout the class to keep yourself hydrated and prevent any cramping.


5. Have a Small Meal Beforehand

Before going to your first spin class, have a small meal to give you that extra boost of energy you need for your workout.

It is a good idea to strike a balance between eating a large meal that makes you feel sluggish and a meal too small that you feel lethargic during the class.

Some of the best foods you can eat before your first spin class is:

  • Fruit: bananas, apples, mangoes, or pears are a good choice due to their rich source of carbohydrates.
  • Oatmeal: a bowl of oatmeal is definitely enough to get you through your class. Oatmeals slow-releasing carbohydrates are ideal for fueling you throughout your workout.
  • Pasta: a small bowl of pasta mixed with vegetables makes an excellent pre-workout meal to keep you energized.
  • Yogurt: before a workout, regular yogurt is a better choice compared to Greek yogurt because Greek yogurt is mainly protein. You need a little bit of carbs to keep your energy levels elevated.
  • Cereal: avoid the sugary cereals and stick to a whole-grain cereal.

Eat your small meal anywhere from an hour to two hours before your spin class begins.

You want the food to settle and not cause a stomach cramp in the middle of class. Along with eating a small meal, drink plenty of water, and stay hydrated before class.


6. Listen to Your Body

Happy people sweating in spin cycling class
Photo courtesy of www.localfitness.com.au

When I asked fitness expert Sarah Pelc Garca, Founder of Strong with Sarah, what the most important tip she had for people going to spin class for the first time, she said:

“Listen to your instructor and use them as a guide, but you also need to listen to your body and do what is best for you knowing your own fitness level.”

Knowing your limits and listening to your body is an integral part of having a successful first spin class.

If you think you need to take a break during the class, there is no shame in taking a short break while you recoup and then get back into the class.

Utilize “flat road” breaks to cool-down slightly while you pedal at your own pace.

A spin class shouldn’t feel like a competitive sport and you should be in control of your workout. You still should be getting a great workout, but not to the point where you are in danger of injuring yourself.


7. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Everyone has been a beginner at some point, so there is nothing wrong with asking the instructor to help you during your first spin class.

Whether it is helping you set up your bike correctly or telling you what to expect during the class, spin instructors are always happy to help.

However, it’s best to show up a little bit early so you can ask your instructor for help before the class begins.

The music will be loud, and the instructor most likely will not be able to hear you if you need help with something during the class.


8. Be Mindful of Your Posture

Your natural reaction at your first spin class is to lean over onto the handlebars while you are tired and pedaling away.

A hunched posture can severely strain your lower back and could potentially lead to serious injury down the road.

That’s why you must keep your back’s posture straight throughout your spin class and be aware if you find yourself starting to hunch over.

There are few ways to ensure that you are keeping your back straight, and the first is in the bike setup.

Adjust the handlebars’ height so they are tall enough that your back can remain elongated and upright while you are pedaling.

Adjusting the length between the handlebars and saddle is also crucial to remember, so you are not lunging too far forward and straining your back.

Once your bike is set up, now all that is left to do is keeping your core engaged and focusing on retaining a straight back.

Focusing on your posture is easier said than done, but once you attend more spin classes keeping a straight posture will become second-nature.


9. Carefully Choose Your Instructor

Just like any other group fitness class you can attend, not all instructors will be the same, and in some cases, the instructor can make-or-break your first experience.

This is why you should not get your only impressions of spin class from attending one class.

A great spin class instructor is always welcoming to new students and will be happy to help you get set up before class is started.

Each instructor has their style, and this is reflective in all aspects of the class, from the music choice to their motivational style for the students.

Before you decide on a particular instructor, do some detective work, and see what other people have said about attending their classes online in reviews.

Decide which instructor you think best reflects your learning and motivation styles.


10. Get Familiar with the Terminology

Your instructor will use some terminology that may seem foreign to you as a beginner during your spin class.

However, you shouldn’t worry because these terms are simple to remember and, in most cases, will be self-explanatory.

Here are some standard terms that you will hear during a spin class:

Saddle: The saddle of your spin class bike is the seat.

RPM: Revolutions per minute. RPM is a crucial measurement that you will utilize during class to determine how fast your instructor wants you to pedal.

