In September, I tried indoor cycling for the first time. As a professional couch potato, I didn't know what to expect. I hadn't been fit since high school and that was four years ago. I wanted a physical activity that would make me healthy fast and would be suitable for a total beginner. I owned a bicycle and decided that spin class couldn't be that much harder or different (I was so wrong). Also, I noticed that Spinning was becoming the new trendy way of working out. So I signed up.

It is now five months later and I am still going. I'm definitely not a pro, but I'm slightly less of a couch potato and I know a ton more about spin than I did when I started. If you're thinking of trying the sport out, here is everything I wish someone had told me before getting into it.

It is not "just like riding a bike"

Unlike your usual leisurely bike ride, spin classes involve sprints and constantly increasing and decreasing resistance levels. There are no casual picnic lunch breaks or cute photo ops. Though the fundamentals of balance and peddling with your feet still apply, spinning is much more of a real workout and requires a lot more technique. 

Arrive early 

Regardless of whether it's your first class or your hundredth class, get there ten minutes early. Classes fill up fast. If you have a spin buddy, this will give you a better chance at snagging two bikes beside each other. Also, spin bikes usually need to be adjusted to the height of the rider, which can take some time. 

Bring a towel

I'll be honest, someone told me to do this before my first class and I thought they were kidding. But then I ended up being one of the few people in the room without one. Spin makes you sweat— like a lot more than you expect— and a towel will be your saviour. 

Also, bring two water bottles. You will need both

Once again, spin is a lot more intense than you think it will be. I know bringing multiple water bottles will feel like juggling, but you will go through them fast and your future self will thank you.

Spin will motivate you to make other healthy choices 

Around the same time that I started spin, I started eating better. I was drinking green smoothies and, for the first time ever, found myself eating salads. I actually started craving spinach. It was a whole new world. 

If the instructor starts walking around the room, it will be terrifying

At some point during the class, the instructor will get off their bike and start weaving through the room, screaming motivational phrases at the group. If you're the kind of person that sits in the back and doesn't like to be seen, you will feel incredibly self-conscious about your form and it will be like being given a test you didn't study for. 

After the first class, your butt muscles will hate you 

Spinning is a new sensation. The constant sitting, standing, and bumping on your bicycle seat really gives your butt a beating. The morning after your first class, it will hurt to sit. I promise that you will survive this stage and you won't experience this beyond the first week. 

Singing along is totally okay

Your instructor will turn on the tunes to get you motivated.  It will be the kind of music that gives the urge to scream the lyrics. I'm talking everything from the Backstreet Boys to Beyonce. At first, the thought of singing in a room full of sweaty strangers will seem scary, but then you'll realize it's no different than what you do when your song comes on at the club every weekend.

Form matters and it's dangerous to get it wrong

Pay attention when the instructor explains how to do a perfect peddle stroke and the proper arm and torso positions. Doing it right helps you exert energy efficiently, makes sure you are working the right muscles, and prevents you from straining your muscles. 

Tuck your shoelaces into your shoes 

Take it from me, if your shoelaces aren't tucked in, they may get caught in the gears, which would make the peddle slam into your calf, causing tissue damage. Just trust me on this one. 

Working out in the dark is actually great

In some classes, the instructor will turn off the lights. Not only does this bring down the heat in the room, but it also makes bikers more confident. Since it's harder to see, you worry less about the other people noticing the sweat stains on your back and more about doing your best. When you don't compare yourself to others, your confidence really does improve. 

Going backward makes for a completely different workout 

Some stationary bikes have the ability to peddle backwards and sometimes instructors will incorporate this into their classes. Initially, going in reverse feels foreign and wobbly, but it will quickly become the most interesting part of the class. It works different muscle groups and gives you a break from engaging the muscles that you use when going forwards. 

Who the instructor is will make a difference

Every spin course is different because every instructor is different. Different instructors put emphasis on different muscle groups, work at different paces, play different music, train for different terrains, and have different methods of motivating their students. Ask around for reviews of instructors before signing up for a class so you know that it's right for you. 

Speak up 

To get everything you want out of a class, you need to be your own advocate. If you need assistance adjusting your bike or aren't sure if your form is correct, ask. If you have a specific work-out song that will motivate you to do better, request it. 

Sitting up front is not scary

Do not be afraid to sit in the front row. Staring directly into the eyes of the instructor can seem intimidating, and you may fear that the rest of the room watching you, but sitting up there is a great opportunity. First, being closer to the instructor allows you to get more pointers and personalized attention.

Second, up front you can't see behind you, so if people stare, there is no way to know. Third, sometimes the front of the room will have a mirror. So sitting in the front gives you prime access to your reflection. It's a chance to monitor your form and check your gorgeous self out.

Even though spin is much more challenging than your standard bike ride, it is very worth it. You learn to push yourself and it gives you a lot more confidence in terms of your athletic abilities. Plus, how often do you get improve your health and fitness levels while listening to sweet tunes in the dark? 

I highly recommend that anyone who has been considering the cycle fitness trend to give it a try. If you do, use these tips as your bible and you'll quickly become the instructors favourite.