Cycling is a great cross training workout for runners, but its kind of challenging to be motivated when you’re by yourself biking outdoors. Indoor cycling in an air conditioned room with a super motivating instructor and some rockin’ tunes? That’s much more my style.
Cycling or spinning, as many people call it, is a cardio and strength workout in one- if you don’t believe me just wait until the instructor asks you to dial up the resistance to climb a ‘hill.’ Your lungs aren’t the only thing that gets worked out…your glutes, quads, hamstrings and core also get quite a tone up- as well as arms if you attend a class like the ones I do at Cyclebar, or on the West Coast, Soul Cycle.
Indoor cycling offers many benefits to runners, as it is low impact and the workout is determined by how hard you want to push yourself- so if you’re feeling ‘off’ you can dial down the resistance or if you’re feeling great you can add some on! However, taking your first indoor spin class can be super intimidating- how high should my seat be? How do I clip in- and what the heck does that mean? What is resistance? How do I ride ‘on the beat?’ These are questions most beginner spinners (ha!) have- hopefully they won’t stop you from trying a new class though! Here are some tips for your first cycle class:
1. Register online beforehand and pick your seat.
Most cycling classes have an app or a way to register online and you can pick your seat. While you shouldn’t be afraid to ride in the front row, it’s completely understandable if you don’t want to and there are usually 3-4 rows (depending on the size of the studio) you can choose from. Do keep in mind however, that once you start taking classes and get to know a few of the instructors, your instructor may ‘call you out’ if you sit in the back of the class like mine did! 😉
2. Adjusting the bike
This can be intimidating if you’ve never taken a class, but chances are when you go in for your first class the instructor will help you out with this. A trick to determine the best seat height for you: stand next to your bike and put your hand flat next to the top of your hipbone- this is a good height to start with for your bike seat.
For the correct distance between the seat and the handlebars, measure your forearm between the tip of the seat so that your fingers are just touching the handlebars of the bike. Finally, check the height of the handlebars so its most comfortable for you. The lower the handlebars, the more strain on your back and neck so make sure they are at a comfortable height when you’re sitting on your bike, especially if you’re prone to back and neck pain.
3. What the heck does clipping in or out mean?
Clipping in and out is a term used to describe when your shoes (which should be provided by the bike studio for a small fee) secure to the pedals (clipping in) to help keep you balanced and in the correct position on your ride or release you (clipping out) from the pedals at the end of your ride. The part of the shoe that clips in to the pedal is typically towards the ball of your foot; most instructors will help you learn how to do this during your first few rides. The more you do it, the easier it becomes (although sometimes it still likes to elude you like it did at my last class). However, with most bike shoes, you simply place the ball of your foot towards the middle of the pedal (you will see the area the shoe clips into on the pedal) and slide your foot forward until it locks in place. To unclip, move your foot as if you were squishing a cigarette butt into the ground (I don’t smoke, but this is how it was described to me by the instructor and it made sense).
4. Bike lingo
An indoor bike doesn’t have gears like a road bike. A resistance knob controls how challenging your ride is to increase RPM (revolutions per minute) which measures how fast you’re going. That’s what I mean when I say “climbing a hill.” If you were riding outside and going up a hill, that’s your resistance. During class, your instructor will give you resistance numbers to match or call out a range of numbers you should be at. He or she may also call out an RPM number you should be targeting- increase or decrease resistance to be able to hit that number. The more you cycle, the higher you will be able to take your resistance.
5. It’s your ride
Your first class can feel a bit intimidating, and its possible that when the instructor calls a resistance number your brain will say, “There’s no way I can hit that!” That’s why cycle class is all about you and what feels challenging for you. Some people will be able to pedal faster with an RPM of 8 or 9 while some people might feel more comfortable on a 6 or 7. My instructor once told me we should shoot for 17- I’ve never had that much resistance on before. I think my max has been 14. It changes as your body grows and adapts. The important thing is that you challenge yourself to push out of your comfort zone!