3 Reasons Why Spinning Might Not Be Worth it After All

The cardio-heavy classes may seem like the ultimate calorie-scorchers, but experts say that's not necessarily enough. By Anna Davies, REDBOOK.

Kristy, 31, a mom of one in New Jersey, decided to go on a gym kick last winter. "I still had about 10 pounds of baby weight from when I'd given birth a year before, and I finally felt like I had enough breathing room in my schedule to actually commit to going to the gym." Her workout of choice was spin, three mornings a week.

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The result? Two months later, Kristy saw a change in the way her pants fit… They were tighter than ever. "I don't think that I was eating that much more, but I put on about five pounds. It was really disconcerting."

It turns out that her story is one that fitness experts hear all the time, especially as boutique spin studios like SoulCycle and FlyWheel have popped up around the country. These classes promise transformation, and, incorporating tons of enthusiasm, top-20 dance hits, and affirmations shouted to participants by the instructor, they're never monotonous. But does feeling awesome translate into an awesome workout? Tracy Anderson, celeb trainer and creator of the Tracy Anderson Method, isn't so sure. "I have women who come into my office after spinning exclusively for six months, wondering why they can't fit into their jeans," she says. "Spin may burn calories in the short term, but if that's all you're doing, it'll bulk your thighs." That got us wondering: Could spin classes be thwarting our fitness goals?

You're not burning as much as you think

Experts agree that when it comes to any kind of cardio, the pounds may not fall off. "It's not uncommon to gain weight at the beginning of an exercise regimen," says Joe Cannon, a Philadelphia-based personal trainer and exercise psychologist. "Some people may initially put on muscle, but many others simply eat more calories when they begin to exercise." And sadly, even though it feels like a killer spin class gives you a little leeway when it comes to indulging in the cupcakes your coworker brought in, that's not the case. "An average spin class burns between 400 and 600 calories," says Will Torres, fitness expert and founder of Willspace, a personal training studio in New York City. "Spin three times a week and you torch up to 1,800 calories, but a pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories. So to see weight-loss results, it's not realistic to allow for wiggle room."

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You might hurt yourself

Some spin classes, like SoulCycle and FlyWheel, have a hand-weight component, but experts agree that it's no substitute for strength training--and could be setting you up for injury. Because spin studios are often dark, the instructor can't see whether or not you have proper form, explains Amelia DiDomenico, assistant fitness manager at Crunch Sunset. Aside from that, using weights for only about five to seven minutes means the effort definitely doesn't condition you as much as a 30-minute circuit that you may follow with a trainer. Finally, the over-conditioning of your thighs could negatively affect your other muscles. "Any time you perform the same activity without cross-training, you wind up creating an imbalance between opposing muscles groups," says Torres. "In the case of spinning, hip flexors and quads overdevelop, leading to imbalance and eventual injury." And if you're spinning a lot, it's easy for injuries to creep up. After all, you're confident in your cardio, so you might push yourself to run a 5k or take a boot-camp class--without realizing that your muscles may not be up to the challenge.

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Spin smarter

We're not saying you should completely cut spin out of your workout schedule--the cardio strengthens your heart, and the dance-club-like atmosphere is undeniably fun--but if you do want to lose weight or inches, swapping out a spin class for a resistance session is a smart idea. If you're one of many people who go to a specially-focused spin studio, where classes can cost up to $35 apiece, it might be smarter to spend that cash on a few personal-training sessions. A trainer can recommend the best workouts for the results you want and assess your form. Then, you can practice on your own. "Using weights will tone your muscles, making you look smaller," says DiDomenico. "And the more muscle you have, the more efficient your body becomes, which means you'll burn more calories when resting."

If you'd rather keep spinning, try to mix in another option. First, figure out what you like best about spin class: Is it the camaraderie? The awesome tunes? The fact that you don't have to think for 45 minutes because the instructor is telling you exactly what to do? If it's the group-feel, try CrossFit. All about the music? Look into resistance-band workout classes. Want to turn off your brain? Drop in on a bootcamp. After all, as spin class teaches you, success is all about keeping up the rotation.


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