Truth be told, I don’t remember walking into my first cycling class. It was back in 2004 and I was living in Chicago. My husband and I just delved into triathlon racing when a friend suggested I try “Spinning”, a new class at my local gym. What I do remember is the feeling I had on my first ride—legs pumping, music thumping, breath working, and a bead of sweat rolled off my nose and hit the bike. I should have known then that I would be hooked when my thought was “This is AWESOME!”
Well, 18 or so years later, 13 of them teaching, I can say that I am still hooked. I love the energy, the flow, and the camaraderie of a cycling class. It is accessible for all fitness levels and all abilities. There are so many benefits to cycling from building muscle to increased cardio capacity to an awesome calorie burn (400-600 calories an hour). It is low impact, great for less wear and tear on the joints, and it can have a stress-reducing effect on the body. Cycling is something that everyone can be enjoying! But I can appreciate that walking into the unknown of your first cycling class, into that dark and mysterious space, can be nerve-wracking. No worries…I am here to give you some tips to alleviate those concerns and get you pedaling!
What Should You Bring?
You don’t need any special equipment. Just wear some stiff soled sneakers (try to stay away from “fashionable” bendy sneakers), a water bottle, and a towel. Wear the proper clothing—pants shouldn’t be too loose and moisture wicking tops are a must!
You instructor will be available before class to get beginners set up. Honestly it my favorite time with a beginner to alleviate their fears and let them know they can do it! Your certified instructor is trained to know how to set up the bike just right for your body. Your instructor will also give you an introduction on the technology we use in the class—it is pretty easy to follow once you know what you are looking at. One of the great classes Hancock Wellness McCordsville offers is a beginner cycling class with dedicated time for getting beginners set up properly.
Start to Pedal
When you first start pedaling, have a nice light resistance level on the bike, something that feels like riding through a little sand. The resistance level and speed are what controls the intensity of the ride: more resistance is like moving up a hill. Start to feel as though your legs and feet are moving in a circle. Riders do have to work to learn this skill and it isn’t like saying “just like riding a bike.” You need to be intentional in the movement of the pedals. Don’t worry though, this is another area where your instructor will lead you to the correct form.
Dark is Great!
Just as a class is about to begin, the instructor may turn out the lights. This is a good thing! Although it is a great workout and you will be motivated by others around you, getting into your groove and not worrying about who is around you really helps your ride. Low light really helps with this!
Now What Happens??
For the class duration, your instructor will lead you through a series of different skills. You will fly in flat roads, slow down for muscly hills, and you might even take a jog or run on the bike. Don’t worry if it feels a little confusing in your first ride. Try to follow what the right “cadence” or speed of your legs you should be. It won’t be long before it will feel routine!
Take a Break…but not too light on that resistance!!
One of the best things about cycling is that you can go at your own pace—you can take the time to build your strength and stamina. If you need a breather, try just sitting up on the bike and slowing down. But leave the resistance on!!! One of the common errors beginners make is they don’t put on enough resistance and then they have to fight the upstroke of the peddle. Riders should always feel in control of their peddles—you are pushing them, not the other way around.
The music in a spin class is pumping! It is loud and energetic, perfectly chosen to get you going. But in your first few classes, try not to get carried away. You can go at your own pace and your instructor will offer ways for riders to make the class easier or harder depending on their level. For example, if the class is doing sprints and picking up speed on the bike for a short duration, you can shorten the interval, giving yourself more rest in between, or even skip it all together.
A Few Last Tips
Leave your phone in the locker room—no one wants to the see the glare of your latest text in a dark class. No chatting—we know your best friend brought you, but you talk a lot louder than you think over the music. Other riders won’t judge you for how you ride, but they will for your etiquette
Finally, Come Back!!!
One of the saddest things someone can tell me is that have taken ONLY ONE cycling class in their life. You will not master the ride in 30 minutes; you won’t get fitter on your first day, and you will probably only understand about half of what the instructor says. I have been told it sounds like I am speaking a foreign language…but 3-5 rides, and you will get the rhythm. Even if you aren’t sure that a cycle class is for you, try it again…the difference between ride one and two can be huge! I know not everyone will have the same reaction to their first class that I did, but I do know that cycling is for Every Body!
Can’t wait to see you on the bike!
Greta Wilson, Group Exercise Instructor
Hancock Wellness Center – McCordsville