What Your Indoor Cycling Instructor Wishes You Knew

Indoor cycling has been a staple at athletic clubs since the early nineties. Its immense popularity only continues to grow with the rise of boutique fitness gyms and dedicated indoor cycling studios. I found spinning for the first time just two years ago. Searching for an effective way to train for endurance cycling indoors during the poor weather months, friends recommended I take a class at Flywheel Sports. I was hooked instantly on the heart-pumping music and competitive flare. A year later, I taught my first class as a certified indoor cycling instructor.

Combining a low-impact, choreographed workout with careful (and often inspirational) coaching, spinning is a safe and effective way to build cardiovascular endurance and cross train for many sports. I’ve found it surprising, as I continue my journey within the fitness industry, to meet friends and colleagues who avoid spinning. The excuses run the gamut from the cult-like atmosphere that surrounds many boutique studios to the fear of having to wear clip-in cycling shoes and falling awkwardly off of the bike. The truth, however, is that anyone can take a spin class and fall in love with the sport of indoor cycling.

With that in mind, let’s debunk several preconceived misconceptions and look at what your potential spin instructor wishes you knew.

You don’t need to be able to ride a bike to take an indoor cycling class.

Haven’t touched your two-wheeler since middle school? Terrified at the thought of losing your balance and tipping over? Guess what – that’s okay. Truthfully, spinning requires little to no experience in the world of cycling. Most spin bikes are anchored on a sturdy platform, alleviating any fear of tipping. Not interested in using clip-in shoes? Many bikes offer pedals outfitted with shoe cages so you can wear your own sneakers. And as for a bike helmet? Leave that one at home.

The numbers are just a guideline.

RPM. Watts. Output. Resistance. MPH. A quick glance at your bike’s monitor can leave your head spinning. Many instructors use these units of measure to lead their classes, changing the resistance level and RPM, or rotations per minute of your legs, to simulate flat surfaces, blazing sprints or steep, winding climbs.

However, the numbers that instructors shout over the pulse of the bass are guidelines, not rules. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t turn the resistance up to level 11, or if your legs just won’t move as fast as 105 rpm. Every human body is different. Remember, at the end of the class, what is important is that you feel like your best self.

We don’t exclusively ride to the beat of the music.

There are different types of indoor cycling classes to satisfy every type of athlete and every level of fitness. Some instructors choose to let the beat of the music guide their classes while others ignore the rhythm of the music entirely to simulate an outdoor ride. Many choose a combination of both—a healthy dose of what feels like outdoor riding alongside rhythm riding that’s a lot like a dance class. Trying different types of classes and instructors will give you an idea for what you like and what you don’t, so don’t limit yourself to just one studio.

Sit wherever you feel most comfortable.

Sure, sitting in the front of the class when you’re still new might feel intimidating. But if you want to try this perspective, go for it! Sitting up front can provide a better view of the instructor, making it easier to follow along with cues and proper form. However, if you’re someone who prefers the solitude toward the back of the room, don’t hesitate. Some of the best classes involve getting lost in thought, closing your eyes, and losing yourself in the darkness and hum of the bikes.

We’re happy when you ask for help setting up your bike.

Whether you’re a first-timer or spinning enthusiast, we are elated when you ask us to help you adjust your bike setup. Having a proper setup is crucial to preventing injuries. A saddle that is too low or too high can result in knee pain and alignment issues in your legs. Handlebar height can play a key role in preventing a lower back injury. Plus, a proper bike fit ensures you are able to generate maximum power from your pedal strokes.

Don’t be embarrassed by your injuries.

It’s entirely reasonable to opt out of announcing to the entire class that you’re suffering from an injury, are pregnant or are recovering from surgery. However, many cycling instructors continue to encourage their riders to shout out these personal conditions before the start of the first set of hills. An injury is nothing to be embarrassed of and it should not be something you keep from your instructor. Disclosing significant health concerns to your instructor will help them adjust your bike set up and offer modifications to certain areas of your ride. You should feel comfortable speaking to your instructor before the start of class and sharing this information.

Brian Levine is part of the Customer Experience Team at ClassPass in New York City as well as a Schwinn-certified cycling instructor and ACE-certified personal trainer. He’s an amateur triathlete and overall fitness enthusiast who enjoys a cold beer, cheering for the New York Giants and any workout that gives him an excuse to wear spandex pants.