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What is a spin class?

A spin class is a high intensity cycling workout that generally takes place on a stationary machine with a heavy, weighted flywheel that is linked to the pedals.

The result is a fixed gear bike (like a track bike) – your legs are constantly moving and you have to apply pressure to slow them down. You can’t simply stop pedalling and that means that every second of the available time is put to good use.

Most spin classes last for around 45-60 minutes; it’s rarely necessary for them to be any longer and participants can expect to leave sweaty and with heavy legs.

Nearly all classes will be led by an instructor who calls out intervals (when to pedal hard and when to slow it down) – and this person has a huge effect on the class.

A class that advertises itself as being designed to aid your outdoor cycling performance might be led by a qualified cycling coach who may focus the intervals on skills needed in a bike race – using terms like ‘threshold’ and ‘sprint’. In comparison, other classes will place a greater importance on all over conditioning. Both promise a thorough workout and it’s really down to personal preference.

What are the benefits of spin classes?

Most cyclists looking to train indoors will turn their thoughts first to the turbo trainer or rollers, perhaps lightening the mental torture involved with a programme like Zwift or a Sufferfest video.

Whilst some cycling clubs organise group turbo or roller sessions, often it’s a solo affair – spin classes provide motivation in the form of spin-colleagues.

Turbo sessions can be a solo affair

The instructor will determine the intervals, but the vast majority rely upon High Intensity Interval Training (HITT): efforts will be hard and fast, but short – this creates a time effective form of training.

You can expect to burn anywhere between 500 and 700 calories in an hour long spin class. Some add in weight bearing elements, such as chest presses using small weights as you pedal.

Spinning instructor and GB age-group duathlete Sam McClary told us: “A spin class provides 45 to 60 minutes of high intensity interval training (HIIT), widely regarded as one of the most effective training tools.

“Short sharp bursts of sprints and hill efforts interspersed with active recovery and longer intervals to test strength and endurance all help to push your lactic acid threshold, annihilate fat, burn calories and build muscle. Given the right instructor and the right set of tunes, you’ll push yourself harder than you do on the road.”

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