Cycling, or “spinning” as it’s now known, is of the moment. And it’s easy to see why, and it’s not just the classic knock-on effect of successful national British Cycling team, both on the track and on the road. Indoor spinning isn’t weather dependent, is safer than outdoor cycling, we can ride alongside our friends and workout in an uplifting environment, all the while listening to some good motivating music.
Whether or not indoor cycling is a trend that is here to stay still remains to be seen – my prediction however is that spinning will be one of the biggest fitness trends of 2015. Indoor cycling has been around for a few years now and rather than dwindling in popularity, numbers are on the up again, as are the number of specialist cycle studios which keep popping up.
But despite the increase in participation, is spinning all that it is cracked up to be? And is it the best form of exercise when it comes to achieving the balance of strength, fitness and movement quality that most of us are after? With the New Year fast approaching, when most of us will be considering fitness and fat loss, the question is will spinning work?
The answer as always is, it depends, but, for those of us with general fitness and fat loss goals, here are three pros and cons.
The Pros of Spinning
1. It encourages the group dynamic:
The most successful fitness methods are always the ones that develop a strong culture and a tangible sense of community, and group cycle classes tick these boxes. The group dynamic keeps us accountable, both in terms of turning up and pushing ourselves beyond where we might go on our own. The emphasis on the community and the social aspect of course also makes the whole process more enjoyable, so that we return for the people as much as the exercise, which is key to long-term sustainability.
2. It’s inclusive and fun:
Whilst becoming a good cyclist requires focus, practice and a high degree of technical competency and efficiency, spinning is not the same as road cycling, and the barrier to entry in terms of competency is actually pretty low. The fact that the bikes are stationary, with most of them in a fixed position, means that we do not need the technical ability that we need out on the road in order to push our physical boundaries, stay safe and injury free. What that means is that any of us, from experienced cyclists to absolute beginner, can sign up and get involved.
3. We are in control of the workout:
Although the instructor will come to the class with a pre-planned session, we are in control of our own resistance and cadence, meaning that ultimately, we determine how hard the workout is. Most spinning studios do not link up their bikes to power output monitors, some purposefully, to avoid the anxiety that comes with comparison, which means that we can go though the workout at our level, and in line with our energy levels on that particular day, meaning that we can focus entirely on our own workout, rather than being preoccupied with what the person on the bike next to us is doing.
The Cons of Spinning
1. We already spend too much time sitting:
Perhaps the biggest physical problem that we face as a society is how much time we spend sitting down – it causes all sorts of problems thanks to the structural and physiological adaptations that we develop. And whilst I understand that we are not sedentary during a spinning workout, we are still reinforcing a position and posture that most of us already spend too much time in – it is, essentially, more sitting. For some of us this can lead to postural issues and structural imbalances, both of which will more than likely lead to discomfort and in some cases pain, mostly thanks to tight hips and rounded shoulders.
2. It does not offer a balanced approach to fitness:
Spinning might improve our cardiovascular fitness, and help us develop some lower body strength at first, but it won’t come close to offering a good fitness programme that covers all bases. It doesn’t address core strength, upper body strength, overall functional strength or postural and structural balance, all of which we should consider. It is of course ideal for cycling specific fitness, but it is by no means an integrated approach to getting fit, and should be balanced with other forms of training.
3. It doesn’t teach technique:
Whilst most spinning bikes come with toe clips and modifiable resistance to mimic the feel of a road bike, with more experienced instructors designing sessions that simulate what we might experience on an actual ride with climbs and sprint sections, the reality is that the riding position and the fixed nature of the bike won’t replicate the feel of being on the road. It is also fair to say that most classes, whilst fun, with flashing lights, loud music and enthusiastic instruction, have too many people in for the instructor to teach a proper pedal stoke and other techniques, which can, over time, lead to injury.
In the end, there are plenty of differing opinions about what works best in fitness. The reality is that most of these opinions are driven by personal bias, and the fact of the matter is that the best form of fitness is the one that you will do regularly, which is going to be the one that you enjoy most. If that is spinning, then spinning is great exercise, although I would suggest that, unless you have cycling specific goals, you balance it with other forms of training, such and resistance training, Pilates or perhaps yoga.
If you have any questions on the above or would like some advice on how we could help you with your fitness goal, don’t hesitate, visit our gym and try one of our personal fitness training sessions.