When to walk out of a Spinning® or Indoor Cycling class – my Twitter rant

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you might have noticed that I cracked a little bit last week. I hit my tolerance threshold for crappy Spinning® and Indoor Cycling classes and went on a rant about the prevalence of improper instruction in so many cycling classes around the world. I had spoken with too many instructors who told me stories like:

  • the fullest classes at my club are the ones where the instructor is having them do hovers, squats, pushups and crunches – the students have no idea! I have my own core group, but recently had a new person come in and asked why I didn’t do pushups or weights. When I explained they aren’t beneficial and only take away from your effectiveness on the bike, she walked out.
  • Management recently told us (instructors) that we had to stop talking about contraindications and couldn’t tell a student if we thought something was unsafe! Can you believe that!
  • We were told we had to teach classes with weights….or leave.
  • The most popular instructors who do the CI moves have never been to a conference or CED. I’m a Star 3 Spinning® instructor – yet management shrugs their shoulders when I give them articles about safety in class. They do not care.
  • I tried to give your article on why you shouldn’t do an upper body workout in class, the one with all the exercise science info in it, and the GX manager said, “that’s just her opinion! If Soul Cycle can do them, I will do them.”
  • The group fitness director is the worst perpetrator of crazy moves in class – so who can I turn to?

And more…. so I cracked and put out this series of Tweets:

Spinning contraindications 1Spinning contraindication 2Spinning contraindication 3Spinning contraindication 4

Spinning contraindication 5Spinning contraindication 6Spinning contraindication 7Spinning contraindication 8Spinning contraindication 9Spinning contraindication 10Spinning contraindication 11Spinning contraindication 12Spinning contraindication 13

Students just need to know when they should walk out of a bad Spinning or Indoor Cycling class! Anytime you’re asked to do anything that doesn’t seem quite right, that hurts in places it shouldn’t hurt (no, it’s not a good burn in the knees or back), that seems more like something you’d do in a Body Pump or Zumba class, or something that you would never do on a bike outside, then walk out. Or just sit back and refuse to do it, but sometimes walking out makes more of a point, especially if you see it over and over.

I had so many great responses from this series of rants! I did the same on Facebook, and broke my own record for number of “Likes” and comments on one post. I’ll post those tomorrow because there are some great comments you should see.

So many of you teach wonderful, safe, effective, motivating and scientifically sound classes – but I am often preaching to the choir, aren’t I? The ones who need the education are not reading this blog, nor are they members of ICA, nor do they go to conferences (or if they do, they selectively ignore what they learn about safety), and they are also probably self-righteous about what they are doing even in the face of exercise-scientific evidence to the contrary as well as plain ol’ common sense evidence.

The goal of ICA: improving this industry, one instructor at a time…

(Note about Twitter and #Spinning. Spinning® is a registered trademark of Mad Dogg Athletics. Twitter has a 140 character limit – it’s not often I can put both #Spinning and #IndoorCycling and have room for much more, so usually it’s just #Spinning. There are good Spinning® instructors and good Indoor Cycling instructors, and there are bad Spinning® and bad Indoor Cycling instructors. By using #Spinning, I am not making a statement or judgment about the brand or instructors. The hashtag #Spinning is the accepted one on Twitter and is how searches are made for anything related to indoor cycling/Spinning. You all know I want ALL instructors, Spinning or otherwise, to improve and be more educated about what is safe and effective to do on bikes!)

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  1. Upper body push up etc have a very beneficial effect in spinning. It mimics the core and trunk muscle stress in outdoor cycling. You guys should respect other certified instructor and the physiology that is sound in those core movements

    1. Garold, what certifications do you have? Not just indoor cycling, but exercise science/personal training ones? Because this comment reveals that you really don’t know much about physiology, or how the core works. or even about cycling. “Pushups” done on a stationary bike absolutely do not mimic the core and muscle stress in outdoor cycling (and they aren’t really even a “pushup”…they should be called “elbow bends”). I’m writing this shortly after getting back from a rather rugged mountain bike ride with a lot of muscular and core stress from the rocks, roots, and drop offs I encountered (as well, I used to race mountain bikes). Nothing I experienced on my ride even remotely looked or felt like a pushup on an indoor bike. Nor would doing pushups on a bike have helped me at all because they provide no resistance whatsoever. You would know this if you understood leverage and biomechanics.

      Additionally, not one single reputable indoor cycling certification that is approved by the American Council on Exercise (and offers ACE CECs) teaches or condones pushups while riding. Not one.
      There are “in-house” certs that teach them, but those are not recognized by the reputable organizations that sanction continuing education credits. Those “certs” (I hesitate to call them that) are created solely for their own in-house instructors (such as Soul Cycle, CycleBar, etc) and are more based on entertainment. Little, and in some cases, NO exercise science is taught at all, and certainly no cycling technique based on “real” cycling is taught.

      What we teach at the Indoor Cycling Association, and what is taught by the primary reputable indoor cycling programs (including Spinning®, Stages Cycling, Schwinn, Keiser, Indoor Cycling Group, Cycling Fusion, and several others) is based on actual cycling science and exercise science training principles.

