The Spinning Instructor Certification from Mad Dogg Athletics (Overview/My Thoughts)

Review of the Mad Dogg Spinning Instructor Certification ProgramMan I feel like this post was years in the making! I talked about getting certified FOR-EH-VER (The Sandlot voice). Over Memorial Day weekend, I finally bit the bullet and went to a Mad Dogg Spinning® certification workshop, and then this past week I took the exam online to finish things up. I know, I know, my procrastination skills are impressive. Please hold your applause.

Before I get into all the details, I just want to remind you all of the difference between Spinning® and indoor cycling/”spin” so we’re all on the same page. I did a whole post about it HERE, but to summarize: Spinning® is based on outdoor cycling—anything you wouldn’t do on a road bike, you wouldn’t do on a stationary bike in a Spinning class. It’s what most people associate with traditional “spin”/spinning classes. Indoor cycling (also called “spin”) is this new wave of stationary bike workouts (think Soul Cycle) where you’re riding to the beat of the music (maybe not all the time), changing positions a lot, maybe even dancing a bit, doing push ups on the bike, and might have some hand weight upper-body portions as well. 

If you don’t feel like reading through this whole post, here’s your two-sentence summary: If you want to teach traditional Spinning classes, this is a great program led by passionate and uber-informed master instructors—I highly recommend it. If you want to teach indoor cycling (the new trend in stationary bike fitness that involves a lot of movement, choreography, and upper body portions of the workout), it’s not worth the cost—don’t do it.

Why I Chose Mad Dogg Athletics/To Get Certified at All

Even when I was sure I wanted to start instructing, I went back and forth a lot about whether getting certified was even necessary. I had a lot of fitness professionals and current instructors tell me it was a waste of money and I shouldn’t do it. That advice, coupled with the facts that I already had group fitness experience under my belt from teaching at Btone, had this blog as a major fitness resume booster, aaaand have friends who just happen to own a spin studio…well, let’s just say things were stacked in favor of me not taking a certification course.

Ultimately though, I don’t just want to be a kickass instructor, I want to be an accredited, knowledgeable instructor. As a fitness professional, I am always trying to absorb as much information in the field as possible, and I figured if nothing else, I would learn proper form on the bike, safety/set-up tips, and the “WHY” behind stationary bike workouts. I like leading an awesome workout and then being able to explain why it was good for your body, why I had you move your body in those certain ways, and how things can be modified to accommodate both beginner and advanced students.

So why Mad Dogg Athletics? And why Spinning® when I knew I would be teaching indoor cycling? Well, I couldn’t really find any other program (at least not in the New England area) that looked even half as legit. It was pretty much my only option. Plus, after creeping around online and looking at the bios of some of my favorite instructors in Boston, the majority of them seemed to have all gone through Mad Dogg (even those not teaching a traditional Spinning program).

The Logistics of the Spinning Instructor Certification Program

The certification program costs $325. You sign up for a training session near you by going to the Spinning website and entering your zip code to see what’s closest and works with your schedule. After signing up, you’ll receive a text manual in the mail. They suggest you read through Phase 1 of it before your workshop.

The hands-on training session lasts all day (nine hours), and during it you’ll be on and off the bikes, working with a Spinning Master Instructor to go over proper form on the bike as well as hit the big topics covered in the manual. You probably spent ¾ of the time doing the classroom-esque learning, and the remaining hour and a half to two hours on the bikes. The first time you’re spinning is for a “form ride” and the second time is an actual class lead by your instructor (that’s the last thing you do during the day).

They emphasize heart rate a lot during the training, and it’s suggested you bring a heart rate monitor with you to the workshop. I went out and bought one just for that reason, but I would say it wasn’t totally necessary—so don’t worry if you don’t have one.

