Christian Music: Should You Play it in Your Indoor Cycling Class

I have a number of very loyal students who on occasion ask for some Christian music in class. In general, I try to meet student requests for music but, at the same time, I am aware that some students don’t wish to be “preached to” in class. What’s the answer?

The guiding principle here has to be respect for every student in the class and their beliefs. All are your students. All deserve consideration.

But what to do?

Every situation is probably different. Each one becomes a judgment call based on the values of your club or organization, your specific class makeup, and the need for sensitivity to all. In some cases it can be a delicate issue. Indeed, one of my students is the wife of a minister. She noted that even the use of Christian music in a Christian church can be controversial because there are so many different styles and types.

But in addition to the differing tastes of Christian music devotees, you have to consider the views of many others. Your class may contain Jews, Hindus, or Muslims, in addition to Christians, as well as those who just may not want any religious message in their cycling class.

Music is an important part of indoor cycling. Not only does it give energy and background to a class, it can also provide context and inspiration and can be a powerful tool for engagement and inspiration. But, like any powerful tool, it also requires care in its use.

It seems to me that there are two equally valid answers to the question of how to use Christian music:

One course is simply to not use music that proclaims a strong point of view be that topical, political, or religious. This is a sensible position, relatively easy to implement and defend. But there can still be differences of opinion. For instance, some may find offense in rock lyrics that others might find pretty commonplace. Other instructors have no issue with using overtly explicit but popular hip-hop songs, and while it might turn some students away, they’ve found it attracts another crowd.

The alternative point of view is to regard Christian music as another form of music similar to rock, pop, electronic, global, or jazz. Seen this way, Christian music can be occasionally included in class music. In fact, Christian music can include pop, rock, hard rock, grunge, rap, and hip-hop.

Tom Scotto, a well-known and respected master instructor, says, “My viewpoint is simply to find music (from this genre) that is inspirational but does not proselytize. This would include lyrics that promote courage, fight, heart, determination, inner strength, etc. I like words that could also have a double meaning and could be used in a Christian or secular fashion.”

Gene Nacey of Cycling Fusion, another highly regarded and well-known instructor, reports the successful use of well-chosen Christian music in his studio. He says, “I’ve used Christian rock music in my Spinning classes since the very first time I taught. I still use Christian rock today, even in our commercial Global Ride DVDs, because so much of it is not ‘in your face,’ but instead, uses lyrics that are common to every human being. I use this music because of how inspiring the words usually are. I consistently get people who love the music and have no idea that it was a Christian group.”

Gene says that he usually steers clear of “contemporary Christian,” which is the kind of pop/soft rock that you would hear on a Christian radio station. The style of music and the choice of words make it unmistakably apparent what is being sung about, and you are bound to offend someone. Not only that, but these songs often are lacking a driving beat necessary for most indoor cycling.

On the other hand, Gene has also conducted “Gospel Spins” and “Worship Spins” at his studio, but he is very clear about the nature of those classes in his class description. Students know in advance that the themes of spirituality are going to be obvious. He says the “Worship Spins” were solely taught on Sundays or Saturday nights and were indeed a type of worship service on bikes—even including a preacher—but obviously the demographic was very specifically targeted. The Gospel Spins, on the other hand, were widely appealing amongst his students.

Jennifer Sage admits to using some songs from Christian groups, but she says that she didn’t even know they were Christian until after the fact! That shows that often the lyrics are not at all blatant, and if you take the time to listen to them closely, you would simply notice lyrics with a positive message. Using this kind of Christian music will guarantee that you won’t hear some of the themes that you find in many mainstream songs, including sex, drugs, violence, money, and profanity.

Like Jennifer, Gene, and Tom, I sometimes use music with a Christian message but that has also become a part of secular musical culture. For example, the Annie Lenox song “Take Me to the River” is a favorite of mine. I think it is one of the great climbing songs of all time. Black gospel music is perfect for riding and is generally accepted in both popular and secular culture.

