Opinion: What fitspo models won’t tell you about spin class

Mariah Bowers blogs her experience at a spin class to see if they live up to the hype.

Photo by Mariah Bowers

Group exercise has always been a cringeworthy thought in my mind. The prospect of being in a crowded room with sweaty strangers while an instructor with a rock-hard body shouts constructive criticisms has never been my idea of a good workout. I remember when the Zumba craze became a “thing” and I vowed to never subject my uncoordinated self to that kind of torture. Having no rhythm is bad enough; I didn’t have to do it publicly.

As someone who has repeatedly tried and failed to workout solo, I decided to throw all of these longstanding judgments out the window to see what all the hype was about. Maybe these fitness magazines and workout gurus were onto something. I decided to sign up for a workout class.

After scouring the Internet for options I chose to try out the spin class near my apartment. As someone who has no balance and little flexibility the idea of riding a stationary bike seemed to be the safest option for a group fitness amateur.

I convinced two of my friends to come along and signed up online for the next available class. We had no idea what to expect.

We arrived about 15 minutes early as the website suggested and swapped our Nikes for some legit cycling shoes that are lightweight and hook into the bike pedals. This is a very important safety feature that ensures you don’t seriously injure your foot by getting it wrapped up in the spinning pedals.

There was loud music coming from the class we were eagerly waiting to end. When it was our group’s turn to enter the studio, the front desk attendant advised us to choose between two, three and five-pound weights to use during the workout. I was feeling ambitious and opted for the three pounds. It was a choice I immediately deemed a mistake when it came time to use them.

My friends and I appeared to be the only newbies as the attendant led us in to the dark studio with florescent lights and told us the basics. Luckily, we were able to pick our bikes online and, naturally, I opted for the back corner.

As soon as we were all hooked in, I realized my first problem: this bike seat is extremely uncomfortable. I’ve ridden plenty of bikes in my life and I don’t remember any of them being this intolerable.

I noticed everyone was pedaling as we waited for the instructor, so I half-heartedly joined in. I can’t remember the last time I did cardio and wanted to save what little energy I had for the actual workout.

When the instructor entered the room he introduced himself and explained how he would be leading the 45 minute class. Basically, he calls out the revolutions per minute, or RPM, and resistance ranges that the class should be pedaling at for each interval. He explained there would be “uphill” and “flat”’ sections and I prayed that the latter would be much more frequent.

The start of an upbeat Ellie Goulding EDM remix signaled the class had begun and it was time to start pedaling at a 70 to 90 RPM with a 3 to 6 resistance level for the next 45 seconds. The instructor would use the songs’ many beat drops to switch between different intervals where we would pedal standing up or down, or do a combination of both.

A short time into the class I realized another problem: the hunching. Now I own up to having extremely bad posture, but the constant bend of my back over this bike was uncomfortable to say the least.

I noticed my bike number declining steadily on the leaderboard situated over the instructor’s head with everyone’s stats. It’s safe to say I was completely drained and staring down the clock less than 20 minutes in. My hair was drenched in sweat, and I was holding back the urge to chug the limited water supply I had left. When it came time to incorporate arm workouts, the little three-pound weights I selected earlier proved to be too much for my Jell-O-like arms.

I glanced around the dark studio of hardcore spinners and picked out my fellow strugglers. I couldn’t help but notice the large puddle of sweat underneath the man’s bike to the left of me. He had also dropped a weight, but was still chugging along. I formed an imaginary alliance and decided we would all get through this together.

With 10 minutes left, I drank the rest of my water and decided to focus on the music to get my auto-piloted legs to the end of this thing. I sang along to a Lil Wayne throwback and an unexpected Waka Flocka Flame record that I believe was “Hard in the Paint” featuring Ciara to finish out the class.

When I stepped off the bike I wasn’t sure my wobbly legs could hold my weight, but was happy to be rid of the uncomfortable seat and hunching of the bike.

My friends and I marveled at our soaked sweat towels and exhausted bodies. We had clearly underestimated the brutality we had just put our bodies through.

I can’t say that I’ll ever become someone who works out on a regular basis, but I now understand the allure of workout classes. I’m thinking hot yoga next.

Featured image by Mariah Bowers

Edited by Taylor Owens