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Thoughts on the benefits of Spin Classes...(19 posts)

Thoughts on the benefits of Spin Classes...JBurton
Apr 7, 2002 10:52 AM
Just wondering what people thought of the validity of using spin classes as part of a cyclists training regimen.

I've done a couple of these and they seem to be glorified aerobics classes without many applicable benefits to true cycling training. For one thing, the "interval" training in the spin class I have attended, doesn't allow proper recovery time. They just seem to ramp up as the class goes, ending with full effort and a short cool down. The intervals are timed to the music and the recovery time is equal to the interval time. In addition, there are too many of them in the hour of the class...usually four or five sprint intervals (or similar) in the space of one song (five minutes).

On the other hand, the classes are a great break from a trainer on rainy or cold days. I can't use my bike and trainer at this gym, but I can bring my pedals. The bikes are pretty adjustable, but unfortunately don't offer realistic resistance. However, just the fact that it gets me on the bike for an hour on a day when I might have skipped might be beneficial.

The other thing that makes me wary is that the instructor is not a cyclist. She is an aerobics instructor. The workouts are just not cycling specific at all, other than that they are done on a bike.

Any thoughts?
re: Thoughts on the benefits of Spin Classes...jtolleson
Apr 7, 2002 12:15 PM
It varies a LOT with the instructor. If you get away from the bouncy aerobics types, you can get a workout with good pedal stroke reminders, appropriate interval training, and some pretty cycling-specific exertion. I'm actually a pretty big fan, but I pick the classes I attend by who teaches, rather than what fits my schedule best.

You can bring your own pedals (most spin bikes have an SPD options already) and saddle... our club offers a racing saddle on some of the bikes. And the setup certainly more closely approximates a road bike than the Lifecycles, etc. of old.
re: Thoughts on the benefits of Spin Classes...riney
Apr 7, 2002 1:55 PM
I used these classes over the winter much to my advantage. I find it hard to motivate myself to ride a home trainer and my downstairs neghibors dont really appreciate it. There are some things I have discovered though to make your work out more valuable.

Be very selective of the instructor. Find one that has cycling experience OR will allow you the flexibility to do your own workout. I cringe sometimes watching an inexperienced teacher bounce around on the bike like a hula doll dash board ornament. But remember not everyone is as serious about the bike as you. I will vary my intervals in length and intensity to more closely match what I would do outside. Find other cyclists in the class and ride next to them. You will find yourself less distracted by non-riders and can even play off each other in a little friendly competition. Since these machines are almost like fixed gear bikes in that they wont allow you to freewheel, use them to work on your pedal stroke. One of my favorite things to do is raise the bar high enough to lean on like an aero set, push the saddle forward, hunker over into a TT position and push a solid 60 mins at 80-100 rpms concentrating on a round fluid pedal stroke, controlled breathing, and working within my HR zones. This exercise has benifited both my TT skills and long solo break ability.

Finally use them to really work your target heart rate zones. Since there are no real variables like on the raod you can focus and stay right where you want to be.

I have used it to improve my out of saddle standing climb endurance and learned how to keep my self from peaking or blowing up as soon as I rise up.

I would love for these to be equipped w/power meters to but hey, you cant have it all.

Spin classes can be very useful tools as long as you can have the flexibility to do your own program and can avoid the distractions of bad instructors. For a longer work out try handing around and doing two classes back to back.
Out of the Saddle...and teaching a class...JBurton
Apr 7, 2002 2:32 PM
You're right about the out of the saddle endurance. Since these are much like fixed gear bikes, my standing cadence has increased and smoothed out greatly. It is no longer a chore to stand when I am actually on the bike. The classes at my local gym are very small...there are only twelve bikes and they are always full. But there are no cyclists who teach classes. In fact, I think I am the only cyclist who works out at this gym. I thought about teaching one myself, but am afraid that I don't have the know-how.

Does anyone have a suggestion about how to get into teaching one of these; and what is required of spin instructors?
Out of the Saddle...and teaching a class...Spinchick
Apr 7, 2002 3:16 PM
Talk to your gym about who certifies their instructors. I'm certified in group fitness training through ACE (American Council on Exercise). I can't recall if they certify for spin or not. Basically, you attend a training (basic anatomy and physiology, injury prevention, h/r training, etc.) then test. You pass the test, your certified.
ACE Cycling cert.theBreeze
Apr 7, 2002 3:49 PM
ACE offers a Specialty Training Certificate in Group Indoor Cycling. I'm not sure if you must be ACE certified as a Group Fitness Instructor first, all my staff already is. You can get the certificate by taking a class, usually at least 15 hours, from someone whose cycling training program has been recognized by ACE. (ACE Academy approved instructors). There is an excellent one based in Albuquerque NM. I don't know how often she travels but I can put people in touch with her. Otherwise contact ACE about what cycling training programs are approved.