If you choose to use some Christian music, here are some guidelines you might consider:

  • As with any form of music, use it in moderation. This is especially true when some might find the use of the music to be too much in their face.
  • Be sure that the use of the music is very well suited to the class plan. This is true of all music, of course. The main purpose of any music is to convey the purpose in your class profile.
  • Avoid Christian music that seems heavy-handed. Listen to the lyrics carefully. Again, we should avoid “over the top” music in any category.

Jennifer Sage said that she has received several requests at ICA for Christian music suggestions. One instructor even said that she worked at a facility that was owned by a church and instructors were required to only play Christian music. So you see, there are many variations of acceptance for this genre of music.

So you get to choose. There is no universally “right” or “wrong” answer here. Most importantly, we need to be respectful of all faiths and views. How have you approached this issue in your classes? Do you get requests for Christian or other religious music? How have you responded in the past, or how would you respond if you were faced with this question? And, if you do use Christian music, please share your favorites in the comments!

If you do choose to try some Christian music, here are some songs—one great gospel tune plus mostly Christian rock (sometimes pretty hard rock) recommendations from Jennifer Sage, Gene Nacey, and Tom Scotto:

  • Rise Up, Sunkids feat. Chance (130 bpm—great gospel song, clapping throughout)
  • ReadyFuels, Anberlin (84 bpm)
  • Breathe, Anberlin (71 bpm)
  • The Fight, The Classic Crime (110 bpm)
  • Dangerous, Decemberadio (86 bpm)
  • Ride With Me, Decyfer Down (66 bpm)
  • Rise Up, Disciple (80 bpm)
  • Silent Screams, Eowyn (84 bpm)
  • Helpless, Eowyn (82 bpm)
  • Fire in My Eyes, Fireflight (90 bpm)
  • Fire on the Inside, Pillar (97 bpm)
  • Awake and Alive, Skillet (81 bpm)
  • Meant to Live, Switchfoot (75 bpm)
  • Fire It Up, Thousand Foot Krutch (64 bpm)
  • The Part That Hurts the Most (Is Me), Thousand Foot Krutch (82 bpm)
  • Welcome To The End, 12 Stones (88 bpm)
  • Stand Up, Remedy Drive (108 bpm)
  • Bittersweet, Falling Up (100 bpm)
  • Exit Calyspan, Falling Up (96 bpm)

If you are on Spotify, find Gene Nacey and subscribe to his Christian playlists. He has one called 7-Star Christian Rock, as well as some from some of the artists listed above.


Bill Roach is a Star 3 Spinning Instructor, personal trainer (NASM-CPT, CEX, WLS), and lead indoor cycling instructor for the Des Moines YMCA’s. He also has a background as a long-distance competitive cyclist. He is retired from a career in communications (PRSA/APR) in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.



  1. We love Christian Music. However much more people cannot stand music like AC/DC and other crappy music. But most people love Christian Music.

    1. Author

      Hi Johnny, I agree there is a place for Christian music in a mix of different kinds of music you might use in a class. The key with any music is variety, in my opinion. So I’d be careful not to play too much of any one thing. Like you, I’d go nuts with a whole class of AC/DC, but I could see its effective use in a well chosen place. I think the bottom line is to be careful of always playing one kind of music and never playing another. I’ve been surprised what my students like and I try to have something for each of them in my classes.

  2. Author

    I am glad you liked the article, Clay. It’s good to have you add your perspective.

  3. Great article. Like many I too use some Christian tracks in my Spin class. Artist such as Royal Tailor, Manafest, Press Play, etc. There are many to chose from. One comment said it best is ‘select music that is appropriate for the type exercise.’ Besides, my students are so exhausted by the end they are not ‘hearing’ the lyrics,,,they’re just trying to finish! 🙂

  4. Good article, very balanced. I use “Christian Music” in my classes with great success. I think the key, just as in choosing any other genre of music, is to select music that is appropriate for the type exercise (sprinting, climbing, etc.) and stay away from music that is overly “preachy” or “in your face” and might be offensive to a student in your class. Thanks for the article!

    1. Author

      Thanks Gary, I appreciate that you see the need to balance various interests. And I agree that if the music really works it is not likely to offend, but if it is added gratuitously then it probably will. Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you are doing it well.