Gear/Tension/Resistance: Typically controlled by a lever or knob, this determines the difficulty of pedaling on your bike.

First Position: Place both hands parallel on the vertical handlebars located in the center of the bike.

Second Position: Place both hands on the horizontal handles of the bike closest to your body.

Third Position: Place both hands on the very end of the handlebars. In most cases, this will be during a portion of the class where you are not sitting.

Flat Terrain: Pedaling your bike while seated.

Hill Terrain: Pedaling your bike while in a standing position.

These are all of the basic terms you may hear during your first spin class. If you get confused about what a specific term means, take a glance at the class instructor and follow their lead.

(For more, check out the names of the parts of a spin bike ahead of time!)


11. Utilize the Resistance Knob

There will be a knob or lever on each bike that you can adjust to increase or decrease the amount of resistance there is while you are pedaling.

This resistance knob will be used throughout the class with your instructor telling you to increase or decrease the resistance levels during each segment of the workout.

If you find yourself slowing down and unable to keep up with the rest of the class, lower the resistance to pick up the pace.

If you find yourself with the opposite issue and are pedaling with ease, turn up the resistance levels.

Be sure to utilize this feature on your spin bike. Many people will use the same resistance as the person who used the bike before them.

Without personalizing your bike’s resistance levels, you could potentially be hindering your progress during the workout.


12. Leave Your Phone in The Locker Room

Your spin class should be a place free from any external distractions and gives you a chance to escape from the outside world just for a moment.

For both you and the other students, keep your phone in the locker room before entering the class.

Your phone can become a major distraction in the dark environment with the bright screen’s glow during the spin class and affect other people’s focus.

If you need to keep your phone with you, set it to silent and keep the brightness at the lowest possible setting.


13. Buy Padded Riding Shorts

According to Brandi Stewart, Group Fitness and Spin Instructor:

“The most challenging part of trying spin is the discomfort of the saddle, which typically goes away after coming to class for two weeks. Thankfully, padded cycle shorts or a portable saddle cover is always available to help with this.”

While not necessary, padded riding shorts are a good idea for new riders who are not used to sitting on a saddle.

In the beginning stages of your spin class career, you will have some growing pains as your body adapts to the new workout routine.

The padded riding shorts will provide some added comfort that definitely will prevent soreness the next day.

If you aren’t looking to dive-in and purchase padded shorts before your first class, a regular pair of shorts or leggings is completely fine.


14. Stretch and Hydrate Afterwards

You may have the urge to rush out of the door once the class has finished, but your body will soon realize this is a big mistake.

Spin classes are very high-intensity exercise, and to aid in a faster recovery—it’s always beneficial to loosen your muscles before leaving the studio or gym.

After your class, take some time to do a short cool-down routine with some simple static stretches while drinking plenty of water in the process.

Focus on stretching the muscles most affected and the tightest from the class. Typically, the areas that need the most attention are the lower back, hips, and thighs.


15. Come Back for a Second Class!

Whether you had a good or bad experience at your first spin class, it is always a great idea to come back for a second class before you make up your mind entirely.

Brushing off those initial nerves and coming back knowing what to expect will give yourself a whole new perspective and will allow you to immerse yourself in the experience.

With you no longer being self-conscious and worried about what will be next in the class, you can let loose and just have fun.

Return for a second class relatively soon after your first. Going to your second spin class within a week gives your body the chance to continue to adapt to the strenuous workout and reduce the soreness you feel after each class.

If you become a regular at your local indoor spinning class, you can expect to see some remarkable results.


Wrapping Up

Attending a spin class can make for an intense and rewarding workout.

The music will be pumping, the energy in the room will be awesome, and you will walk out of the class feeling fantastic.

It can be intimidating thinking about going to your very first spin class, but you will quickly pick up all of the things you need to know and become one of the experienced members in no time.

Just remember, the instructors are always willing to help if you have any questions, and as cliche as it might sound—the most important thing you can do is enjoy yourself and just have fun in the class.

Before you go, check out another one of my favorite beginner guides: How to crush your first day at the gym.

Hope this helps!

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