I agree that how "authentic" a cycling class is depends on the focus and experience of the instructor. Regarding intervals, unfortunatly not enough people get the theory behind doing intervals, allowing adequate recovery time etc. One of the worst violators on my staff is a fairly experienced cyclist. Somehow her participants have gotten the idea that unless they are wrung out at the end of class, it hasn't been a "good" class. But many of them start to come around once they attend a class by another instructor.

I've said it here before; group cycling can be a good addition to a cyclist's training (witness the comments about standing out of the saddle), and can keep you areobically fit during the off season, but it will never mimic or replace putting in those miles on the road!
ACE Cycling cert.JBurton
Apr 7, 2002 7:26 PM
If you don't mind putting me in touch with her, that would be great. I think that there are quite a few people at my local gym who would appreciate a different philosophy than "Ride till you can't stand" in a spin class, cyclists or not. It is quite forbidding, for instance to people with knee injuries or a poor base, and for people who are just starting out. Heck, the first time I did the class, I couldn't do most of what she wanted. I've been riding for three years! Granted it was just a matter of learning the method (that sit/stand/sit/stand thing to the quarter notes of the music is not only hard and completely irrelevant to cycling, but could be dangerous, in my opinion) and getting the proper coordination. But to beginners who haven't been on a bike since gradeschool, their first class is usually their last.

Jim Burton

I would appreciate any info you might give me.
Spinning Cert.agilis ti
Apr 8, 2002 9:18 AM
Spinning as defined as the copywrited Johnny G is a seperate certification than others. As an instructor I can say that Johnny G has a very structured list of dos and donts. Only those that have been certified w/ Johnny G can teach one of his coursed legally. Wether the gym abides by that or not is up to them but if caught they will loose their cert. This only applies to those who teach Johnny G authorized spinning classes, not reebok or others.
Spinning Cert.theBreeze
Apr 8, 2002 3:39 PM
A class/club can only use and advertise the "Spinning" name if they pony up the bucks to Johnny G. Otherwise classes are called "group indoor cycling" or "studio cycling". There is no copyright on what you can DO on the bike. I'm not going to get into the relative merits of diferrent certifications. A loaded topic that one.

"Spinn" is becoming a generic reference, kind of like "Kleenex." But we still don't use it.
re: Thoughts on the benefits of Spin Classes...Vegas Joe
Apr 7, 2002 1:55 PM
I feel that I have become a stronger cyclist through spin classes. However it's true; it really depends on the instructor. There are very few instructors that have a cycling background. The key is to keep your cadence up with the added pressure (during interval work) during spin class. When the class slows down, I try and keep my cadence up, work on my pedal stroke and keep my heart rate up to a solid level. If you can't find a good class, try spinervals.
re: Thoughts on the benefits of Spin Classes...Spinchick
Apr 7, 2002 1:57 PM
The instructor makes all the difference in the world. I've taken the "glorified aerobics" classes and essentially ended up ignoring the cues of the non-cyclist instructor and doing my own workout. We do have one instructor who is an avid cyclist who teaches a great class. I'm hoping he'll teach more often this fall since that's what I'll be able to fit into my schedule.

It's hard to sit by and watch as the instructors shout out directions to keep cranking up the resistance. I keep thinking about these unsuspecting people who will end up with knee injuries or worse.

