Indoor cycling is all the rage these days, especially with rainy days and cooler temps. And we know that setting up a stationary bike can be intimidating. Since the proper fit makes the workout so much better — and prevents injury — we tapped endurance rider Audry Adler to give us the skinny on adjusting a bike. Watch and learn! Then head to cardio cycling early to set up your bike just right and then get your sweat on.
We've all been there: the anticipation, the buildup, and then the letdown when an indoor cycling class is full! Before you take this as a sign to get back in the car and call it a night, consider these alternatives — and gym adventures — that may just leave you more satisfied than scouring for an available bike.
How many times have you been told to pull your shoulders away from your ears in a studio cycling class? Keeping your shoulders down not only makes your neck feel better, it improves overall efficiency, from your posture to your pedal stroke. While spinning my pedals in a studio cycling class at Equinox, instructor Lisa Horowitz reminded us all that the position of the shoulder affects the rest of the body too. The concept, known as joint centration, means what goes on in one joint affects the joints above and below it — what's happening at the shoulder affects the spine and the hips.When on a bike, whether indoor or out, many people hunch the shoulders up while leaning over the handlebars, which leads to a rounded spine — not the ideal position for cycling. Pulling the shoulder blades down and back opens up your chest and diaphragm: this makes it easier to breathe and helps put the back in a neutral position, which restores the arch to the lumbar spine and corrects the angle of the pelvis. With the spine and pelvis in correct alignment, the hip flexors can fire effectively, improving your pedal stroke. Correct shoulder positioning also engages the lats and turns on the abs to help support the torso.
Lisa also suggested raising the handlebars on a stationary bike a little higher than usual to see if it helps posture and positioning. Try it and let us know how it goes.
Indoor cycling classes are an amazing cardio workout, but if you don't know what you're doing, you'll walk away frustrated, or, even worse — injured. Compared to other group fitness classes, indoor cardio cycling is also a little harder to pick up on when trying it for the first time. After getting the lowdown on what to expect from your first class, follow these rules on things you should never do in an indoor cycling class.
- Arrive to class late: As a rule, be on time for any fitness class, but more so if you plan on riding. Since there is a cap on the amount of bikes in a class, most gyms require students to register ahead of time (either online or using a sign-up sheet). A few minutes before or after class starts, instructors often release unclaimed bikes to those on the waiting list. Show up late, and chances are the bike you registered for will be taken, or, if you didn't sign up at all, the class will be full.
- Hop on the bike as-is: This is definitely not a one-size-fits-all scenario — the person who was on the bike previously may have a good 10 inches on you. To avoid injury and ensure a comfortable ride, adjust the bike to suit your body. You'll also want to make sure the handlebars and seat are firmly secure to avoid any wobbling during class. Watch this video to learn the proper way to set up an indoor cycling bike.
Find out what else you should never do during an indoor cycling class — including pedaling too fast — after the break!
We are pumped to share one of our favorite stories from Self here on FitSugar!
On a recent visit to Cycle House in West Hollywood, I was amazed to discover how fast an hour-long indoor cycling class can pass when you're cycling alongside a high-energy, no-nonsense fitness instructor. It's no wonder celebrities like Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman are flocking to this new hot spot! Not only did I torch major calories, but I could barely get off the couch the next day.
"Every instructor is committed to creating the most effective interval-training, body-toning, heart-pumping, calorie-torching, challenging, fun rhythm ride workout that cannot be duplicated," says Cycle House Chief Ride Officer Nichelle Hines. "Indoor cycling allows you to craft a true training style that allows you to really shape and tone your body by adjusting speed and resistance while engaging the mind."
Luckily, you don't need to be a movie star to experience the Cycle House craze. All you need is a stationary bike to put the pedal to the metal. Says Hines, "I think the workout is so popular with the Cycle House client for one reason. It works!"
To burn 500 to 1,000 calories per hour at home, "find songs you like that inspire you" and "ride as much as you like as long as it feels good," says Hines. Incorporate these five moves into your regular routine at least twice a week for a full lower-body workout.
See the at-home cycling workout after the break!
- Regularly shift your hands: To avoid stiff, sore wrists, be sure to move your hands around the handlebars by correctly incorporating the standard cycling hand positions. You should try to keep your hands slightly loose — no death grips necessary — and do your best to let your weight fall into your feet, rather than leaning your entire body into your hands. It's also important to keep your shoulders down and relaxed.
- Keep pedal rotations pause-free: Aim to make each pedal revolution as smooth as possible so that you don't put any extra strain on your ankles or the balls of your feet. There's a natural tendency to pause at the bottom of a rotation — especially during standing intervals — so make sure that your leg and glute muscles stay in a constant push-and-pull rhythm. To achieve this, try keeping your feet flat rather than letting your heel turn up and toe push down.
- Focus on technique, not resistance: As you ease into indoor cycling, don't worry too much about the resistance level on your bike. Instead, strive to stay moving throughout the entire class and learn to fluidly transition between the sitting and standing positions. Later, when you've grown more comfortable on the bike, you can begin to worry about increasing resistance and amping up your workout.
