The following pointers about spinning come from Barbara Van Tine, who is a certified spinning instructor. She is also the editor of the Health After 50 newsletter (our sister publication) and a contributor to its website.
- Spinning is a great class (when taught properly) for people of all ages and fitness levels. Most people in my classes are baby boomers, but they range in age from 16 to 89. One nice thing about it is that you can control your own intensity. I have some older participants who are former runners whose doctors told them that their joints could no longer take the pounding—spinning is perfect for them. Another benefit is the socialization: People in a spinning class often end up being a very tight-knit, friendly group.
- Beginners, in particular, may want to look for classes that use bikes with power meters, which can help them know when they’re working too hard (or not hard enough). Most clubs have them now, and the meters have more or less replaced heart monitors because they more accurately indicate a rider’s power output. Safe rpms are 50 (uphill) to about 110 (short sprints).
- Not all spinning classes are the same. My first concerns are safety, proper technique, and bike setup. There are a lot of rogue, uncertified instructors out there who push people harder than necessary and do lots of crazy moves. I recently took someone else’s class at my gym and it was mostly made up of wild, unsafe moves. If you take a class and it seems too intense, try out different instructors. You may need to shop around to find what works best for you.
- I wouldn’t advise investing in special bike shorts or clip-in bike shoes, at least not initially. Take a few classes first, and only if and when you feel that the accessories may help should you buy them. Cross-trainers are fine; running shoes shouldn’t be used because they don’t have lateral support.
- Participants should never pedal backwards, no matter how well trained they are. Rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t do it on a bike outside, you shouldn’t do it indoors, either. And the music shouldn’t destroy your eardrums.