      In these professional organizations, there is no support for ridiculous gimmicks like pushups on a bike anywhere. No matter how you slice it.

      1. I have several certifications, physiology, anatomy, triathlon, cycling, running etc. Dont lecture on something you obviously know nothing about but spew information from lack of knowledge and experience.

  2. Thank you for this article… I am a cyclist and due to a recent job change I have had to find alternatives to riding my bike. I hit a spinning class at the LA Fitness in Orange City (FL). The first instructor uses weights and push-ups. I decided not to participate in those as I thought they were silly at best. He is out this week and his replacement doesn’t use the seat and does the same push ups and such. After 15 minutes of running on the bike I decided to sit and actually do something that resembled riding a bike… Anyway, I felt bad about not following the routine as I don’t want to be “that guy” but it appears my thoughts have some validity.

  3. Charmaine, I am so sorry to hear that! Stay connected with the Indoor Cycling Association (get on our mailing list) because I guarantee you, we are going to help instructors like you through our initiatives to change (read: improve) this industry!! Mark my words. 😉

  4. Thank you for that information… I am a johnny g spinning instructor was told today my spin classes are been cut because i dont do pushups squats all the contradiction movements… I feel so sad for particpants that prefer to go to uncertified instructors classes… I feel its just not right that they get away with it

  5. @Van, you are so right! That instructor has no business teaching ANYTHING! I hope you both told the manager, and that the instructor was given a talking to (and if it persisted, fired). I’ve heard of uncaring aloof instructors, but that story takes the cake!

  6. I want to talk about personality. An instructor can have technical expertise, but be so socially inept that the class is agony…

    Yesterday. New instructor. I walk into class and she is sitting on the instructor’s bike reading a magazine. Doesn’t look up, acknowledge me. I just go to my bike figuring she doesn’t want to be bothered. Several other students enter. Same thing.

    Class starts. Instruction, chat, etc. given to the floor. Virtually no eye contact with the class. It was like she was talking to herself.

    I’ve been in classes that were too loud, or the teacher was pushing to hard, or talking too much. But this is the first class I’ve ever been in that I could describe as “creepy”.

    I see one student sneak out. After an acceptable amount of time I sneak out. Someone else follows me looks at me and rolls her eyes. I say “So it isn’t just me?” My fellow spin classmate says, “As soon as I walked in I felt like ‘I shouldn’t be here. I want to leave.”

    Bottom line: Certificates, music selection, technical skill aren’t enough. You have to connect in some way. If I wanted to spin by myself listening to mp3s or a dvd, I would. People go to class for a HUMAN aspect– encouragement, motivation, comraderie. If teachers are clueless about this or are socially inept, they should consider another profession.

  7. Jennifer:

    I absolutely understand where you are coming from 100% and hope I did not offend you. I know firsthand that you are not jealous or insecure because I have actually taken a workshop or two from you way back when here in New Jersey when you were still with Mad Dogg. I am just giving you the perspective that perhaps other people who are not as educated or know you well may be thinking…….after a while I stop listening to the rants…..and only to the common sense, which you do have…….I just prefer a different delivery.

    I know the beauty of a blog is just that…….your own thoughts and I totally respect that. I wish you nothing but the best and great success in spreading the word.

  8. Thank you L Lowe, I appreciate your comment.

    I have devoted my career to doing just that – teaching instructors what to do CORRECTLY. My resume is pretty extensive over 15 years: thousands of instructors trained, hundreds of articles written (many – perhaps even most – about safe and effective cycling and instruction), several CED workshops written for Spinning

  9. actually I do think you should stop the rants……..people tend to get tired of that behavior. It seems almost redundant and I would start to question the reason behind it……Jealousy? Insecurity?

    instead of telling us what other people are doing wrong all the time continue to tell us what to do correctly. It makes us better educated and makes you sound much more professional.

  10. Hi Jennifer,

    You already know my position on this, I am a lifetime member of the choir! Never stop the ranting, people need to be saved from poor instruction before they get hurt. This is why I opened my own studio, I wanted there to be an option for Spinning/Indoor Cycling in our area that “keeps it real”

    Rant on sister!!

  11. Your group fitness director” should be fired. Today.

    Keeping up with some other company or club isn’t a good reason to do things the wrong way. The best way to keep people spinning happily and making gains is to offer classes that teach the reasons why instead of just expecting them to blindly follow along without understanding.

    No weights, just ride. If you want a great spinning class, watch a Spinnervals video. The further a class gets away from something like that, the worse it is. Ride indoors like you’d ride outdoors. This “up for 4 seconds, down for 4 seconds, now change your hand position and do it again” crap is killing spinning classes.

    I’m a former competitive cyclist and I won’t even go into my gym’s spinning classes anymore. The four worst things about the classes I’ve been in is: all of this up and down nonsense, instructors not explaining what the ride will be like (there is no goal, instruction is not periodized), instructors not checking to make sure the riders’ seats are high enough, and music that shakes the walls.

    1. “I’m a former competitive cyclist and I won’t even go into my gym’s spinning classes anymore. The four worst things about the classes I’ve been in is: all of this up and down nonsense, instructors not explaining what the ride will be like (there is no goal, instruction is not periodized), instructors not checking to make sure the riders’ seats are high enough, and music that shakes the walls.”

