How hard is a spinning workout?


As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)


The latest Jockology column takes a look at “Spinning” — the indoor cycling classes whose popularity has rocketed over the past few years.

[T]he ingredients of a typical indoor cycling class somehow combine to lift workouts to heights that most participants wouldn’t achieve on their own. The alchemy of group exercise is well known to runners and aerobics classes, but spinning has found a recipe so powerful that researchers studying it have been forced to re-evaluate their definition of “maximal” exercise – and sound a warning for beginners who may wander into a class unprepared. [read the rest of the column]

I have to admit, the research on this topic surprised me. I knew people considered spinning to be a tough workout, but not “supra-maximal”! In the column, I focus on spinning compared to riding a stationary bike on your own — but I’d be interested to hear from serious cyclists about how spinning compares to a hard group ride on the roads. Does the same group dynamic apply outdoors?