Indoor cycling studios are taking the fitness scene by storm — popping up in private studios and gyms all over the country as people can't get enough of this intense cardio workout. If you are new to indoor cycling, there are a few basics to know before heading to your first class, but just know that cardio cycling isn't scary! Like yoga, going to class prepared with a few essential items can help make your hour sweat session more enjoyable — be dressed and geared up for indoor cycling class success. Find out what these items are!
Indoor cycling classes make for lovely gams, this is true. But with cycling shoes on your feet, the ones that clip into the pedals, you will be toning your muscles much more effectively. Rather than overworking your quads by mashing the pedals downward to make the crank move, when you're "clipped in," you can make a smooth circular stroke that activates your hamstring, too. Pulling up with your heel at the back part of your pedal stroke utilizes the power of your hamstring — I for one am always trying to figure out new ways to work my backside. When you work the entire leg, you bike stronger and more efficiently, too, so you tire later and can really kick out the jams throughout your sweat session.
Another feature of cycling shoes is the stiff sole, which decreases the chances of your feet bugging you in class by going numb or developing hot spots. The stiff shoe also ensures that the power you put in to pedal moves the pedal rather than flexing the shoe. Cycling geeks like to wax poetic about the "power transfer," but when you're in standing sprint, rocking out to the latest Rihanna remix, you want your pedaling to move the crank, not bend your shoe.
If you're looking into purchasing a pair of kicks dedicated to your spinning obsession, look for mountain biking shoes with SPD cleats for two reasons: most spin bikes are equipped with pedals to fit this cleat style, and the shoes are much easier to walk around in than road bike shoes that tend to have very big, slippery plastic cleats. The Women's Spirita Touring Shoe ($90) by Specialized has a great stiff, nonslip sole for easy walking to and from the cycling studio. Cycling shoes may seem like a big investment, but in my experience each pair lasts for many seasons, unlike running shoes, which I find need to be replaced every 300 to 400 miles.
Spin class can be downright intimidating. The padded shorts and cycling shoes many people wear to class make it seem intense and exclusive, and the loud music and even louder instructor help raise the scare factor. The truth is, while an indoor cycling class is an intense cardio workout — one 45-minute class can burn upwards of 500 calories! — it doesn't have to be scary.
What to wear
Since you will be sweating, choose moisture-wicking clothes with good breathability. Regular athletic shoes will do fine — there's no need to invest in cycling shoes until you know the class is for you. Bring water and two towels to class; throw one towel over your handlebars and use the other to wipe the sweat off of you during class.
When to arrive
If your gym doesn't have an online reservation system, get there early to reserve a bike. The sign-up sheet is usually put out an hour before class starts (either at the front desk or hanging outside the classroom). In my experience, the list starts to fill 20 minutes before class starts. If this will be your first class, get to the room 10 minutes early. This will allow you time to talk to the instructor and get help setting up your bike. If the instructor isn't there yet, don't be afraid to ask someone around you for help. Not having your bike set up properly can result in lower back, knee, or shoulder pain. Before class begins, ask if there is any special spinning jargon or hand positions you should know about.
What to expect
The instructor will guide you through the workout, telling you when to increase or lower resistance, pedal faster, and rise or sit. You'll be guided through climbs, sprints, and muscle isolations with intermittent lower-resistance pedaling during cruising periods. There's high-energy music blasting that keeps you moving for the entire class, and you'll sweat — a lot. Remember that you are ultimately in control. If you need to alter the instructions to make it through the class, go ahead and decrease the tension. As time goes on, you'll be sure to build up your strength and endurance!
Indoor cycling offers an hour of sweaty cardio goodness. Your legs power this workout, so it’s best to stretch those tired muscles as soon as you hop off your stationary bike. In fact, that stable bike makes for a great stretching partner.If you only have two minutes to spare on flexibility training, you should focus on your hamstrings and quads. Start with your hamstrings by resting one heel on the crook of the bike and leaning forward with a flat back, doing this basic hamstring stretch. And if you’re super flexible, you can put your foot on the bike seat. Next, you want to stretch your quads by bringing one heel to your bum, like this to stretch the front of your thigh. Squeeze your glutes and bend your standing knee to increase the stretch, and do hold onto that heavy, stable bike for balance. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
If you have a bit more time, you should stretch your glutes. Using the bike, you can do this variation of the ultimate booty stretch from yoga — pigeon pose. Moving down the legs, next on the list is your calves. You can stretch them on the bike by bringing the pedals parallel to the ground (one forward and one back), and dropping your heels to lengthen the muscles on the back of the lower leg (be sure to do this stretch once with the right leg forward and once with the left). Or off the bike, flex your foot placing the toes on the base of the bike keeping your heel on the ground similar to the "kiss the wall" stretch. Lean forward to stretch your calf.
I still have a few more stretches to recommend, so keep on reading.