spinning
Image Source: Aberdeen Proving Ground on Flickr.com

If you are new to spinning, you may be surprised at how grueling the workouts can be. During one 40-minute class, it is possible to burn anywhere from 400 to 600 calories. Getting your body used to this type of exercise requires practice and hard work. However, the benefits outweigh the challenges as regular spinning increases your stamina, wards off illness, boosts your mood, and helps get rid of those extra pounds. Here are some extra to get your body accustomed to tough spinning workouts.

Wear the Right Gear

If you plan on spinning regularly, consider investing in the right equipment. A good pair of cycling shorts and shoes that fit well will go a long way in increasing your performance and preventing injury. Soreness in the butt and vulvar area is common after cycling but a good pair of padded cycling shorts will help considerably.

Also, consider finding a bike seat to take with you to your spinning class. The best options for stationary bike seats should be durable, comfortable, and prevent slippage in the saddle. The extra cushion helps support your body during workouts until you have built up the appropriate strength and resistance to prevent the soreness.

Show Up Early and Adjust Correctly

Show up early for class so you have enough time to reserve your bike, ask the instructor questions, and adjust your bike correctly. Your seat height should be level with your hips when you’re standing next to the bike. The handlebar should be almost level with the seat or a little higher if you’re a beginner. Seats that are too low can cause the soreness mentioned above.

Finally, the distance from the seat to the handle should be set so your knees don’t go over your toes when you peddle. Check to see if your bike is adjusted correctly by getting on the bike and extending your leg with the ball of your foot on the pedal. Your leg should be fully extended. When you clip your shoe into the pedal, there should be just a slight bend.

Check Your Technique

After your bike is adjusted correctly (ask your instructor if you aren’t sure), perfecting your technique will help improve spinning performance:

  • Breathing—As with all anaerobic exercise, spinning requires a consistent breathing pattern to make sure your muscles receive the oxygen they need to keep contracting.
  • Resistance—Too much resistance on the bike will cause you to rock in the saddle and put stress on the lower back. However, if you feel almost out of control of the bike, your resistance is set too low and you are not getting enough out of your workout.
  • Up-Stroke—In order to maximize your workout and increase your performance, focus on keeping both legs engaged during pedaling. In other words, the leg that moving upwards should not be relaxed but actively pulling up on the pedal.
  • Standing Posture—Proper standing technique does not put the full weight of your body on your knee joints, but leaves the back of your inner thighs still brushing against the nose of the saddle. Shoulders and back should be minimally rounded as your body should be hinging forward from the hips.

In general, remember to keep most of your weight supported with your core and not on the handles of the bike. Check yourself by periodically taking your hands off the bars or loosening your grip. If you feel unsupported, then you are relying too much on the bars instead of using the muscles in your core,

Cross-Train Effectively

Increase your performance on the bike and make the tougher workouts easier by incorporating strength training into your weekly fitness regimen. The best exercises to complement your cycling routine include core work, recovery activities, and strength training (try incorporating front squats). Compound exercises like plyometrics or deadlifts that work multiple parts of the body at once are great for cross-training.

Remember that it is also important to include recovery activities like yoga and pilates. After a spin class, the instructor will give the class the option of leaving or staying for another 10 minutes to stretch and recover. Always stay until the end so you give your body the attention it needs after a hard workout. Proper stretching also helps prevent injuries.

Get into the Music

One way to encourage yourself to work harder during your spinning sessions is by focusing on the music instead of staring at your technique in the mirror. Most classes are designed to include upbeat music and energetic instructors. In fact, Soul Cycle founders Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice specifically wanted to create a fitness class that didn’t feel like “work.” Focus on the instructor and “dance” by matching your peddling to the beat of the music.

Cycling can be a difficult exercise to master so be patient with your progress. Create goals for yourself to work towards during each class and focus on being your own competitor. Set yourself up for success by fueling your body well before and after each workout and staying hydrated.

Mike Jones is a health & fitness focused content writer.