Like you said, if it gets you on the bike when you might not otherwise, it's a great workout. You can ignore the cues and do your own thing.
greatly improved my cadenceterry b
Apr 7, 2002 3:45 PM
Used to be a masher, now I'm a spinner, due mainly to spending lots of time spinning at a high cadence with no hills, wind, cars, stop signs. I suppose I could've achieved that with rollers, but I don't have them nor the interest in learning to ride them. As far as the instructor goes, I just spin the way I want to spin (sometimes clearing that ahead of time,) not worrying about what the others are thinking. It's your money and time after all.
re: Thoughts on the benefits of Spin Classes...p chop
Apr 7, 2002 7:25 PM
Two summers ago I rode Maine to Oregegon while my wife (then-girlfriend) took spinning classes all summer. The week I got back, she took me to spinning and kicked my *ss all over the room. What a laugh we had.
re: Thoughts on the benefits of Spin Classes...Velocipedio
Apr 8, 2002 4:14 AM
I was lucky in that the classes I took were given by L'Academie Cycliste du Quebec []. The instructors are all competitive cyclists and most of the people taking the classes are cyclists too. In addition to music, the classes have big-screen video of the Tour and Giro.

Aside from finding the classes quite challenging aerobically -- a couple of times, my HR peaked at 98% -- I found the routines to be useful for sprint, leg-speed and muscle training. The instructors generally made a point of explaining the rationale for each move.

On the whole, I found the instructors quite effective, oparticularly one named Annik, who was utterly sadistic and rarely smiled.

It's hard to say what the specific benefits are, but I managed to stay fit through the winter and I didn't lose too much of my cycling condition. My first road ride this season was 85 km at 26 km/h, so I must have been in pretty good shape. I've also noticed that my climbing has improved. At this time of year I think I'm about where I would have been in early June.
re: Thoughts on the benefits of spinningdzrider
Apr 8, 2002 4:52 AM
I've done spinning once at a health club and many times in the back room of and lbs. The health club class was not that useful in that it related poorly to my experience of cycling on the road. The intervals were very short; all of them one minute or less. Since my increased effort on the bike comes from hills not sprints, one minute is not enough to simulate climbing, even in Connecticut where there are no real mountains.

The routines at the shop were designed for cyclists. They last about 90 minutes and have longer intervals, up to 5 minutes, in the harder gears. The shop owner has them in a 3 ring binder, so they may be available elsewher. We bring our own bikes and rollers or stands which I prefered to the spinners. The 15 minute warm-up and cool down give a chance to do one-footed riding and other rituals that I find help my spin.
Johnny G Spinner hereTroyboy
Apr 8, 2002 7:01 AM
I am the only rider and/or racer that I know of that teaches Spin. I am certified by Johnn G Spinning. He is the one who developed the entire *sport* if you wish to call it that. He designed the bikes, the program, etc. He did this because he was a RAAMer that just had kids and wifee didn't want him out on the bike for 10 hours per day every day.

I try to separate myself from all other instructors by doing many things including educating the attendees as to what is going on so that all may make better decisions about how to go about gaining effective training in the Spin room. I also annualize my zone training to equate to my annual racing training program. It works well for all.

In my opinion a combination of students and teachers with limited to no knowledge about exercise physiology leads to classes of 90-95% exertion intervals day in, day out. For those whose only exercise is two Spin classes a week and who only care about how many calories are burnt, I suppose that's ok. For most, it's not entirely effective training.

I have become a stronger rider and racer due in part to my teaching.
you may not know of anyColnagoFE
Apr 8, 2002 9:01 AM
but there are a number of cyclists/racers that teach Spinning--myself being you know one at least! :)
Exactly! Now I know one.Troyboy
Apr 8, 2002 9:10 AM
and I second your comments too. No one would attend my favorite class. 2 hours in saddle, staring at the HRM and keeping it basically dead on 150 or 155 or so utilizing maximum exertion while keeping HR down at that level.

Take it easy!
depends on the instructor--plus classes are mixedColnagoFE
Apr 8, 2002 8:56 AM
On the interval thing. I teach Spin classes and most people would be BORED TO DEATH if I did sprints with any more than a 1:1 ratio of recovery to work. Most people taking the spin class are not cyclists nor do they care about training for racing though there are a few. It's a compromise. If you did real 1:3 intervals you'd lose half your class because most of them are nowhere near working hard enough to need that much recovery. Now if you did TRUE sprints at 100% effort then you would need more recovery. You can always skip an interval and recover more if you need to anyway. Take the class into your own hands. I have people rehabbing and training for specific things that come up and tell me what they want out of class and that they might not be following along with what the class prob by me but it is nice to know that they aren't just being an a$$ and have a real purpose behind what they are doing. What kind of bikes did you use? I use the JG SPinners and they offer great and fairly realistic resistance IMHO. Also they are "fixed gear" so they help your spin. I find that Spinning helps my power more than anything--especially for mountain biking.