Spinning vs Running – Which is more Challenging?

Spinning classes have much more recently grown in fame and popularity and there is practically a class every few blocks. Running has been with us for long and everyone can do it but which between the two training techniques has a leg up?

Hi guys, my name is Patrick and I am a three-time triathlon champion. In my years of experience, I have had people ask me which of the techniques are more challenging than others, so I made this review for anyone with the same question in regards to spinning or running.

For starters, these two forms of exercise will have you breaking into a heavy sweat within the first 20 minutes and they both have great benefits to the body and its muscles and joints.

While running is a bit more high-impact because of the jumping and the weight implications on your knees and ankles, spinning is a bit more flexible and is available in two varieties.  

Spinning vs Running Comparison Summary

Training Concern
Which Technique rules?
Stronger Leg Muscles
VO2 Intake
Building Abs
Cardio Workout
Strength Training
Calories Burned
Running at 900 calories
Least risk and danger
Best for terminal Illness
Best for muscle or joint injury


Spinning vs Running Calories Burned

Spinning at medium to high intensity will see you burn 600 calories as compared to 800 while running. 

While spinning expects to burn at least 200 fewer calories than when running. While spinning is great for all body shapes and sizes, it depends on how much you push yourself and more importantly your form in technique.

Running is easy and everyone can do it. Running at a moderate speed for most people will see them shed anywhere between 700 and 900 calories per hour.

Remember the more you weigh, the more calories you burn. This is because of the energy you need to get you moving which equates to the number of calories. The heavier you are, the more energy you need to move, and hence the higher loss in calories.

Because of the VO2 intake of the running technique, temperatures are raised and more calories burned. If you have an aim to lose a few kilos, you are better off doing both training techniques to get the most out of them.

Running will help you shed the excess fat and spinning will help sculpt it and convert fat into lean muscle much easier.

Calories Burned Spinning Calculator

An estimated formula has been created to help you estimate the number of calories you burn based on your weight, training intensity, and duration. 

They call it the spinning calculator and is very helpful for those who like to keep a record of their daily results. For it to calculate your calories burned, you need to enter detail about your weight, how long you trained for, and a measure of the intensity of your workout.

Intensity is quite relative and they incorporated a general and assumptive approach. To measure the intensity of your workout, you need to be aware of how much you can do as you exercise.

If you are unable to talk while training, that is considered high intensity, if you can talk, that is medium intensity and if you can sing while training, that is considered low intensity.

After keying in the necessary data, this spinning calculator will populate it and give you a number representing the calories burned in your just concluded training session.

Spinning or Running for Cardio Exercise

Running increases your oxygen intake, as compared to spinning, which is great for your internal organs and muscles. 

While spinning, it is much easier to raise your heart rate and temperature from the automatically available spontaneous terrain. Inclining your bike to work out harder, raising yourself off the seat, or cycling in a crouched position to increase your revolutions are all great spinning ways to charge up your cardio.

Spinning is also great for mental health helping to raise your spirits.

The heavy breathing is a great aerobic workout provided by cycling and your lower body muscles benefit from the peddling. Being a low impact exercise on your joints and muscles, it is a fun way to be indoors and to keep healthy.

However, you need to invest in quality biking equipment and installation to stay safe in case of an incident. The best alternative though is to sign up for a spinning class. The camaraderie you create with the other training enthusiast will add to your energy which will have you training longer and harder than you thought you could.

While running, your oxygen volume or VO2 intake is increased and this is good news for your lungs, liver, kidney, heart, and brain. Running is also a high impact and heavily works your bones and joints. This is the reason behind doctors advising their arthritis patients to run a few blocks every day.

Not only does running stimulate blood circulation but it also helps grease those old bones.

The beginner runner should try the High-Intensity Interval Training technique or HIIT. This technique will encourage bursts of energy charged into about 30 seconds of running and 10 seconds of relaxation.

