Thanks for sharing your comments on the first spinning post. There were some really inspiring stories about how spinning has made you a stronger runner, or was part of your marathon training routine. I love hearing your experiences!
Part two is more of the “nuts and bolts” of spinning. These are a few tips I wish I had known when I started spinning:
Take several classes with various instructors before you decide whether or not it’s a good fit for you. I have one favorite RPM class and one favorite free cycling class. They’re very different!
2) Bike set up
Find your approximate saddle height by standing next to the bike and lining it up with your hip bone. When your feet are in the pedals, bring your feet to 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, and your front knee should make a straight line down to the ankle and pedal (adjust the seat front to back to find the right fit). The handlebar position is more for comfort than efficiency or preventing injury. And don’t be afraid to ask for assistance.
Ideally, your instructor should be giving you instructions throughout the class to ensure proper form. Your upper body should be relaxed and your core engaged when climbing or sprinting. Your hips should be back in the saddle, but can slide forward to help you sprint. Good form can help you avoid any soreness or discomfort, and can make you a more efficient, stronger cyclist.
If the instructor isn’t pushing you, push yourself. I appreciate the instructors who offer the pace (cadence or rpm’s) to shoot for (although RPM spinning will not do this). RPM’s pace is tied directly to the music, and ranges from low 70’s for strength tracks to 140’s for intense speed work.
When adding resistance, you still want to maintain a strong pace and push yourself to get stronger. You should engage your muscles the entire way around the circle when you’re climbing: instead of simply pushing and pulling, you want to push, scrape (along the bottom), pull and lift (over the top).
RPM classes are based on interval training and research, and other cycling classes should also incorporate challenging phases of work. A few classes will describe effort in terms of your heart rate. In those classes, you may want to wear a heart rate monitor to track your heart rate zones.
6) Find challenging resistance
Instructors will coach you to find base resistance (a light tension), working resistance (more tension or a headwind, but still considered a flat road) and climbing resistance (enough to stand on and challenging in the saddle) but most will not tell you what gear to be in. As you find yourself getting stronger, challenge yourself to set a new gear as your base, working and climbing minimums. