Spin classes are a fun way to get fit fast.

How to Get Started in Spin

Maybe you’ve heard your friends talk about SoulCycle, Equinox, or their favorite gym spin class, and you’ve wanted to learn more but been afraid to ask. Here’s your primer on spin and how to get started in this fun sport, which is also one of the quickest routes to fitness.

What is Spin?

At its simplest, spin is simply a term for riding a stationary bicycle while an instructor guides you through a routine that mimics an outdoor course. During the course of a spin class you’ll alternate slow and fast speeds, and change the exertion level on your cycle from easy to hard and back again. Most spin classes also add some floor and weight training exercises for building core, arm and shoulder strength. When you walk into a spin class, the first thing you’ll notice is rows of bikes fairly close together facing the front of the room, and loud music. The music is to pep you up, and instructors will talk over it using microphones.

How Do I Choose a Class?

Unless you’re an extremely fit and experienced bike rider, start with a beginning class, since spin requires getting used to, and it can be very discouraging if you feel you’re being left behind. If you have a friend who goes to spin, ask if you can either come along to her class or take the lower level class at her gym.  Take a test class and see if you like the instructor, as this is key to enjoying the class. Look for instructors who are easygoing, sympathetic, and don’t seem too hardcore.

How Do I Use the Bikes?

There is a small bit of technical know-how necessary to operate a stationary bike, but come a few minutes early and ask the teacher to show you and you should be fine. You’ll hear your teacher talk a lot about resistance; this is the setting that changes how much effort it takes to move the pedals. Another term for this is “gear up” – this means increase resistance so that it feels like you’re riding in higher gear. You may hear the teacher talk about “flat road” – this is is the setting on the bike that most closely mimics riding on a flat course, so you will set the bike to give yourself just a bit of resistance but not much. The monitor is the screen that shows you your speed, resistance, and sometimes calories burned and other measures.

Standing and Sitting

While regular cycling is done sitting down for the most part, much of a spin class takes place standing up on the pedals. To stand, shift your weight slighly forward so that it’s over the pedals, or you’ll find yourself falling backwards back onto the seat. If you find standing difficult at first, don’t worry, just sit back down and work your way up to longer intervals.

What Gear Do I Need?

When you walk into spin class, you’ll notice that many participants are wearing cycling shoes, which they clip into the pedals. However, this isn’t necessary; you can get much the same effect by slipping your foot into the “cage” attached to the pedal. Later on, if you find you like spinning you may want to invest in shoes as they improve the workout for your legs and glutes. Some specialized classes such as SoulCycle, use bikes that will only work with spinning shoes, so ask ahead of time to be sure. Some people like to wear cycling pants with padding in the seat and crotch. Other than this, your regular workout gear should be fine, just bring a big water bottle and a towel – spinning will get you thirsty and sweaty.



Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.