      I totally agree with this. I started taking spin classes because I have a torn ligagment in my foot. For one….the music/room is way too loud. It’s barely tolerable with earplugs. In addition, it’s up/down the ENTIRE class. I thought I’d be cycling doing intervals like I do on my own or on the recumbent. But it’s never ending up/down….which puts too much on my injured foot honestly…so I just sit the whole time and do intervals…..but I can do that on my own…..don’t need a class for that.
      In short, I’d like a spin class that’s more like cycling on the road.

  12. This is a huge pet peve of mine….WE hired a slew of new instructors(apparently spin certified). As my group fitness director did not want any 2nd hand feed back, I personally went to everyones class. Then I sent her a note outlining first hand information of hwat was being taught that was outside the guidelines of the spinning program.

    I forwarded “Contraindicated Moves” as well as many excerpts from the experts speaking directly to the violations that I found. My group ex forwarded the info via email and that was the end of that.

    I try to re-educate my classes after attending other instructors….Even if I am taking a class and say to the person next to me”Don’t do that , it is dangerous” They do it none the less…

    What exactly are people thinking???????

    I can only offer the best technical class that I can produce and hope that the mebers can appreciate and decifer what is what….yet another gym with no support from the top!

    And as we know, the fish stinks from the head ,down!

    Sorry for the rant but I hate hovering and as a Respiratory therapist, cannot bear to heaer “Hold your stomach in!”

    1. I am a spin instructor AND competitive cyclist. I live, race and teach in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
      I absolutely agree, there are dangerous and non-productive moves commonly being taught in Spin Classes, everywhere.
      That said, we must remember that spin is not cycling. Spin is a group exercise class. While it is not necessary to endanger anyone taking spin, it is also not necessary to adhere only to what is germane while riding. NO competitive cyclist wears ear buds while riding. Spin without motivating music would be far less motivating. Most of my spin classes are populated by people interested in burning maximum calories in 45-60 mins. Very few, in fact none are there to discuss cycling behavior in a pace line.
      I don’t know the context in which you were instructed to “Hold your stomach in,’ and can assure you that instruction is incorrect as is necessitates the holding of breath. It is however quite common and correct to ask students to “Engage their core.” While on a spin bike, or for that matter any bike, a riders ability to stabilize with core muscle is a definitive asset. Bike racers almost always have their core engaged. Rhythmic breathing coupled with core engagement is second nature to racers and serious riders. That practice is very different from simply holding in one’s stomach.

      1. Hmmm, the competitive racers I know do not “engage” the core while cycling; they work their core off the bike so that it is strong enough to keep them upright. One often reads about cyclists (especially racers) who are taught to allow the belly to distend when inhaling (AKA belly breathing), a la an opera singer. This will facilitate the intake of oxygen. Core engagement will hinder this kind of breathing, and hence, oxygen intake. The core muscles are actually pretty smart – if you trust they’ll do their job, they do their job. You wont get injured riding a bike properly if you don’t “engage” the core.

        I hear often instructors coach students to “pull in the abdominals” – which you can do without holding the breath. But it does restrict your breathing. I’m doing it right now as I type, and can still breathe. Doing this while seated, or while lifting weights, in order to protect the spine, is fine. But add cardiovascular exercise and it will soon become restrictive.

        I disagree that “Spin” is not cycling. I worked for Spinning

        1. Typical spinning/bike rider. The core is engaged at all times. This is why you see bike riders and spinner hounds with spare tires. They have the worst core and the majority are clueless regarding core work, which is something you do at all times not just exercising. Think you need to do more research on what your core is and what muscles are involved.

          1. What? You obviously know nothing about cycling do you JJ. Or, obviously, about the core. Any “spare tire” (if there is one—not likely on a committed cyclist or as you call them “Spinner hound” IF they are working properly with real resistance and cadence) has nothing to do with “core” strength and everything to do with diet.

            A cyclist does not engage the core at all times. Tour de France cyclists have strong cores (which they build outside of their rides), but they do not engage them while riding because they would inhibit the delivery of O2 to their working muscles if they were to hold in the core. The core muscles engage as needed, you don’t “consciously” engage them while cycling. I think you need to do a little research yourself my friend. And get on a bike and ride it for 20 miles. Go out and do the same 10 mile segment twice. The first time, do it normally and without thinking about anything except enjoying yourself and getting to your destination in a good time without racing. Do NOT engage the core. Then, go back to the beginning and do the exact same segment of road and “engage” your core. You wouldn’t make it more than a few miles, and you would be out of breath and uncomfortable.

  13. Hi Jen,

    Both Jill and I have been through those same incidents and she was about to quit her position . But I explained that we can only control how we present ourselves. The rest of the instructors may never get the hint or the reason on how to keep it real. It took me awhile but now it is focused and I do my thing to the best of my ability . If some get it and then join me outside it all comes into focus . I hope this helps and I can totally relate to why you ranted. You feel better getting positive feedback now that you have support. As my coach says ” stay the course and focus on the task at hand” .

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