Friday, 21 June 2013

Spinning: a year on

Sitting on my sofa on a Friday night in my PJs, hungover and having stuffed my face with enough junk food to feed a family for a week, I am about as far away as you can get from a spinning session. However, today marks the day of my 'spinning anniversary', yes it's been a whole year since I discovered spinning.

I remember going to my first class and now I've got familiar with the various instructors and classes at my gym I know I picked a good session to start with. The Thursday night class is a lot calmer and you have more opportunity to go at your own pace if needed. In some of them the instructors are personal trainers and they are like army sergeants!

As I am such a spinaholic now, I thought I'd share a bit about my favourite fitness hobby - why I like it and what it actually involves.

What happens in a spinning class?
Randomly a few people have actually thought spinning is as the name suggests and you spin round and round in a class. No you don't spin round in circles. Spinning is based on stationary bikes that are specially created to allow participants to do the various positions/moves on them - standing, squatting, hill climbs, sprints and so on. At my gym there is a separate room/studio in which around 25-30 bikes are set out in a semi circle featured around the instructor's bike so everyone can see them wherever they are placed in the studio. A spinning class varies from 45 minutes to 60 minutes and can only be called spinning if the instructor is qualified, else it gets referred to as 'RPM'. The class is based around loud, pumping music with a strong beat which you move along to and you can do the class in a dark room or with UV lights or even flashing lights - as if you are in a nightclub! You will find it hard to walk after your first few sessions, particularly the next day and your bum will ache I won't lie! My boyfriend reliably tells me it's quite uncomfortable for men and their bits and pieces too!

On the bike you need to adjust it to suit you, you adjust the height of the handlebars, the height of the saddle, how close the saddle is to the handlebars and of course the resistance once the class starts.

The instructor will shout out the position to get into and often count you down into them and will advise on resistance whether to do a turn up or down and whether it is a full, quarter or half a turn.

How the class runs depends on the instructor, so in classes I've been in there have been exercises/moves such as:

Squats - either actually doing a squat whilst standing, but stopped on the bike or holding in your abs and lowering your legs so the tension is on your quads and you continue to pedal
Spin/sprint - whether off the saddle or seated you have to pedal as fast as you can
Hover position (off the saddle, leaning forward with your bottom just over the seat)
'Position 4' standing upright with your abs in
Seating upright
Seated leaning forward
Seated arm push ups (with arms out for biceps and in for triceps)
Standing arm push ups (with arms out for biceps and in for triceps)
One armed cycling
One leg focused pedalling
Super slow pedalling
Hill climbs (very very high resistance)
Various circuits

Some classes include a variety of moves and constant changes stand up/sit down/stand up/sit down, whilst others focus on blocks of set moves. All these sessions will be hard, but some instructors take a bootcamp approach to running the class, some walk round and turn up your resistance and shout at you to go faster, some are more concerned about technique, some really get into their own spin experience and shout or scream.

A key part to the spinning session is the music - it's got to be fast and bassy enough. I for one am a fan of those classes that feature garage, house, old school clubbing tunes and R&B. When it's dark you can often catch me having a bit of a sing along to some of the songs and if I get songs I like I go so much faster, I get some sort of hidden super boost to my speed!

The last five minutes are used to do stretches - the instructor will take you through a set of appropriate ones and show you how to do them.

* You definitely need a towel - you sweat profusely
* You definitely need a bottle of water (a big one)
* Get a saddle cover or padded trousers or both (the saddles hurt!)
* Some people wear cycling gloves to allow grip on the handlebars (you slip a lot where so sweaty and some bike handlebars are
made from a rougher material so can hurt your hands)
* Try find out what the classes are like at the gym you go to so you can try out a 'calmer' version of the class. If you go to a
more extreme one the first time round it might put you off!
* Go at your own pace and build up (speed and resistance wise)
* Keep your focus on technique - shoulders relaxed and abs tight (you will feel the pain/after-burn more and see better results)
* Make sure you have short or tight fitted bottoms on so nothing can get caught up in the pedals or wheels
* Some people have special cycling footwear which can be 'clipped in' to the pedals to help them feel more secure and be able to
go even quicker
* Keep an eye on the instructors legs/speed to get an idea if your resistance is too high/low
* If you're a girl and have long hair, pull it back, it will get in your face and you will sweat and want to keep cool

What are the benefits?
1. It's great fun
2. I've really found since I've been going it's helped me in my weight loss (you can burn an average 400-700 calories per session)
3. Great for sculpting your body shape - biggest change I've seen in my body shape from doing spin overall (particular my bottom, legs and arms)
4. It takes your mind off things, good stress-buster
5. Great for strengthening your core
6. Great for developing your fitness
7. Focused session which really pushes you, achieve a lot in not a huge amount of time, I realised how I hadn't properly pushed
myself in gym sessions over the years once I started these classes
8. Even if you are tired or fed up it's great because the music and high energy of the class boosts your mood and pushes you on

I could go on about this class and how much I love it, but you'll be pleased to know I'm now going to come to a stop. A year on I still thoroughly enjoy this form of exercise and would recommend it to everyone - we get all shapes, sizes and ages in our class and if you have any injuries you can advise the teacher before and they'll advise what you can/can't do. At times of late just when I've started to feel I might be getting a tad bored with the class then suddenly they seem to get updated/amended! And to be fair I do go to up to 5 classes a week!

On that note I'm off to enjoy my lazy relaxing evening for a bit before tomorrow morning's next spinning session!

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