This is done in repetition and with great consistency. It will take a lot of energy from you but will also give you the strength to work out for longer without getting tired.

Doing this intense workout for 20 minutes daily will get your heart rate up to about 190 BPM and increase your aerobic capacity which is why you can work out without running out of breath. Of course, the most crucial piece of information to remember is to warm-up for at least 5 to 10 minutes to minimize injuries and muscle strains.

Between the two, running is more powerful than a cardio workout compared to cycling.

Spinning vs Running for Toned Legs 

Toned legs are best achieved with spinning but if you have thick thighs that you are trying to cut down in size, running will do the trick. 

If you already have achieved your weight goals and you are now interested in strengthening and firming up your skin, spinning is a great workout. Targeting your hamstrings, thighs, and abs, cycling will help you work your lower body which leads to a toned figure.

Now, I know you might have heard the general concern that spinning will bulk up your thighs which is not a look that many people want to go for. The truth is, this is a myth. Spinning will not bulk up your thighs and if it could, you would have to spend way more time spinning than is required or even healthy.

The normal 30 to 60-minute spinning class is enough to control the fat around your thighs and legs. You also don’t have to kill yourself while at it. Exercise is supposed to be fun and enjoyable so keep your expectations to a minimum and focus on sticking to the routine.

Running is best especially if you are just starting and have yet to reach your desired weight goals. It is ideal to start and stick with running for a period long enough to get you to your more manageable weight.

The excess weight that running helps you shed off will clear the way for more toned looking legs and in two months, changes should be visible. Remember not to overdo running as there is a high risk of injury as compared to spinning.

Keeping a 3 to 5-day alternative training timetable should work perfectly for anyone.

Spinning or Running for Belly Fat 

Spinning is way better than running when it comes to working your midriff, however, alternating your training with running will burn belly fat faster.

There is no secret about the wonders of the spin class. It is why it has gained popularity so fast across the globe. Spinning targets your lower body and works to shed calories, tone, and strengthen muscles.

The very week of medium to high-intensity spinning classes will see you burn up to 1,800 calories which means that in two weeks, it is possible to have lost a whole pound. That’s impressive.

The problem with belly fat is that its stubborn. Working it off requires strict dieting and a combination of strength and cardio workout.

For this reason, I would suggest that you include running in your weekly timetable. Running will shake off a lot of excess fat meaning that you could lose up to a pound in a week if you combine both training methods.

A nice and simple 5-day routine would be 30 minutes running followed by a 30-minute spinning class with a 15-minute break in between. This hour of training should be at least on moderate-intensity to be effective.

If doing both on one day is too much, you could always do them on different days within the week.

Spinning vs Running for Injured Knee

Spinning is the best as compared to running because it is low impact and will not exert pressure on your already injured knee.

When spinning, you are working and strengthening the muscles and ligaments in your legs and especially those that are related to knee health. That being said, this makes it the best exercise to work out an injured knee.

Runners always go into cycling or swimming if they have suffered an injury or joint pain. It conveniently works out your joints without slamming them together as running would do.

This stretching and resistance training is great for your knee and will help you get back in shape much faster than if you reclined on your sofa instead. Running is a no-go zone for an injured knee but if you are a trained athlete, you may still want to challenge yourself to run a few miles every day despite the pain.

Doing this is dangerous for anyone else who doesn’t have health professionals attending to their every need. Even with a band wrapped around the injured knee, the impact of running will further aggravate the knee.

To manage the pain and any terrible effects of straining your ligaments, you must have professionals to address any arising need, keep track of your progress, and an eye on your knee’s condition.

Good Speeds for Spinning and Running

65 rpm in spinning class and 6 mph while running are good speeds to reach and maintain in your workout. 

Your stationary bike has entries allowing you to set your revolutions per minute which simply refers to the cycles you are doing per minute on your bike which will determine your intensity.

