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Like most men, the thought of my first spin class was full of anxiety and pain. I was a 19-year-old college kid who was forced into going with his then girlfriend, and sitting on the hard seat for a mere 15 minutes during warm-up caused me to leave the class and go do something else.
We’re here to give you tips on how to avoid such a painful experience, as spinning is one of the best exercise options to burn calories and build endurance and strength.
After, reluctantly, going back a few years later with some friends, I actually became a certified spin instructor, even teaching two classes per week for a couple of years.
It’s those experiences that led me to offer some advice on how every man can actually enjoy getting on the stationary bike without feeling miserable the entire time.
Forget everything else, because compression shorts are and will be the most important part of surviving a spin class.
While most of us believe that we can just wear our normal Dri-Fit shorts and make it through the constant up and down motions on a stationary bike, the fact of the matter is, well, we can’t. That’s because your balls will take a serious beating without some protection down there, so you’ll want to get a pair of compression shorts to make sure you’re not wobbling like a penguin in the days after a class.
Understanding Your Gears
As an instructor, it’s a common phrase to yell, “GEAR UP!” during class, which, of course, is the instruction to the class to increase the intensity while pedaling. However, don’t make the mistake I did my first few times spinning and turn the dial a full turn while hearing that phrase.
That’s because stationary bikes typically have four gears in a single turn, meaning you should only turn the dial about a quarter up each time, so not to set your quads on fire within 10 minutes on the bike.
Even when the gears are tight and you’re “climbing”—meaning you’re out of the saddle—it’s important to keep your ass back over the seat, not leaning forward or backwards too much.
Not only will this reduce back and neck pain, but it’s also engaging your core, giving you more control and weight balance.
Lastly, by not leaning forward on the handlebars, it will relieve pressure on your hands and wrists, too. So, yeah, if you want to avoid injury, it’s best to stay as upright as possible.
Yep, it sure as hell does make a difference whether or not you’re “strapped in” while riding a stationary bike, with the workout being much better when you have the ability to push and pull the pedals.
Unlike the real bikes you had growing up that didn’t have straps, stationary bikes—as well as road bikes, for that matter—need to have straps on the pedals in order to maintain control and to utilize all the different muscles in your lower half.
Like most workouts, music is an essential part of making it enjoyable—and spin might be the most important exercise to have the good stuff.
Whether you’re taking a class or just riding yourself, music can be a difference-maker between a good and bad experience, with some people even admitting to me after some of my classes that the music was off and the ride wasn’t that great that specific day.
If the ride is high intensity with lots of sprints, no one wants to listen to stuff with lyrics, they want something fast and upbeat—so your music choice is important to remember.
I’m not one to wear gloves while riding, but, if you’re on the bike 2-3 times per week, it’d be smart to invest in a pair to save your hands from nasty blisters.
Like lifting weights, holding handlebars for an hour or more multiple days a week will take its toll thanks to the friction while riding. It can cause a serious love-hate relationship it it gets too bad, so, before this occurs, just get some gloves to help prevent it from happening.
During 45-60 minutes worth of spinning, you’re going to sweat—a lot—burning anywhere between 500-900 calories! The last thing you want to have happen is not have something to wipe yourself down with in-between sprints and/or hill intervals. That’s why towels, and lots of them, will come in handy.
In fact, during a normal ride for me—typically 55 minutes with a five-minute cool down at the end—I line the entire space beneath the pedals with towels to catch sweat, and stack the handlebars with about five towels to make sure I’m set for sweat.
Choose Your Company Wisely
Spinning is a great workout regardless, but going with friends or a significant other is the best way to conquer a class. Not only giving you a measuring stick in terms of gear resistance, having a familiar face in class will just make it more fun, with both of you enjoying the ride and, hopefully, pushing one another to stick with those short interval sprints or long uphill climbs.
It's important to get loose before any type of exercise, but the way to do so before a spin class is by simply getting on the bike and starting to pedal. Simple, right?
While warming up on the bike is necessary to get your legs warmed up, remember to stretch a little bit before the class starts, and most definitely after it's complete, providing a cool down period for both your muscles and mind.