Dark room, loud music, hyper-fit and enthusiastic people all around you – if you’re finding you’re having a very deja vu moment of your last indoor cycling or spin class, you’re not alone. The combination of all that exciting energy and post-class endorphin rush you’re craving to find can make it very easy to overlook the the small, but mega-important, detail of bike set-up. You likely have a general idea of how you should be positioned on a bike or were given a brief walk-through upon your very first class, but it can be tough to remember all the details of the best set-up for your body and your needs. On that same token, if you’ve been riding for quite awhile and are up for more of a challenge, you can adjust your bike further to engage that core more intensely and start sculpting those washboard abs. First, let’s hit proper bike set-up. The tips and tricks below will not only ensure that you’re set up safely on the bike, but they’re also easy tricks you can take with you no matter which studio you’re visiting.
Seat Height: Position yourself next to the bike with your hand on your hip. Once you’ve located your hip, move the seat so that it’s in line with it. To be extra sure this is the best height for you, hop onto the bike and pedal your legs around a few times making sure you have the slightest bend in your leg and your knees aren’t extending past your ankles.
Seat Distance (from handlebars): This one is a little bit more of personal preference, but to help eliminate any chance of back pain (and if you have back pain or are sensitive to it, then definitely make sure you’re taking advantage of this tip!) there is an easy trick to remember what the right distance is for you. Take your elbow to the very tip of the front of the seat and extend your forearm parallel to the ground. Your handlebars should touch the tops of your fingertips if the length is properly aligned – if it’s not, adjust accordingly or ask the instructor for assistance.
Handlebar Height: This one is the most adjustable and will be most determinant on your skill level (or status with injury). For beginners and anyone suffering from back pain, you’ll want to make the handlebars higher – just a touch lower than your seat height. For more experienced riders, and those who are looking for some extra core work, you’ll want to bring the handlebars lower and remember to engage your core throughout the class versus putting the strain onto your lower back when in or out of the seat. Regardless of where your handlebars sit, it’s important to remember they’re just there for assistance – engagement of legs and core during these classes is key.
So, now you’re all set-up – cool! Keep reading for a few other tips to make sure you’re making the most out of your class and keeping your limbs safe.
- Keep your feet flat and your booty, well, less-flat. Keeping your feet flat (almost should feel like they’re in a flexed position with the toes pointing upward) will increase the power of your pedal stroke while working into your glute and hip muscles and reducing the pressure put on your knee joints.
- Running: the indoor cycling edition. If your instructor has ever queued a “run” or a sprint out of the saddle while standing straight up, there may be some things you might have missed to make it the maximize efficiency. Speed is part of the exercise, but more important than speed, is your form here. You want to make sure to keep your back flat, core engaged, and focus on keeping your body steady rather than allowing it bounce all over the place in lieu of catching a fast tempo.
- It’s the (longest freaking) climb (ever). Your instructor will no doubt have you go through heavier gears and hill stimulations both in and out of the seat to get you working HARD. When performing a hill out of the seat you want to shift your body weight and your hips to the back of the seat – each pedal stoke is essentially a single leg squat. This is going to help maximize your power output, which means a better calorie burn and a bigger badass you feel like when you conquer that hill.
- Skipping stretching. Just don’t do it. You know stretching is important for keeping your muscles limber, preventing injury, and allowing you to continue performing at your peak. So, just do the stretches at the end of class (And queue a collective sigh and thank you from every instructor ever).