by Angela Reed-Fox
Starting anything new is a bit of a challenge - however, with studio cycling, there are few things to remember that will make your first session much more enjoyable and effective.
Drink plenty of water the day before. Ensuring you're well hydrated before you start will mean you'll not tire so quickly, you'll get more from the session, and you'll recover more quickly too. Take water with you to your class, ensure it's easily accessible on your bike, and drink as needed through the session. Hydration doesn't stop at the end of the session - studio cycling is intense, and you'll sweat (which is good!) make sure you drink enough for the rest of the day (6-8 glasses) to avoid dehydration headaches. Tea and coffee also counts towards your fluid intake as long as it's made with water rather than all milk.
Wear cool clothes! The other 'cool', that is! Wear clothes that are comfortable and will keep you cool. Be aware though that you'll need to avoid 'flappy legs' - avoid anything on your bottom half that might interfere with the pedals. Also, bring a small towel - it's going to get sweaty!
Arrive early. Meet the instructor, talk about any injuries or special requirements you have - and let the instructor know you're new. You'll get a bit of special attention to make sure you're comfortable.
Choose your bike. If the studio has fans, it might be nice to choose a bike near a fan so you get a fresh breeze during your session. Being in view of studio mirrors enables you to check on your posture and technique. The instructor will be offering pointers - by taking these on board, you'll get a better workout.
Get a proper bike setup. Studio bikes can accommodate a tremendously wide variety of shapes and sizes, but everyone needs a proper setup for comfort as well as to enable you to get the most out of your session. If your saddle is too low, for example, you'll be far more likely to experience cramping, and be unable to make full use of your leg muscles as you're unable to extend properly. Arriving early will enable your instructor to give plenty of time to making sure you're set up comfortably and effectively on the bike.
Push and pull pedalling. As you pedal concentrate on pushing the pedal over the top of the pedal stroke and pulling back along the bottom. This will help to work your glutes and hamstrings on the back of your legs as well as the quads on the front. Think about trying to pedal 'full circles' rather than the usual pushing down motion.
It's not just about your legs. Your upper body will also be strengthened with the right technique. Think about minimising upper body movement and channelling the power down through your legs. Often riders can waste energy by using bodyweight to turn the pedals when their upper bodies flop from side to side or bob up and down. Minimising movement forces your muscles to support your bodyweight - extra bonus! As you get used to it, this will become second nature. Your core strength will improve and you'll get more from each session.
Don't do anything you're not comfortable doing. Studio cycling is a tremendously effective activity for burning calories and strengthening muscles. As with trying to build any habit, if it's enjoyable, you're more likely to stick with it. Enjoy the session - take in the music, enjoy challenging your body, and then enjoy the recovery afterwards. Don't try to do too much, don't try to keep up with others - just follow the instructor, dip out of anything you're not comfortable. To start with, you may find it difficult to do a standing climb, but as your core strength improves, you'll be able to stay out of the saddle for longer. Take it all in your stride - don't try to achieve everything all in one go. There's time.
The key is to prepare so that you can enjoy the session. There are tremendous gains to be made from a regular studio cycling class - and they can all be yours!
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