After the workshop is completed, you have 1 year to take the exam (it’s online, but also located in the back of your manual in case you’d rather mail it in for grading). Although you have a year, definitely just take it right after the workshop. It’s 50 questions, some multiple-choice and some True/False. It’s super easy considering it’s open-book, and definitely not something to stress over. The real meat of getting certified is in the all-day workshop—not the test.

If you attend the workshop and pass the test (80% and above is passing), you’re officially a Spinning® instructor, and get your certificate mailed to you after the exam.

My Experience Getting Certified

First off, the Master Instructor who led our training workshop, Angie Scott, was AWESOME. Super passionate about the program, an experienced cyclist, incredibly knowledgeable—she rocked. I went in totally on Team Indoor Cycling, but as class went on, I actually found myself reaching for the Spinning Kool-Aid(!!). It was a total testament to Angie.

As someone who’s never worked out on a bike that isn’t stationary (aside from leisurely bike rides), I found it fascinating to listen to Angie talk about the world of cycling and triathlons. Even though it’s not something I personally have an interest in doing, I just love learning about any and all things related to fitness. In the Spinning program, you don’t do anything on the stationary bike that you wouldn’t do outdoors, and I loved learning all the rationale behind it. A good example is sprinting. In indoor cycling classes you frequently sprint with very little resistance on the wheel so you can move your feet as fast as possible. In Spinning, you always have resistance on the wheel because in a cycling race, the person who pedals the fastest at the highest gear wins a sprint. Never would have thought of it like that before the certification program.

We also worked a lot with heart rate monitors, which I’ve never done before, and I loved learning about the ways you can use them to train smarter and more efficiently. I will say though, when I wore mine while riding the bikes, I found myself staring at my wrist the entire workout instead of just enjoying the class. That’s exactly what happens to me when I go to Flywheel and stare at the Torq board the whole effing class. It takes something away from the experience for me, so while I can’t see myself using one personally, it was great getting more familiar with a tool that could help me more efficiently train others.

To sum up the day: My initial skepticism turned into enthusiasm within the first hour of the workshop, but I still left feeling conflicted. Spinning or indoor cycling? Is there a happy medium? Can I teach indoor cycling classes while still incorporating some of the stuff I learned from the Spinning program? I think the answer is yes. I also think that at the end of the day, my passion for stationary bike workouts was born when I took my first indoor cycling class—that’s where my heart is, and despite the positive experience with the Spinning program, that’s what I want to teach. 

Final Thoughts—Was It Worth $325?

For me personally, even though I loved the workshop, I have to say (with hesitation) “no.” But that’s because I ultimately don’t want to teach the Spinning® program. I like indoor cycling/”spin” classes—everything to the beat of the music, changing positions a lot, dancing around on the bike, adding in some upper body work—they’re so much fun! And I do think they are safe, as long as you keep the choreography within reason and emphasize proper form. That being said, if you’re an outdoor cyclist, triathlete, or just love traditional Spinning classes, then I would highly recommend Mad Dogg and this certification program. I love that it’s so hands-on, and if the other Master Instructors are anything like Angie, you’ll learn a ton.

Some things gained from the program that I’ll certainly use in my spin classes are the proper bike setup techniques; info about heart rate monitors and how to use them to better improve your training; and guidelines for proper form in each of the bike positions and execution of moves. Other than that though, I think what has prepared me most to teach is just the fact that over the last couple years, I’ve probably taken 500 classes with tons of different instructors at tons of different studios and gyms—everything from Soul Cycle to someone’s living room. I’ve learned what I like, what makes a great class, and picked up on instructing techniques from those rockstar teachers who make you leave class wanting to be them (you know the ones, right??).

So again, if you want to teach Spinning®, this program is great and a total must-do. If you want to teach indoor cycling/”spin”, however, it’s not really necessary (although some gyms might want you to have a certification so you look official on paper as well as on the bike). I recommend you take a ton of classes (especially at the studio you want to teach at!), practice your ass off, work on your cardiovascular stamina, put together an epic playlist, and be familiar with the basics of proper form on the bike. The certification doesn’t hurt, of course, but it’s not very applicable to this new trend in stationary bike workouts. 

