Sunday, May 15, 2011

Spin Your Buns Silly

If you have ever taken a spin class, there is not too much more I can tell you about it. If you haven’t, well, then you must. You might be a little confused when I say “spinning” versus “cycling”, so let me give you a little introduction into the sweat-induced world that is a spinning class.

What is the frigging difference between spinning and cycling?
Well, for one, riding a bicycle is something you do at your own pace, in your own comfort zone, outside. Spinning is done on a stationary bike usually either in a studio full of other sweaty people (aerobic class setting) or on a stationary bike with a video instructor.  Either way, you do not really control the speed or the comfort, your instructor does. He/she tells you when to move, when to sit, when to stand, and when to increase your resistance level. And he/she does it in a very energized class setting. Sometimes, spinning classes look like some sort of disco.

Ummm... So how do you burn so many calories just spinning?
Just like with the treadmill or the elliptical, with spinning, you enter your weight and age on the machine, and throughout your session, it calculates the number of calories you are burning using your specific details.

But unlike these other machines, it is a very intense and competitive form of exercise. Your instructor walks you through a program at maximum intensity for the entire course. Imagine going at maximum intensity for 30 minutes or an hour without really slowing down. Of course your body will burn maximum calories! It is a great workout because you keep moving up, down, adjusting your resistance, and basically competing with everyone else around you. Sweat is dripping? You don’t even have time to notice as your instructor is yelling “We’re going up a hill now! Go into standing position! But keep it within your cadence!” Yea, we’ll talk about what the cadence is as well.

How do these super-magic bikes calculate how much I’m burning?
The number of calories you burn in a spinning class is influenced by three things:
  • Cadence: Okay, so let’s get to what this means. Cadence just means the rate at which you are pedaling. This is different from how fast the wheel is turning. It is how fast you are pushing your body on the pedals. The key point to note with cadences is that the cadence at which your body burns the maximum calories differs based on your weight, age, and the resistance of the bike at that point. So usually, the dashboard on the bike will display the recommended cadence limits for you to burn the maximum calories.
  • Resistance: We might be tempted to just set our bikes at whatever the maximum resistance is. However, you don’t always burn the most calories this way because putting on too much resistance can slow you down. Besides slowing you down, your posture could also be affected by the amount of resistance you put on. And it doesn’t help you if your posture is not right because well, you won’t be burning the amount of calories you should, and you could be hurting yourself.
  • Posture: Any spinning instructor would tell you that posture is very important in spinning because of the way the bike is positioned and because of how much energy you are exerting. If you don’t properly position your legs, you may not be able to ride as well as you want to (and of course, you could hurt yourself too). Also, since you lower body is going and going, so you should not forget your upper body as well. The best position for your upper body is a relaxed state so that the pressure from your lower body has somewhere to release. You might find yourself straining your shoulders or arms without even noticing, but always make sure you pay attention to keeping them loose and relaxed.

What's the downside? There's a downside, right?
In order to keep this *ahem* as objective as possible, I do have to tell you what the disadvantages are compared to cycling, running, or some other form of cardio.
  • The Spinning Bike: In case you haven’t figured it out yet, you won’t be spinning on a real bike. And so if you are used to the bike you have ridden since you were 5, this is very different. You still pedal the same way, but posture is very different, and it takes a while to get used to.
  • No variation: Although you go high, low, and up, down, it is still you in a class with other people doing the same thing. Spinning classes can get repetitive, especially if you use the same instructor. One way to beat the monotony may be to take different classes with different instructors, or use a video sometimes and attend a class during other times.
  • Riding indoors: If you’re used to riding outside, it may take a while to adjust to riding indoors with no change of scenery. The environment of the class can be pretty energetic, but sometimes you actually want to move.
  • The pain: I don’t necessarily count this as a bad thing since it does show you that you did burn a lot of calories. But the pain can be more than a regular aerobics class or a run in the park. This is mostly because you don’t slow down throughout the workout so your body doesn’t really have a chance to relax. But then again, as I said before, no pain, no gain, right?

Hopefully, you have some insight into what goes on in those crazy spinning classes. Go try one today! You may wake up with some pain, but I think it is soooo worth it. And if you have any more questions about it, feel free to ask me. I mean, my buns are still hurting from Thursday’s spin session, and I’m loving it :-)

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:


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