How I Choose my Spinning Tunes

Last month marked my fifth anniversary as a Spinning instructor. In some ways it feels like I’ve been teaching much longer, because I can’t really even remember my life before teaching group exercise! Over the last five years I’ve learned quite a few things about group exercise in general- from how to best relate to the participants in my classes, what (most) people like and don’t like and how to become a better, more confident instructor.

I remember those first few months of teaching indoor cycling quite well. I spent so much time planning out every single moment of every single ride, because I wanted everything to be perfect. As time went on, I got more comfortable, more confident and grew to have a great relationship with the “regulars” that would come to my classes. I’ve also learned how to communicate (i.e. speak at a loud volume) while I’m at 75-80% MHR – which is a must for a group exercise instructor. One thing you learn from teaching indoor cycling is how to hold a conversation when your heart feels like it’s beating right out of your chest. I’ve never been able to “cheat” when I teach (meaning that I’d have the resistance way down low and “pretend” I’m working hard). In fact, I burn a lot more calories and work a lot harder when I’m teaching a class (rather than taking a class).

One comment that I get more often than anything else from people that take my classes is that my music selection rocks. Hearing this means a lot to me, because I actually do put a lot of time and effort into choosing music to play in my classes. I like to have a wide range of genres- anything from 90s rock to current top 40 pop, and anything in between. Basically I think “what would I like to listen to when I’m doing a cardio workout? What music gets me pumped?” I also can’t get away from that “instructor mindset” and am constantly thinking “that song would be great for class” when hearing music on the radio (or anywhere else). My iPhone is actually loaded with photos like this:


That’s to remind me to download the song for class when I get home. :)

Although I’m certified through Spinning as an instructor, I can’t technically say that I teach Spinning class since I don’t work at a certified “Spinning” facility. But, indoor cycling is basically the same thing (and I slip and call it “Spinning” all the time). For Spinning, there’s basically nine different “movements” to design a class around: seated flat, standing flat, seated climb, jumps, standing climb, running with resistance, jumps on a hill, sprints and sprints on a hill. As I mentioned above- I used to plan out pretty much every second of a ride (which was a 50-60 minute class). I’ve definitely improved my time management when it comes to planning classes- but that doesn’t mean that I still don’t put the same amount of pride and quality into every class I teach.

A typical indoor cycling class that I teach is an hour long (including warm-up and cool-down) and has a mix of different levels of climbing, speed, flat roads and recovery. I base my instruction on the music and tempo. I know that not every instructor teaches this way, but it’s what I’ve found the best response to and what I actually prefer myself.

Here are just a few of my favorite songs to play during an indoor cycling class:

The Pretender- Foo Fighters

Cry For You- September

It’s All Your Fault- P!nk

Sexy Bitch- David Guetta (ft. Akon)

When You Were Young- Killers

Heads Will Roll- Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Scream- Usher

Die Young- Ke$ha

Use Somebody- Kings of Leon

The Adventure- Angels and Airwaves

…and I could go on, and on…. and on.

I think it’s so important for an instructor to choose music that he/she loves and gets “pumped” from. The more you “feel” the music, the more it will come out in your voice, energy and instruction- and the more it will get everyone else energized and excited (and likely to work hard!). I probably come off as a crazy goofball when I teach- but I really don’t care. Certain songs just make me amped up- and make we want to have everyone else feeling the same way. :)

Lastly, I’ll leave you with today’s ride (which I’ve probably already taught by the time you read this!), which includes some of the favorites listed above:


A few notes about this particular ride: It’s focused on climbing more than anything else. I will often have a ride that focuses more on climbing or speed, or have a combination of both. There are few built-in recovery periods throughout the hour-long ride, including one that lasts about two minutes (which I generally put right around the 30 minute mark). The “climbs” vary in resistance and some are easier than others. As I said- I let the tempo and energy of the music guide me. :)

Have a fantastic Tuesday!

How important is music to you when you work out? What are some of your favorite cardio jams?


  1. I have stopped going to a spin class before because I didn’t like the music (It was a bunch of very long remixes). So yeah, very important!

  2. Thank you!!! I’m a yoga sculpt instructor and I also spend a lot of time on my music. Also, definitely pinning your playlist photo, I just bought a road bike and plan on getting a trainer for next winter.

  3. 100% agree – the music can make or break a class!! And I love teaching spin. And I am always looking for new music – thanks for sharing!!

  4. I think music is especially important in a spin class! I’ve been to a ton of different spin classes, and I always enjoy the ones that have great music. The ones with just mediocre music leave me feeling bored and not very pumped. Love your music selection!

  5. A good music list is SO important. There are definitely instructors who I prefer because of their music mix. Equally when running or doing solo exercise having the right music mix can make my run/ workout and be what get’s me through it. Have a lot of the above songs on my Shuffle, good choices :-)

  6. This is awesome! I haven’t gone to spin in forever but my husband has been going at lunch on his own and he needs music suggestions. Thank you! :)

  7. It looks like our music tastes are similar!
    I used to blog all my rides since I felt like there was a shortage of that sort of information, however with Spotify and social networking, it’s so easy to share playlists.
    Do you use spotify?

    • I don’t know why I’ve never really shared my playlists- I should more often! And I just started using Spotify (and now I’m hooked!). I logged in through Facebook so it wouldn’t let me change my username. It’s 12128659928

      • I put in your username (user number) but it didn’t find anyone… i’m jessicabondell if you want to follow me and then I can follow you back :)

        I held off on Spotify for a while and now I can’t imagine not using it.

  8. I love that you make music screenshots! I’m always tagging music in soundhound for my cycling classes. Some of my all-time favorites are from Rusted Root, Led Zeppelin, Ratatat, and Rodrigo y Gabriela,

  9. I totally agree with your comment about how you burn more calories instructing a class than taking a class. I just started teaching indoor cycling, but have been taking classes for over 5 years now. I love it! Thank you for posting this and sharing.

  10. awesome! thanks! Also agree with the energy level when I teach Holy I burn a lot more calories- so much that a woman who is a “barbie” yelled across the class last week “What I don’t understand is why you sweat more than us!” Meanwhile everyone was drenched ! She was trying to downplay my ride. I replied- going fast does not mean working hard. Your ten may be lighter than my ten resistance- it is a very individualized program and that is the beauty of it! Anyone can do it. You need to START that is all! This field can attract such bs! ugggh sorry just venting! Thanks to all of you who post positive and wonderful things!

Comments are welcome (and encouraged)!