Any instructors out there go through Mad Dogg? What are your thoughts?


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  1. Thanks for the insight Nicole!!! I’m a triathlete, but I also love pumpin’ music and choreography and the whole bit. Do you think you’ll end up getting “indoor cyling” certified as well?

    • I don’t think so just because it doesn’t seem necessary–I’ve found that most studios go off your experience and/or an audition more so than a certification 🙂

  2. Yes, I got certified via Mad Dogg 3 years ago and loved it! Luciana was the Master Instructor and like Angie, AMAZING! I love how thorough they are and how they emphasize position and being correct. By not relying on the music it made me much more in tune with how hard I was working and getting the most out of the workout. That said, for the majority of people who come to spin and/or indoor cycling, it’s about the music. When I teach I try to encourage “feeling” the ride, not relying on the music or gear and watts. And I spend a lot of time finding the right music!

  3. Hi Nicole! I love your blog!! I am a Schwinn certified instructor. And love teaching cycling. We recently bought new bikes at our gym with computers. They show heartrate time distance and rpm’s. I was just wondering in your recent training if anything was mentioned about rpm’s. What is the range that is considered appropriate, what should be tops? It is an ongoing debate at our club that it is acceptable to pedal at 120-140 rpm. Which seems OUTRAGOUS to me! If you’re pedaling that fast you can’t have resistance which is against what I was taught. Just wondering if there was anything you learned addressing this. Thanks so much!!

  4. Hey! I’ve been spinning for about 6 years now, and got certified a little while back by Mad Dogg Spinning. I thought that we were taught what we needed to know, but coming from a cycling background, I was fortunate to already have a decent amount of knowledge about bike set up etc. I almost wish there was an “expedited” course that you could take, because I found the day to be really long! Worth $300+? No, probably not. However, you’re definitely paying for the brand name when you get certified, which is pretty well respected in the fitness industry (the gym where I teach you have to be certified by Mad Dogg), so in the grand scheme of things, you just gotta suck it up and do it I guess!
    I honestly think that the best way to become a good instructor though is just by practice- learning from other instructors, and practicing teaching on your friends first so that you’re comfortable yelling at a bunch of strangers when it’s the real deal 🙂

  5. I’ve been meaning to comment! I LOVED your class! I never would have guessed that you were a newer instructor. I’m really toying with the idea of getting certified now, especially after seeing a lot of different styles of teaching. I hope to get to one of your classes again before summer ends and maybe to a btone class in Wellesley now that I’ll be working super close by!
    Xo Rebecca

  6. What sort of certification do you recommend if you want to teach indoor cycling, but not SPIN? I feel like I’d prefer to have training in something I want to teach (indoor cycling) and I have no interest in SPIN. I would love for some place to teach tips on choreography, how to plan rides, music selection, counts, etc.

    • Hmm I’m actually not sure there really is a structured certification for it. I think that a lot of studios will do their own mini training sessions for instructors (I know SoulCycle, Flywheel and a lot of the boutique indoor cycling studios in Boston do that). If there’s a specific studio by you that you have in mind for teaching, I’d ask them!

  7. Could you do a post with a spinning workout? I have a spin bike at home and I’m always looking for new spinning workouts!

  8. Ian Walker says:

    Thanks for the review. I am indoor cycling qualified in the UK for thae past 4 years, teaching up to 8 classes a week at various gyms. One of the gyms i work at has just gone over to to the Spinning(R) brand so I am having a 2 day training course with ither instructors with a Spinning(R) trainer in a few weeks time. I must admit that I am looking forward to it and hopefully will learn more about taking indoor ccyling / Spinning(R) classes. The time you start thinkling you know it all, is the time to leave what you are doing, no matter how experienced or qualified you might be. You can only improve and get better for your customers / clients. Thanks again

  9. Rob Simmang says:

    I just did the training yesterday in Cincinnati, OH. Like you, I had been meaning to get this cert FOREVERRRRR…. I already work at 5 different gyms so it made perfect sense to make money in a class that allows the teacher to participate 90% (maintaining that aerobic base). I already have a ton of teaching opportunities and it’s a great way to supplement my passion for teaching yoga and boxing.