  5. Very interesting discussion. I am Jewish. I teach at YMCAs, JCCs, and many secular gyms. I also live in a very diverse area (Northern CA) where we have a mix of all sorts of ethnicities and religions. My initial response to this topic, was “nope, I steer clear.” But after reading through the comments I discovered, “hey, I guess I do play Christian music.” I never had thought of U2, or even Need to Breathe (obvious now that I’ve read their Wikipedia entry) as Christian. In fact, I’ve used many of the songs listed above. Here’s the my dirty little secret: I almost never pay attention to the lyrics of a song. Sometimes I even find myself singing along (in my car, not in my classes!) and I have no idea what I’m singing. For me, music is all about the way it sounds, the beat, the way it makes me move. Of course, I censor the explicit language stuff, but that’s only because it’s highlighted with the “explicit” tag — otherwise, I’d probably be oblivious to 95% of even the cursing that happens in the lyrics. I wonder if I’m unusual this way? Do most people really pay attention to the lyrics in the music? Especially when they’re in a cycle class?

    P.S. Someone asked above if there’s any usable/spinnable “Jewish” music. I have used Matisyahu on occasion, FWIW.

    1. Author

      Hi Lisa, thanks for weighing in. I agree with you that one result of this discussion is that many of us have realized that we are using more Christian-based music than we may have thought. Your comment about lyrics also interested me because I have great trouble “hearing” the lyrics of many songs. Even when I try to listen, I often just can’t make out the exact lyrics being sung. As has been noted here, the beat is way important than the lyrics – as long as the lyrics don’t provide an unwelcome distraction. Thanks for your good comments.

  6. Interesting posts…. While I am on the music faculty here at ICA I keep going back to a lesson I learned form JohnnyG. In 2003 I was tasked with developing 5 hours of music for the Spin de Cove event held in San Diego. Basically I picked and mixed all the songs for the event, which was a daunting task.

    The day before the event I had a meeting with JG to review the plan for the day and my music. I sat with JG and started the review of each track and the choreography that I had developed for pretty much every minute of the 5 hours. After about 3 mins of of review JG said something simple that has lasted my entire career with regard to music. “are the beats good?”. “I said yes the beats are really good”. The meeting ended with no further review.

    It didn’t matter what song, genera, or artists it simply boils down to beats, and rhythms. If the song has lots of lyrical content at the expense of the beats and rhythm then I usually pass on the song for use in the studio.

    To state this concept differently, a song like How Great Thou Art (Underwood / Gill) mentioned in a post above lacks the rhythmic content that I feel is needed to make it an awesome song to use in the studio. It relies about 90% on the vocals for its rhythmic content, which in my book for any song in any genera is a deal killer! Having a song that is so reliant on the vocal for the rhythmic component makes people listen to the words, which creates a very big opportunity for people to disconnect and disassociate from training. They will in many cases start to sing along or think about the words which conflicts with the feeling and connection I want them to have while training.

    While I wont argue that it is a pretty song, it would not work in my studio and I would coach my instructors to find better songs that work rhythmically and have better beats. There are literally millions of songs that are easily accessible.

    To contrast One by U2 has lots of words and the vocals are quite forward in the mix BUT there is a kicking beat underneath it all. Those beats are what connects the “people” to the song, not so much the words in the vocals in a studio environment. It is easy to get lost in the funky guitar and steady drum beat and for me I dont even register on the words / vocals when I ride to it. So compared to the other example I would consider it very suitable for use in my studio.

    Using beats / rhythmic content versus the “vocal” rhythmic content in my view makes picking songs simple, and eliminates much of the “lyrics and message content” issues that this thread is addressing. Remember if the beats are good, the song is good!

    1. Author

      I am reminded of the old show, “American Bandstand”. Kids would dance to songs and then rate them. The comment I always remember them saying is “I love the beat. I can dance to it.” Great comment Bryon.

