10 reasons Spinning is one of the best workouts ever

Sign up for an indoor cycling or Spinning class this winter to keep in great shape, shred calories and burn fat at a highly effective rate.

Woman in a Spinning class at the gym

Photo: Getty Images

I live in Calgary. My bike is in the shed, and it’s going to stay there until this snow is gone. And though I’ve shared my opinions about hating indoor aerobics, cycling classes are the one exception I make when it comes to this.

Spinning is a popular brand name and though all Spinning classes are indoor cycling classes, not all indoor cycling classes are Spinning classes…are you with me? This winter give your body the exercise it deserves by adding these intense workouts to your routine. Here’s my 10 reasons why:

1. They’re more fun than most classes
Okay, this is just my opinion. Also, I’m a terrible dancer, so Zumba would be a major challenge for me. Still, I’ve experimented with quite a few fitness classes, and I’ve found that indoor cycling is always the most fun, has the highest energy levels, and the most passionate participants. Feel free to disagree in the comments but it’s one of the toughest workouts you can get.

2. It has practical applications
Being in good shape from other fitness classes can certainly make your cardiovascular fitness, strength and flexibility better, which all transfer over in a positive way to daily living. But indoor cycling classes make you a better cyclist. If you like hitting the roads and paths in the nicer months of the year, indoor options can keep you trained.

3. They’re full of other eager exercisers
You often have to get to classes early to get a good spot, or one at all. This is a good thing. It’s motivating to know that you have to be on time or you’ll miss out, and who wants to be in a class that’s half empty? When the class is full of hardworking people, who all really want to be there, it makes it more fun.

4. Everyone has their own space
In a crowded fitness or yoga class, where people are dancing around or stretching to high moon, you can run into one another or have people’s toes far too close to your face. Put dumbbells into the mix, and it’s a recipe for a personal-space disaster. With indoor cycling, everyone has their own bike, and you never crash into your fellow exerciser. Things can get sweaty however so having a towel on hand is a good idea.

5. It burns a lot of calories
The number of calories burned depends on your body weight, so let’s do some quick math. This is rough, but if you take your weight in pounds, and multiply that by 0.4, that’s how many calories you burn per hour just living. If you weigh 150 pounds you’ll burn 60 calories an hour on the couch. Trade that couch for a stationary bike and the numbers go way up.

Moderate effort means you multiply those 60 calories by 7, for a total of 420 calories burned per hour. Go at a hard effort, and you can multiply it by 10, for a total burn of 600 calories per hour (remember, this is a rough calculation for a woman weighing 150 pounds).

6. It can give you a great looking butt and legs
When you’re going hard, mimicking hill training, it goes beyond aerobic training and makes the larger muscle fibers work, developing excellent muscle tone. Though cycling is waist-down exercise you’ll still want to do something for your upper body.

7. You train the mid-range energy system
Uh, what? I hear you say. Weightlifting trains for short-burst power, and steady-state aerobic training is cardiovascular exercise. In cycling classes there are lots of periods of one or two minutes of massive effort, which trains the mid-range (glycolysis) energy system or the sugar-burning range. This is great for getting quick results. I find this type of interval training also great for downhill skiing.

8. You can make friends
“It is consistently the same group of people coming to my classes,” says Chelanne Murphy, who teaches indoor cycling classes at World Health Club in Calgary. “Some of the people have been in these classes for 10 years and have developed close friendships as a result.” When something becomes fun you’re much likelier to stick with it, and that’s what we’re working towards.

9. The instructors are awesome
Maybe not all of them are awesome, but I’ve found indoor cycling attracts a certain breed of instructor who treats every class like a performance and it becomes almost like participatory theatre. They make it as fun as they possibly can and it’s one of few classes I’ve been to where people are encourage to hoot and holler.

10. No one knows how hard you’re working
Don’t be intimidated if the classes you see are filled with very fit people. Everyone’s got to start somewhere and the joy of cycling is you work at your own pace – only you know what tension your bike’s at. Be careful that you don’t keep the tension so loose that your legs whip around too fast – that can cause injury – but know that you get to decide how much you crank the bike tension based on what you feel you can tolerate. No one else will know if you’re dogging it or pushing to the wall.

If you’re a beginner, look for shorter or beginner classes to ease your body into this vigorous workout. Arrive early and get help setting your bike up.

As I’ve noted previously, stay away from any instructor who has you doing upper body exercises or midsection twists while on the bike. Proper cycling technique is about focusing on pushing the pedals and maintaining good form.

Have you ever tried Spinning? Let us know why you like it or dislike it in the comment space below.

James S. Fell, MBA, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary. He writes the syndicated column “In-Your-Face Fitness” for the Chicago Tribune and consults with clients on strategic planning for fitness and health. Get your free Metabolism Report here.