    Mad Dogg utilizes an old school methodology. They like to glorify spinning as this trance-like experience, meditative. I love this idea but it’s only the case about a quarter of the time. Most spinning instructors I’ve seen are super high-energy extroverts, maybe even talking too much during class to allow their students any time to relax their minds.

    I would prefer my classes to be more 80s style trance type of class with some upbeat music, but not so much dancing or crazy mental energy involved. Different instructors will draw in different crowds, you’ll find the students who appreciate you as an instructor and leave the ones who aren’t yours to serve.

    Great Article Nicole!

  10. Hey Nicole,

    Becoming a spin instructor has always been a goal of mine, but I keep telling myself I just need to do a few more classes, be more fit, so I’ve been putting it off. I’m wondering what you think about fitness level and instructing. I can definitely make it through a class and I love it, but I’d be lying if I said I had energy to spare by the end. Do I have to be able to do the class without breaking a sweat in order to teach? Do you still work out while you teach or do you take it easy so that you can be more of a coach? Basically, I’m not sure if “getting more fit” is a real reason to wait or an excuse I’m giving myself.


    • I’d say just go for it! At least start the training–if you can get through a spin class, you can 100% get certified. Teaching spin is a workout and a challenge for sure, but you learn little tricks to get you through that initial fake-it-till-you-make-it period (don’t turn up your resistance as high as you’re telling the class to; if you’re out of breath, you don’t have to do EVERY sprint with the class–sit back and cheer them on so you can hop back in with energy for the next segment). Taking a bunch of classes will only help so much–it’s the actual practice of TEACHING that’s important, so I’d say take the leap and go for it! 🙂

  11. Darah Taormina says:

    Hi Nicole,

    I just found this post and I am getting MADD dog certified next week! I am currently reading through the manual they sent me. Do you need to know everything before attending the workshop or will they go over everything in the class? Thanks!

  12. I signed up for the class this weekend from the waiting list, so I won’t have my manual mailed in time! Is it necessary? and do you need cycle shoes?
    Thanks for the helpful post!

    • You can use sneakers — it’s helpful to have the book but you can probably get by with just taking notes on a notepad. Have fun at the training!

  13. Hi Nicole,

    I’ve recently fell in love with indoor cycling. Although Im new to the cycling world, I do love the idea of motivating folks mentally and physically. I’m highly considering getting certified as a first step. I do not come from a fitness background and Im an introvert,which I’m unsure how that will play out when “finding my voice” if I ever teach a class. Any advice for less extroverted people who want to teach? Thanks so much for the insightful and informative article.

  14. Headed to Mad Dogg training in NYC on November 12th. Super excited to start leading my classes from the front! Our small boutique gym is yoga/spin centric, and only SPINNING is allowed, from what I understand. Those other classes look fun and we have some clients interested in hand weights and what not, but I don’t think the owners will allow it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts…

  15. Nicole great blog. I have taken a few spin classes. I thought they were ok depending on the instructor. About 15 years ago I taught it at the Ymca were they trained us. That’s the only training I have. The past 3-4 months I have been subbing spin classes. Pretty just doing stuff I have seen in peloton or other classes. I love the high energy, choreography, weights sort of class. I find it a bit boring to just ride. Maybe because I have to much energy. It sounds like madd dog may not be the route for me. What are your thoughts and what would you suggest as a certification? Thanks Tina

  16. I am due for my re-certification with Mad Dogg. Does anyone know how long the ’14-hour’ online recert. exam actually takes? I would like to know what I am up against before I sign up for the challenge! Thanks

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