Advice from a Spin instructor

My advice for anyone trying Spinning for the first time, from the spin instructor’s perspective.

I’m really going to try hard to not turn this into a rant… spin

So tonight something happened in my spinning class that every now and then happens, especially in January. Newbies.

I LOVE it when a new person bounces in to my spinning class, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, with this view of a simple cycling class (ha ha ha little do  they know) but please…PLEASE! If you are trying spinning (or any class) for the first time- take heed of my pieces of advice below. It’s a little more complicated thank you may think.

1) Arrive early.

I’m pretty sure I speak for all spinning instructors when I say it is SO AGGRAVATING when someone who has NEVER tried the class, turns up AFTER we have set up the class and started.

Before the class starts I like to explain:

  • What height your seat and handlebars should be,
  • What hand positions I use on the handles,
  • Any injuries or medical issues you may have (someone once turned up late on their first session and told me after the class that they had heart problems including quadruple bypass surgery! REALLY handy for me to know PRE-CLASS!!)
  • What to do if you feel sick,
  • How to press the brake, i.e if your foot comes out of your pedal,
  • Tightening your pedals to begin with to avoid your foot/feet coming out,
  • How the resistance is added or taken off of the pedals.

Tonight, something even more annoying happened. Two newbies walked in AFTER THE WARM UP TRACK!

Why is this so annoying? Well my warm up is designed to:

  • Psych the class up for a beasting good session,
  • Warm up their joints to prevent injury,
  • Get their hearts pumping so they don’t feel unwell and faint or be sick,
  • Demonstrate to you my entire repertoire of cycling positions I have planned for the class(hover, climb, race etc) highly important for someone who has no idea what they are called or how to do them.
  • It allows you to get yourself ready to take part in the session and feel whether your bike is set up properly and is your opportunity to get on and off to readjust before you start working too hard.

So anyway, the first sprint track has started and I have to get off of my bike and multitask explaining resistance, seat positioning and safety interspersed with “4 3 2 1 SPRINT!! GO-GO-GO!! AS FAST AS YOU CAN! PUSH PUSH!!” etc etc. Which makes me appear both crazy and down right nasty.

Now, I have been known to turn late newcomers away. This was purely because I had other new people in my class (who FYI turned up on time so at least knew what I meant when I shouted “SPRINT”) to keep and eye on and it was simply too late. However, as tonight’s class was full of regulars who happily punish themselves 3-4 times a week I took to shouting at them while politely helping the newbies as quickly but thoroughly as possible. Not going to lie, it’s a huge ball ache for me to do that and is something I’d simply rather not do if I’m honest.

2) If you need something, I’m there.

spin sarah bockhart clacton personal trainer
Photo and cover photo courtesy of Anytime Fitness Clacton-on-Sea

I don’t mean I’m there for you emotionally (although that is sometimes the case!). I mean that it’s my job to instruct and assist you. So if your towel has fallen to the floor or you need more water in your bottle- get my attention, don’t just suffer.

It may be that you can’t do something because you have an injury, PLEASE tell me (before we start) so I know what alternatives to give during certain tracks.

Feel sick? It may or may not come as a massive surprise to you that I know how to handle that pretty well too and can help you avoid the urge to vom. I’m also always at hand to stretch out the dreaded cramp, so use me!

3) Listen to me

Not only have I been teaching this for a long time, I’m also right up there doing it with you. I will give you teaching points as we go along and they’re certainly not for my benefit. Stop talking to your newbie friend and listen to me, PLEASE!

When you stand and cycle for the first time you will need to make sure you add on more resistance so that you maintain control as opposed to clinging on for dear life and pedalling hell for leather. I know there is a lot to think about in the first session so I say this TWICE to every single new person and they never, ever take it on board. Until the moment comes to stand and I say it a third time until eventually I just mosey on over and turn it up myself and they say “oooh…that’s so much better” WELL YEAH!!!

If you feel sick, slow down and take a very steady pace. DO-NOT-STOP. I’ll say it again… DO-NOT-STOP!!!! Stopping only makes it worse and then I have to deal with you fainting, vomiting or worse.

Your legs are doing most of the work during this class so your body will have made sure. Therefore due to supply and demand, that the unneeded areas such as your digestive system for example, have a lower blood supply and that your legs have the highest. The blood vessels in your legs will be wonderfully dilated and flowing beautifully with blood. Blood that will pool in your legs due to gravity if you stop. Cycling makes your calf muscles act like a second heart and push that blood back up to your head. It feels completely wrong to stay on the bike when you see the white tunnel that means you’re going to faint but TRUST ME, slow down, call me over, breathe, keep your feet moving. Voila, back to normal in seconds.

4) Listen to your body

It’s common sense. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If you have an injury, go easy. Honestly, no one in that room cares about what you’re capable of, they’re all too busy, like you, worrying about how rubbish they might look in front of others. If I asked any single participant at the end of a class who they noticed stood to sprint or couldn’t so had to sit down, do you think they’d know? NOPE. Only push yourself if you feel safe to do so. Your instructor will probably tell you alternatives automatically anyway, take advantage of their advice if you think you’re going to over do it.

Rant Post over.

There goes my “trying to not turn this in to a rant”. Rest assured there is no better feeling for me than when a new person says at the end of my class that they will be back. Try to understand it’s frustrating because I care so much! I am often very pleasantly surprised by people who tell me they have never done spinning actually cope better than I do!


Want to read a similar post from the participants point of view?

Read this lovely post by Amanda Bootes  about her first spinning experience. This had me smiling the whole way through and now I feel really guilty about my rant.


(wouldn’t need to rant if newbies turned up on time though)

(Just saying)


4 thoughts on “Advice from a Spin instructor

  1. Just, YES. Absolutely loved this post – I don’t teach spin but I teach a lot of HiiT classes and it’s so frustrating when people come in late and haven’t warmed up! It’s just so dangerous! Loved it 🙂

  2. You sound like a great instructor and it’s clear you really care.
    I’ve only taken a couple of classes and never been given any formal instruction. I’m one of those people who tend to turn up first, mainly because I want to get set up in my class but also because I want to have a little chat with the instructor too!

    1. Very sensible!
      Thank you, I do care a lot. It’s really important to me that people enjoy my classes and don’t feel like I’m just shouting at them to make them work hard. I don’t want them to be so confused they spend the class fiddling with the equipment instead of getting a decent training session out of it. x

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