Spin class can be downright intimidating. The padded shorts and cycling shoes many people wear to class make it seem intense and exclusive, and the loud music and even louder instructor help raise the scare factor. The truth is, while an indoor cycling class is an intense cardio workout — one 45-minute class can burn upwards of 500 calories! — it doesn't have to be scary.
What to wear
Since you will be sweating, choose moisture-wicking clothes with good breathability. Regular athletic shoes will do fine — there's no need to invest in cycling shoes until you know the class is for you. Bring water and two towels to class; throw one towel over your handlebars and use the other to wipe the sweat off of you during class.
When to arrive
If your gym doesn't have an online reservation system, get there early to reserve a bike. The sign-up sheet is usually put out an hour before class starts (either at the front desk or hanging outside the classroom). In my experience, the list starts to fill 20 minutes before class starts. If this will be your first class, get to the room 10 minutes early. This will allow you time to talk to the instructor and get help setting up your bike. If the instructor isn't there yet, don't be afraid to ask someone around you for help. Not having your bike set up properly can result in lower back, knee, or shoulder pain. Before class begins, ask if there is any special spinning jargon or hand positions you should know about.
What to expect
The instructor will guide you through the workout, telling you when to increase or lower resistance, pedal faster, and rise or sit. You'll be guided through climbs, sprints, and muscle isolations with intermittent lower-resistance pedaling during cruising periods. There's high-energy music blasting that keeps you moving for the entire class, and you'll sweat — a lot. Remember that you are ultimately in control. If you need to alter the instructions to make it through the class, go ahead and decrease the tension. As time goes on, you'll be sure to build up your strength and endurance!