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The spin on spinning

Sarah Kelsey is a lifestyle writer, editor and spokesperson based in Toronto. She was the editor of AOL/The Huffington Post Canada’s StyleList, Style and Living sites. Today, she's a freelancer writing for some of North America’s top pub...

Cycle fitness

If you're looking for an intense workout that will not only boost your endurance but will also shred hundreds of calories, look no further than spinning, a fast-paced, fitness studio fave.

Cycle fitness

What is spinning?

Spinning was created in the 1980s by Jonathan Goldberg, an ultra-endurance athlete who wanted to find a way to train indoors for some of the events in which he was participating. A few years later, the term "spinning" was trademarked by his company, Mad Dogg Athletics, Inc. Since then, it has become one of the most popular group fitness classes in health clubs worldwide.

A typical spinning class lasts from 30 to 75 minutes, and is led by a certified instructor who, from the front of the room, leads participants through a series of cycling routines that simulate riding a bike outdoors. A workout usually begins with slow, steady pedaling and gradually moves to a harder, faster pace. From there, participants may be asked to sprint (very fast pedaling), climb (lifting the bum off the bike saddle and pedaling while standing up) or jump (pedaling for quick bursts between sitting and standing). A spinning session wraps up with a slow, steady cooldown.

You are in charge of your spinning workout

One of the best aspects of spinning is that you can vary the intensity of the workout to your own liking and skill level. You can change the resistance on the workout bike by loosening the flywheel (a weight designed to mimic the momentum you'd get if you were riding a bike up or down a hill), slow the rate at which you pedal or change your body's position (if you're finding it too difficult to rise from the bike's saddle, you can sit back down).

You don't need much to participate in a spinning class. Experts recommend:

  • A good pair of supportive fitness shoes or bike shoes with clips, if your health club has clip pedals
  • A water bottle
  • A towel (to wipe away sweat)
  • Sweat-wicking, cycling-friendly clothing, such as bike shorts and tops 

Benefits of spinning

People who take part in spinning classes have reported seeing results after only two weeks. Some notable benefits include:

  • High calorie burn (in a typical class, you can burn between 400 and 600 calories)
  • Decreased body fat
  • Increased cardiovascular strength
  • Increased muscle tone (especially your quadriceps, hamstrings, back and hips)
  • Decreased stress levels
  • Increased strength
  • A cycling "high" from the endorphins released during the workout

Spinning tips

Because spinning is such a vigorous activity, you should do a few things before, after and during your class to make the most of your workout:


1. Hydrate. Spinning makes you sweat. A lot. So hydrate with at least two glasses of water, at least an hour before you start a class. Bring a water bottle with you. And be sure to drink lots of water when you're done.


2. Eat right. Your body will need lots of fuel to get through a spinning workout.  Eat a balanced diet that includes protein, carbs, fruits and veggies. Don't eat an hour before you work out, though, because spinning on a full stomach could make you nauseated. Instead, eat a


well-balanced after-spin snack or meal



3. Go at your own pace. Because you can adjust the speed and intensity of the workout to your liking, you should never feel like you have to overextend yourself during a class. If you're not comfortable at a certain pace, slow down. It's not worth injuring yourself or getting discouraged.


4. Stretch. Stretching before and after a spinning workout will reduce your risk of injury and will loosen you up for next time.


5. Ask questions. If this is your first, second or even third time spinning, don't be afraid to ask the spinning instructor questions. Instructors can help you figure out the best seated position for you on your bike, including how far your knees should extend during a cycle rotation and even how to adjust the handlebars for workout comfort. Instructors want you to have fun and have a great workout, so take advantage of their expertise.


More on cycling

Get psyched to cycle yourself fit
Ultracycling event: Randonuerring
Spinning and pregnancy

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