Indoor Cycling 101 | MT Girl Fitness

Indoor Cycling 101

There is nothing like walking into a dim-lit cycling studio filled with a distinct level of excitement and base so loud that you can feel it with every inch of your body. Music videos play on the wall and the dull roar of spin bikes can be heard. I love taking and teaching indoor cycling classes. It is a passion of mine and that is why I am both a Spinning Star 3 Elite and Rockstar Spinning Certified instructor. Although I have taught spin now for over 15 years, I still remember my first spin class. I also remember that I almost never took another spin class again. Below are a few tips to put you on the path for success.

Indoor Cycling | MT Girl Fitness

What Every Indoor Cycling Student Should Know Before Taking Their First Class

If you are nervous to take your first indoor cycling class you are not alone. Many students are anxious about what to expect and have heard stories that the classes are challenging. The classes are challenging, but the great thing about indoor cycling is that any fitness level can be successful. Follow the tips below and you will feel more confident your first day or first couple of classes walking into the cycle studio.

Arrive Early

It is important to arrive early for your cycling class. This can help ease many of your jitters. Since these classes are taught in dim-lit rooms to enhance the mind-body connection, it is important to find your bike before the instructor darkens the room. Arriving early will also ensure that you will hear the instructor's pre-class speech. During this talk, you will learn what to expect before the first song starts.  The most important part about arriving early is that it allows you to talk to your instructor and tell them you are new. A good instructor should always come to you if it is your first time in their cycling class and should ask about your cycling class experience, any injuries you might have, and check your bike set-up. 

Proper Bike Set-up

My first cycle class left me feeling so sore from the saddle (a.k.a bike seat) that I spent the rest of the night with a sack of frozen peas in my lap. I was nervous about my first class and therefore I neglected to inform the instructor that I was new. This was a big mistake and my saddle soreness almost made it that I never rode again. Proper bike set-up is crucial to a good ride and a good experience. Often when first-time students come to my class the seats of their bikes are too low. This can cause a tremendous amount of pressure placed on their knees. A 10-15 degree bend should be seen in your knee that is at the bottom of the rotation. What this looks like is just a slight bend in your knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke with a flexed foot.  If you find that your toe is pointing at the bottom of the rotation, then your seat is too high.  

Another important aspect of set-up is the distance from the handlebars to your seat. If your seat is too close or far away from the handlebars, it can put undue pressure on your knees or lower back. A way to checking if you have your seat in the right position is to check your knee position when your feet are parallel with the ground. The knee of the foot in front should be in line with the ball of your foot. If you find that your knee is in line with your toes or your ankle, a seat adjustment is needed. 

Bike Set-Up | MT Girl Fitness

Handlebar placement is a personal preference. Usually, veteran riders have their handlebar height closer to their seat height. If a person is newer or has an issue with their lower back, then their handlebars should be higher. Following these tips will help decrease saddle soreness.

Resistance and Cadence

If I had a dollar for every time in class I needed to remind someone of the importance of adding resistance or controlling their cadence, I would be retired on a beach somewhere. Resistance is important for knee health and to get the workout you deserve. A great aspect of a spin class is that the participant controls their own resistance and is able to customize the class to challenge themselves at their current fitness level. If you do not feel the ground on every pedal stroke, then you need to add more resistance. I always tell my class you want to push the 35-lb fly-wheel instead of letting it drag you.

Cadence, also known as rotations per minute, is an important component of your workout. The instructor should explain the cadence range or the rhythm rpm they are targeting for a specific song. 

When resistance and cadence are combined, that is when the magic begins to happen. These two components provide the different cycling terrain you experience during class. Remember that the resistance and cadence cues from the instructors are suggestions, so if you need to take it slower or recover without resistance for a song that is fine. I always tell my new students that their goal for the first couple of classes is to make it to the end of the class. Remember that it is your ride and you need to do what is best for you.

Get Swept Up

A spin class is one of the few workouts that I find that I can just get lost in the beat of the music. The energy, positivity, and environment will help you push harder and achieve more than you ever imagined. The first three or four classes can seem rather difficult, but do not let this discourage you. If it is not challenging then you are not changing. I can't wait to hear about how you rocked your first class!

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