If you could spin anywhere between 60 and 70 rpm you are considered fit and healthy. If you are competitive and love to push yourself, like I do, getting upward of 75 rpm will knock the wind out of you. 30 seconds is the longest you can go at this intensity.

To build up your spinning endurance, you could start peddling at a low intensity for the first ten minutes of your workout then switch it up to medium for another 30 minutes. for the rest of your hour, alternate between high and medium intensity every 3 minutes or so.

When done, don’t just hop off the bike. Take another 10 minutes to cool down peddling at low intensity. This routine will have you looking great in about 4 to 6 weeks.

If you can run a mile or 1.6 kilometers in 9:10 minutes if you are a man and 10:30 minutes if you are a woman, you have good health and are considered fit.

This translates to 5 or 6 mph so if you can run long at that time, you can be certain you are in the green zone and that your fitness journey is on the right track.


Should I Run Before or After Spin Class?

The general rule is to run before the spinning class because it is low impact training. 

This will depend on what result you are angling for in your workout. If you need to build muscles, then you must run before you go in for your spin classes. Spin classes are low impact and are more like resistance training as compared to running which is more free and high impact.

When you run, you shake up a lot of the excess fat in your body and loosens it up which causes the burning sensation. If then you take his muscle into a spin class and give it some resistance to work with, the loosened fat gets even more oxygen to help convert into muscle.

If you instead want to increase the capacity of your lungs and your endurance in training, you should spin before you run.

Will Spinning or Running Tone My Bum Better?

Spinning will be better suited for butt toning exercises. 

Running is great for weight loss but it also hard hits joints and works in the focus of your thigh and legs muscles. In regards to your buttock muscles, running will most often than not lead to weight loss especially in all saggy meat handles.

Your bum is full of fats and muscle. If you want to specifically tone your bum and not lose any weight in the process, go for spinning classes. The ability to position your back and butt in incline angles that present more strain on the hamstrings and the buttocks makes spinning ideal.

Running is good for developing bone density and strength but spinning is better for toning and muscle development.

Is Running Everyday Too Much?

Yes. Running every day will lead to tissue and muscle breakdown and wearing out due to overdoing the exercises.

Your body needs as much time to rejuvenate as it needs to get and stay in shape. Take a few days off running to help your muscles take shape better.

Unless you are simply doing it as a leisurely not competitive or gym training method, high intensity running should be kept to a minimum. Short runs going about 10 minutes at a jogging pace are good for cardiovascular reasons. These short runs could keep heart disease, stroke, or heart attack away.

If you keep a regular running routine, you won’t have to do it as often as daily. Days off are just as important.

Can You Get a Six Pack from Spinning?

No. Spinning alone is hardly enough to guarantee you a six-pack.

There are different positions in spinning techniques that when done target certain abdominal areas. While standing upright on a stationary bike, we can keep our back straight and go hands-free meaning we engage our core muscles more to get our thighs moving and our leg peddling hard.

On the recumbent bike, you can you may lean back into the back support provided and engage your core to push the pedals placed out in front of you. Spinning will tighten your abs and help you develop strength and some definition but a six-pack needs much more effort.

Is Spin Class Harder than Running?

Yes, a spinning class will take more from you than a running session.

Though a low-impact activity compared to the higher running alternative, the spinning class forces you to push against the stationary bike’s resistance.

If it was the normal cycling bike outside, then running would be considered harder but seeing as this is a machine set alternative that pushes you harder ever new session, running takes the backseat.

Maybe if you pushed yourself in the kind of running that you did. I went to rough terrain or ran harder than a few miles per hour. Maybe then it would be considered harder than spinning.

Wrapping Up

I think it is fair to conclude that both running and spinning have their challenges and their levels of difficulty. Choosing one or the other depends on your resources, time, availability, and end goal. For me, I love the combination of both. Some days I’ll run, other days I’ll spin and on those high energy days, I can do both. Maybe you can too.