  7. “Mind, Body, Spirit” is where I come from with my rides. When I teach, one of my messages to my students is that “it’s more than just exercise – it’s an experience”.
    When the music becomes a distraction, it doesn’t belong in the ride. I want my riders to lose themselves for the time that they are in my care and on their ride. When I share music, if they can’t make it theirs then the music doesn’t belong, and if I can’t find meaning in the message, either for me or my riders, then I won’t bring it to the profile.
    I have taught for years at many facilities – Young Men’s Christian Associations, Jewish Community Centers, national fitness chains, and local fitness centers. When I come to any cycling facility, I make it part of my job to learn the culture, the crowd and what the atmosphere is. I filter my music to make sure that it works for the crowd that I teach to and work hard to make it part of an enjoyable ride.
    I have been fortunate in that the places where I have taught and teach give wide latitude and trust the instructors’ discretion with what we can use in our playlists and profiles – I have never been told “this is the music you will use to teach” and I enjoy creating rides for my classes. I screen every song that I choose to use – does the music have a good sound, is there a beat that I can work with, is there a message, is there a story, is it positive/negative, is there harsh/offensive language? Many places need “family friendly” music.
    I like motivational and inspirational music. I have a diverse musical palette. Have I used Christian songs before? Yup. Third Day, Jars of Clay, Amy Grant, Toby Mac, NeedtoBreathe, Thousand Foot Krutch, Aveisha Woods, Reliant K and others. I have found some good music that I can share with my riders that isn’t “in your face” preachy. I’ve found some beautiful music that is worth sharing and I’ve had riders come to me after a ride and ask who the artist/song was. But for some, the language and the message can be like nails on a chalkboard.
    Cognitive dissonance can throw a ride, drive people to distraction and sour the experience. When the riders walk away with that negative experience then I have to take responsibility.
    I prefer to catch problems before they develop rather than do damage control. Will I exclude religious music? Yes. I exclude all sorts of music depending on the message, the language, the sound, the beat, the atmosphere, the culture and the riders.
    Again, when it becomes a distraction, it doesn’t belong in the ride.

    1. Author

      Jonathan, I think I would like your classes. I agree about your emphasis on mind-body-spirit. And I think your observation that “when the music becomes a distraction it shouldn’t be used” is important. Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

  8. Wow. This article is so shocking so political.

    What if the article said should Jewish music be played at gyms ?

    The real issue is should offensive rock and roll music be played at spin and indoor cycling classes which happens everyday.

    1. Author

      Johnny, I am sorry that you found my article to be “shockingly political”. Quite the contrary, it was written from a perspective of trying to find a common ground where all views could meet in comfort.

      The principle of the article was meant to apply to all religious music but I am just not aware of overtly Jewish music that might be used in a cycling class. Perhaps there is.

      Finally, I agree that rock music with shocking lyrics is just plain wrong to use in class. And while that can in some cases be a subjective judgment, I do know some who do it. But I don’t think many of those people are members of ICA.

      Thanks for sharing.

  9. I too, have played many Christian songs that don’t even sound like it, or people didn’t even know. I also teach at a YMCA, and I work really hard to play music that doesn’t have offensive language or suggestive/raunchy lyrics (like so much top 40 out there now) but also music that is empowering and makes you feel great. In addition to the suggestions above (I played Third Day before and two women came up after to tell me how much they loved it; check out “Light at the end of the Tunnel”) I have also found great songs from Jars of Clay (“Work”), Reliant K and NeedtoBreathe.

    1. Author

      Thanks for the good thoughts and suggestions.

  10. Author

    Thanks for sharing, Steve!

  11. Great article…many good points on this topic. When I started teaching classes at the local YMCA I explored the Christian music genre and found some great music for my playlists. I have one that is loaded with Christian music tracks, but I continue to use more…often for warm up, hill climbing or cool down. Here’s a link to my Spinsiration playlist:
    Thanks for the post!

  12. Author

    Thank you Jill. That’s a great list of songs. Also, you make an important point. In addition to considering the makeup of your class, you should also be consistent with your own beliefs.

  13. I always throw in Christian songs… It’s a genre of music, just like rap, country, rock, techno, pop, etc. If it’s good music, with a good message and a good beat, nobody gets offended.

