by Angela Reed-Fox
Indoor cycling is a great way to improve your strength and efficiency for general fitness and road riding fast. Done properly it's a great calorie burn, and it's suitable for any level of fitness. Better quality sessions such as here at Fox, will focus on proper riding and technique (leaving those nasty gimmicks such as tap-backs and handlebar pushups way behind) - and this is of benefit to all riders, not just those who are cyclists.
If you make the most of each session, you'll get great results - but poor technique can reduce results all round. Everyone's got something better to do than an ineffective workout.
It matters. Why does it matter? Because with a good posture, not only will you reduce aches and pains, and reduce risk of injury, but aso you'll be able to work harder for longer, getting much better results.
Tilting your pelvis slightly forward on the saddle (tilt - not just moving forward - as if your pelvis is a bucket that you're pouring water out of) will enable you to keep a more neutral spine. If your pelvis is more upright in the saddle, your spine will be unnaturally curved (which can put unnecessary pressure on the spine), but also, as your back and shoulders are more rounded, your lung capacity is decreased. Less oxygen = less power out. Less power out = fewer calories burned.
Don't be tight
Your head should be up, not slumping forward over the handbars, shoulders should be back and down. and your hands should be light on the handlebars; this will reduce tension in your spine and wrists. It will also enable you to conserve energy - more for pushing through the pedals. Check in with your toes as well - if you're scrunching your toes up in your shoes, that tension is going to spread, and impede every pedal stroke. Relaxed fingers, relaxed toes, and a strong upper body are what you need maximise efficiency in the saddle.
Pay attention particularly to how you hold the handlebars when you're climbing out of the saddle. If your wrists are taking your bodyweight, this can increase aches and pains. Obviously, if you're just starting out, your core strength might not be sufficient for a longer climb out of the saddle. Just concentrate on what you can do well, even if it's just 2 seconds. Focus on trying to keep your weight off your wrists - even if it means you need to head for the saddle sooner, that's fine. There's more benefit in doing it properly for a shorter time than risking injury just to stay with the pack.
Taking it too easy
You may have seen other riders tanking along effortlessly; that's not how you get results from a cycling class. For a start you need to be able to feel the resistance at all times. The bikes are 'fixed wheel' which means the pedals will turn as long as the flywheel is turning. That means - you need to make sure you stay in control. Most indoor cycling injuries are completely avoidable and are caused by the rider pedalling too fast and losing control. Avoid hip, knee and ankle problems by maintaining a decent level of resistance and foot speed.
Of course, the beauty of indoor cycling is that you're in charge with how hard or easy you make it. It's all on you. It's unwise to work at the same high intensity at every session, so you'll need to moderate that. However, this can be done within the bounds of effective pedalling - not having too little resistance (or too much) and maintaining an effective cadence (pedal speed) - certainly no lower than 60rpm, and if you're finding it easy to go above 115rpm, you definitely need to add more resistance to stay safe and effective.
Even out your pedal stroke by pushing across the top of the pedal stroke and pulling back along the bottom too. If you concentrate on only pushing the pedal downwards, you'll only get half of the benefit from your cycling session. Try to power round more of each pedal stroke. 'Passive pedalling' has one foot pushing down while the other foot has a free ride to the top of the pedal stroke. By powering more of the pedal stroke, you'll be using more muscle power (especially from your hamstrings at the back of your leg) - and that means you'll burn more calories and get greater benefit from your session.
Taking breaks when you don't need them
That tired leg feeling is normal - but we don't need to go straight for a break every time we feel it. Just moving your hands on the handlebars can fool you brain into thinking you just took a break - which means you can work harder for longer, getting better results.
You can also try moving around in the saddle - moving your bum to the back of the saddle will mean you start focusing on different muscle groups - giving you a fuller workout and enabling you to go on for longer between recoveries too.
Making up your own session
Fox sessions are varied, and are designed to ensure effectiveness. If you decide to skip the recoveries for example, you're not going to get the full benefit of interval training. What will happen is your muscles will tire more and more, and you won't be able to push the same power as you could if you took sensible recoveries. At Fox we use heartrate training to keep you safe and effective, and we use power too with our BodyBikes. This means that each session is already tailored to what you need. Your instructor is there to give you an effective workout and keep you safe. If it feels too easy - you don't have enough resistance on. If it's too hard, you need to take some resistance off. Not only that, riders that are striking out on their own can be distracting for the instructor (as well as other riders) as he/she has to make sure you're safe as well as leading a great class for everyone else. It's essentially running two classes simultaneously.
Skipping the stretches
Oooooh no. This is part of your recovery. It's a reward and a refresh for your muscles, it helps you to recover and come back stronger next time. Do yourself a favour, never skip these!
And there we have it - to avoid these mistakes to get even more our of every workout.