I’ve been teaching Spin since my freshman year of college so I have three years of experience leading classes. Read my story about becoming an instructor here. I don’t know what qualifies someone as an “expert” in anything because I think we’re always learning and growing. But with the time spent teaching and another five years of experience taking classes, I’ve seen a lot.
There is a laundry list of things that are unique to the participants and to instructors in terms of etiquette, form, encouragement, etc. I’m focusing on the participants today and will cover the instructors next time.
DO tell the instructor if it’s your first class. In other words, don’t be afraid to admit you know nothing. The instructor will help you set up your bike, review the hand positions and teach you other little tidbits before class begins. ***However, the instructor should always ask unfamiliar participants if he/she is new to spin***
DO arrive 5-10 minutes early if you’re new. You need that time for the aforementioned bike set-up and one-on-one instruction with the teacher. Plus, you get a few more minutes to pedal and warm up your legs.
DON’T ride without resistance. You need at least the resistance of a “flat road” or else a) you can lose control and injure yourself and b) you’re not really working. You may think it’s cool to release all resistance and let your legs fly, especially during sprints, but you’re just setting yourself up for injury.
DON’T ride with too much resistance. Contradicting myself, right? Well, you don’t want to ride at a level where you end up pushing your pedals down instead of moving in perfect circles. There should never be a stop at the top or bottom of the pedal stroke. Find that balance between a challenging hill and comfortably uncomfortable pace.
DON’T rely on the handle bars. Keep all the work in your legs and your weight distributed over the center of the bike. The handle bars are there as a light support.
DO modify the workout to fit your needs. If your knees hurt in position 2, don’t go there! It’s OK to not follow the instructor word-for-word. It’s also OK if your heavy hill one day is different from your heavy hill the next day. Give what you can and do what you need for that workout.
DON’T assume the instructor is working the hardest in the class. When I take other spinning classes I’m sometimes intimidated because the instructor seems to be pedaling fast, always increasing resistance and making it look so easy. Then I remember, I do the same thing when I teach because it’s not my workout.
DO push yourself. While Spinning is a group exercise class, it is very much individual…you decide how hard you work. Instructors gives cues about resistance and speed but you are in control of your bike. If you ride at a light hill for the entire class you aren’t getting the same workout as if you alternated that with speed bursts and pushes up a heavy hill. You have to experiment to find your comfort zone and then decide to push past it.
DO take breaks when necessary. Skip a sprint or stay in the saddle during jumps. Be aware of how hard you’re working and recognize if you need a break.
DO cool down after class. Sure you can sneak out early (many people do), but, before you leave, let your legs slow down and carefully hop of the bike. (If you move to abruptly you may get dizzy).