(written for Spinning.com. See original article here.)
You’ve spent long hours on that bike. Too may to count, probably. Lots of time in the saddle, riding happily to a fitter, healthier you.
If you’re investing time in your Spinning classes (or any fitness endeavor for that matter), you want to get the most bang for your buck. And you want to see a consistent improvement in your fitness levels.
Take a peek at some of the tips below to make sure you’re doing everything in your power to successfully see those improvements.
Here’s how to make every minute, every pedal stroke, and every drop of sweat count.
- Work while in class. Don’t text (please!). Don’t chat incessantly. And for the love of cycling, don’t spend the whole class riding at just one speed and with one level of resistance. You’ve seen the people in class who do: they never break outside of their “box,” whether they spend the whole hour moseying along slowly or riding like a bat out of hell. Focus, shake it up, and make your body a little uncomfortable. Like to climb? Go faster. Like to sprint? Take a hill. Do the opposite every now and then of what your body finds easy.
- Water trumps fatigue. I used to drink 24 oz. of water in class, and had no problem finishing up the bottle. I sweat—or, ahem, glow—a lot. When I upped my water to a 33 oz. bottle of water, though, I suddenly felt less tired while in class. It seems that little bit of extra water was what my body needed, and I didn’t even realize that it was lacking. I can’t drink water before class (for obvious reasons since I teach), but during class I guzzle it down and feel so much stronger.
- Focus on the feelings. When you are climbing, really focus on the climb. When you are riding a faster flat or going downhill, focus on feeling the smooth pedal stroke, on not bouncing, on how great it is to hold a consistent speed. As you get tired, shift your focus to your breathing or relaxing your upper body. Just be in the moment and help your body do what it was meant to do: move.
- Do what the instructor does—mostly (unless he or she is doing pushups, crunches, hovers, super fast sprints with no resistance, isolations, using weights, bouncing, etc.) Try to follow the ride as best you can, including elevation and speed changes. If you can’t do something, don’t do it and don’t beat yourself up over it. But work at the best of your abilities in each class, even if it requires you to venture out of your comfort zone.
- Don’t do only intervals every…single…class. Most rides involve terrain changes, but if you ride at many 90% heart rate intervals in each and every class, you are doing your body a disservice. You will burn out and only use one ‘fuel source.’ Plus, your body will adapt. Hard intervals are best left to a few times per week (this is particularly important if you ride a lot— more than 4-5 days a week).
- When climbing, make sure you can still move your legs. More often than not, we see people in class who don’t heave nearly enough resistance on (go, bunny, go!). But sometimes we see students with way too much resistance to the point where they can barely move the pedals. A nice, steep climb is OK, but if you can’t hold a basic pace, your knees will not be happy with you.
- Breathe and relax. It might seem counter-intuitive to relax your upper body while working, but once you get the hang of it, it feels like a slice of heaven. You want to leave class feeling like you’ve worked hard, but not feel stressed out. Keep your hands soft, and your shoulders relaxed. If you have to cling to the handlebars while riding, you might not have enough resistance on.
- Change up your instructors every now and then. I know, I know, we all have our favorites. But don’t be afraid of the sub, and don’t be afraid to try a new instructor or style. Remember—as long as they are teaching safely, it’s good to try something different. It will shake up your body, your mind and your booty.
We all love Spinning classes and can ride ’til the cows come home. Let’s make sure we get everything we can out of our rides, from physical to mental.