I wanted to share with all of you some of my thoughts on spinning and how I got hooked on it. I went to spinning class because I was bored. And my butt and thighs were, too. For the past couple of years, I’ve been a treadmill girl. Day or night, hot or cold, I laced up my sneakers and hit the treadmill. But my typical 3- to 4-mile treadmill session had begun to dry up; I was no longer seeing physical results. In hopes of rejuvenating my shape and my routine, I strolled into a Spinning class at my gym. I didn’t think I would like it as much as walking and running on the treadmill.
At first, I had apprehensions. I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was 10 years old except for a Bixi last summer but that was just for fun. Second, I worried biking would make my legs more muscular which is something I will discuss later on in this post. And third, cyclists typically wear tight spandex biking shorts. You know, the ones with the padding in the butt? No thanks! Instead, I opted for conservative below-the-knee workout pants supported by my own junk-in-the-trunk padding. Just saying…
At the start of class, the instructor cranked up her playlist and flipped off the lights. (This is normal; the class does not include a nap though. The upside: Other people can’t really see you.) We began with steady pedaling and upper-body stretching. Then it got down to business and fast it went! I thought to myself – Yikes what did I get myself into?!?!?
Within the first five minutes, the instructor began yelling for us to increase the resistance on the pedals. Resistance is controlled by a knob in the center of the bike and is meant to mimic different terrains, hills or flat roads. Turn it down, and it’s smooth sailing, turn it up, and get ready to feel the burn. My advice, don’t feel like you have to add resistance every time, and ease up if it becomes too difficult. Your goal: Maintain enough resistance to never bob up and down in the seat, which is not only uncomfortable but also sabotages your workout. One instructor advised imagining a bowl of water on your head throughout the ride (Genius!). This was a great tip, it helped me keep my core muscles tight and gauge my resistance properly.
So far, so good. The next challenge came when we began climbing, adding resistance to mimic pedaling up a hill. In standing climbs, you are able to use your full body weight to generate speed. In seated climbs you have only the strength of your quads and hamstrings to push the load. Sometimes you’re moving at the speed of one pedal stroke per second which is really slow. I’ll be honest, climbs burn like you-know-what. I didn’t need Shakira to remind me that my hips don’t lie, I could feel it. My lower body was screaming!!! I vowed to remember this pain and never eat candy again (that was during the spin class though).
Thankfully, we soon moved on to something I really enjoyed called jumps. Jumps are quick intervals of alternating between sitting and standing. They mimic floor squats and help increase your power and intensity for future rides. That’s nice and all, but what they really do is trim your butt and thighs better than a brand new pair of Spanx. Get the most out of the move by slowly rising to standing and lowering back to sitting, even if you see others bouncing up and down. Moving too quickly can stress your joints and tire you too fast.
As the class came to an end, we cooled down with slow pedaling and light stretching. Stretching was essential; my derrière felt abused by the saddle, and my legs were the consistency of gelatin. So, did Spinning reinvigorate my routine? Yes! Somewhere between the music, resistance, and speed work, I realized I was having fun. There had been little time to become bored, and a whole lot of time to burn calories. Now after a few months of classes, I started to notice a few things. My ankles and calves, which tend to feel swollen after a long day of sitting at my desk, now feel lighter. My jeans are loose around my thighs. (If that doesn’t make this class a miracle worker, I don’t know what does.) Turns out, it’s a myth that cycling makes your legs bigger. In moderation (two to three times a week), cycling can slim, tone, and firm your hips, butt, and legs.
Bottom line: I’m hooked. You should give it a spin, too!!!
For those of you who are not convinced that spinning will help you get leaner legs rather than bulkier ones please continue reading!
I’ve heard this comment about eight million times (I’m sure you have, too): “I love to spin, but I don’t want to bulk up my quads.”
I have not been spinning for that long but it’s been a few months now and trust me I have done a lot of research on this subject.
I feel like there has been the growing chatter and concern that this popular cardio workout may be a great way to torch calories, but at the expense of thicker thighs, I wanted to know, is this an urban fitness myth that has spun out of control? Or does spinning really lead to bigger quads? This is what I found out.
Indoor cycling does not necessarily lead to larger legs, but the following factors could be behind any perceived bulk. One of the things you have to consider is your genes. Chromosomes play a major role in whether or not you can fit into your skinny jeans.
We have to realize that the size of a persons quads is highly dependent on genetics.
Another factor that you have to take into consideration is your body type. Are you wispy thin or athletically built? Body type is a factor, no matter what your workout is. Consider the three main body types—endomorphs, ectomorphs, and mesomorphs—and which you might be. Ectomorphs are generally tall, thin, and lanky and have a hard time putting on muscle. Endomorphs and mesomorphs, however, respond much more quickly to resistance training and build muscle with relative ease. Doing any sport could create this change.
Your starting point on a spin bike plays a big role in whether and how you build muscle. For example a 115-pound fashion model who’s never cycled will gain muscle from it, while a bodybuilder or a super athletic type may see the opposite effect. These changes may be short term. So if your jeans are initially tighter after a few weeks of cycling, don’t freak out! Your quads might bulk up a bit at first, but the overall amount of cardio will balance it out. I have actually seen that happen to me but now my quads are getting slimmer and slimmer. You mights ask why and how this happens. Developed quads help you burn more fat overall. The large muscle group responds quickly to activity and increases muscle-to-fat ratio within the body, which in turn increases your metabolic rate.
Let me confirm what I and you as well might already suspect: “Cycling doesn’t make your legs bigger, but bread and pasta does,” In other words, increased activity doesn’t mean you can disregard healthy eating habits. It turns out that weight gain corresponding to increased physical activity is very common especially with new riders falsely thinking that because they just torched 650 calories on a bike, they can eat whatever they want. (Sorry news flash!) New riders may experience a large calorie deficit and lack proper recovery, resulting in an unusual level of hunger however this does not mean that one should just eat anything after a class but instead it’s good to eat a small meal of four ounces of lean protein and complex carbohydrates because this will keep you full and ensure the proper muscle recovery.
While spinning’s a “quad-dominant” workout, that doesn’t mean only the quads are worked. That’s kind of like saying push-ups only work the arms. Spinning also activates your abs, hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles. You know when your instructor says to use your abs? Use your abs! And when they say not to grip the handlebars? It’s to activate muscles in the back and glutes. When you focus on pulling up with the pedal (rather than jamming it down), then you’re drawing on the hamstrings. Riding incorrectly not only leads to injury, but may cause unwanted muscle growth which is why I decided too get spinning shoes to ensure the proper form and the proper use of my muscles. In conclusion of this myth of quads getting huge due to spinning I want to say ask you if you have had a look at the bods of most spin instructors—they’re lean-legged spinning machines, and they’re prob on a bike way more than me and you. (Not that there’s anything wrong with strong, sexy quads!) Just saying…
I hope that this spinning post clarified why spinning is an AMAZING and fun workout and how it can actually make your legs leaner and NOT bulkier!