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My instructor makes a lot of use of the terms cadence and tempo in the spinning class, but I have not been able to get a satisfactory answer on what the difference between the two is. What is the difference between the two words?

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Are you sure there is a difference? Based on the definitions of the word (not limited to spinning) I wouldn't be surprised if they were just being used interchangeably to mean the same thing: the speed at which you're pedaling. – Anthony Grist Nov 4 '13 at 16:10
I am not sure there is a difference but somebody in the class did ask him and he tried to explain both the terms. I didn't really follow him though. And from his explanation(whatever I followed), they seemed different. – Aspirant Nov 4 '13 at 16:13
I think he's just making things up to sound more authoritative. – Kate Nov 4 '13 at 16:26
Thanks for the responses Anthony and Kate. These clear my doubts. – Aspirant Nov 4 '13 at 16:38
Aren't there resistance settings on spinning machines? In that case cadence is the number of repetitions you make you pedals go and tempo would equal the speed you'd have using a comparable gear on a bike. I've never used a modern spinning machine though, so not an answer, only a comment. – Baarn Nov 4 '13 at 17:25
up vote 1 down vote accepted

You would have to ask your instructor to clarify for specifics.

Cadence is used to count the number of times one foot rotates a complete circle around the crankset. So if you are counting the right foot, to go from top to bottom to top is one. Count for a minute, and you get your cadence.

Tempo is very often used as a measure of intensity, especially when combined with devices that measure power, or when compared to a race pace. Something that is done "at tempo" is near to the same pace you would use when racing a particular distance.

However, your instructor may be using them interchangeably or with different meanings, best is to ask him/her for an explanation.

Note: This is also the same terminology used in running, you will hear references to running cadence and tempo workouts.

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I agree with JohnP's answer. I am also a fitness instructor, and I've been teaching indoor cycling classes for years. For me, when I say tempo (which isn't often), I tend to use these term interchangeably in my class, but that's because I always explicitly let them know what zone or intensity level I want them to target, and refer to that intensity in another manner.

You really need to ask the instructor to clarify his/her meaning - if they can't, that might be a sign this instructor really needs to do some more research into what he/she is talking about. Tempo is commonly used as another term for pace, whether it be running or cycling, but there tends to be an associated intensity with it (e.g. a run at 10k tempo pace or a 2-hour ride at an endurance tempo).

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Can you please add to your answer the difference between the cadence and tempo in spinning? I don't see any difference stated or could be that I understood it wrongly. – Freakyuser Nov 7 '13 at 2:34

If your instructor is a cyclist, I have a possible explanation:

In cycling, "tempo" is a pace where you are working hard but not so hard that you will be forced to stop soon. It's roughly correlated to zone 3 and pretty close to your lactate threshold.

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