    I always teach on Friday… Have for 9 years, Which means I teach on good Friday, which as a Christian is a pretty important holiday. I do two hours of inspirational music… Main goal is to select mainstream secular music with a Christian message… In addition to the artists listed in above posts, Linkin Park, Lifehouse, Paper tongues, Lady Gaga, 30 seconds to Mars, Pat Benatar, etc. there are some amazing songs out there if you look for them that aren’t overtly Christian but get the same message across. My favorites are iridescent and Castle of glass by Linkin Park, Kings and Queens by 30 seconds to Mars, I’m alive by Celine Dion, free ride by the Edgar Winter group, Acappella by kelis, outcast by Carrie Roberts, borrow mine by bebo Norman, all fired up by Pat Benatar, where the streets have no name by U2, give me your eyes by Brandon Heath, born this way by Lady Gaga, the motions by Matthew West, let your light shine by R Kelly, sing by my chemical Romance, Heaven by live, Trinity by paper tongues, this is war by 30 seconds to Mars, Solsberry hill by Peter Gabriel, maybe By sick puppies, words by hawk Nelson, eye on it by Toby Mac, coming home by boyce Avenue, live like that By sidewalk prophets, Bring me to life by evanescence, are you going to go my way by Lenny Kravitz, everything by life House, one vision by Queen, Pride by syntax, the catalyst by Linkin Park, marching on by one republic, what I’ve done by Linkin Park, walk by Foo Fighters… I could go on for days.

    By the way… I am a Christian and it took me quite a while to get comfortable with letting people know who I really am… I find that when it’s sincere and from the heart and you’re not preaching, you’re just simply playing good music with a good beat, nobody gets offended.

    If you’re not Christian and you’re doing it because you think someone else wants to hear it, don’t do it, it won’t come off right.

  14. These are great suggestions! Thanks! I will be adding some of them to my playlists.

  15. Author

    Thanks, Maureen, for your viewpoint and for adding to the songlist. By the way, I thought I was probably the only cycling instructor in the world occasionally using Gregorian Chant. Glad to meet another. I use it from time to time for stretching after class because it creates such a total counterpoint to the class itself.

    1. Sorry Bill I have been using Gegorian Chant for years

      Also Bach – though keep away from the Cantatas!


      1. Author

        Okay, Mark. I should have known there would be more. It’s beautiful music. Great for contemplation. Thanks.

  16. I play Christian music a lot! Most people don’t even realize but the ones who listen to contemporary Christian radio (K LOVE) absolutely know and have thanked me. I typically pick out the positive and encouraging songs that are the most versatile. For example, the song may be about love for Jesus but may not say Jesus in the song itself. Although, I’ve played songs by mainstream artists which have Jesus/Lord/God in the lyrics and I’m A-ok with that.
    Songs like:
    Jesus Walks-Kanye West
    Make it Happen-Mariah Carey
    There Will Come a Day-Faith Hill
    No More Drama-Mary J. Blige
    How Great Thou Art-Carrie Underwood/Vince Gill
    Prayer of St.Francis-Sara Maclaughlan
    Jesus Take the Wheel-Carrie Underwood
    I can Only imagine
    Where is the Love-Black Eyed Peas

    As for Christian Contemporary music I’ve played
    History-Matthew West
    My Own Little World-Matthew West
    Come Undone-FFH
    I am New-Jason Gray
    It’s Your Life-Francesca Battistelli
    This is the Stuff-Francesca Battistelli
    You Are More-Tenth Avenue North
    Gold-Britt Nicole
    I Need A Miracle-Third Day
    Remind Me Who I Am

    Also, K-LOVE Radio, if you go to their website,
    offers a free song download once per week.
    You can also get information about where to find KLOVE on the radio on your area.

    I have many more songs to share and will write more later.

    Also, it never hurts, if you think anyone may get offended by any song being overtly Christian, to just say to the class that the song is a request by someone in the class and name the person. We should all be able to co exist in class!

    I also play many songs with Gregorian chant. Check out an Ozzy Osbourne/Lia Ford song called Clos My Eyes Forever on Masters of Chant.
    God Bless! Thanks for addressing this, Jen!

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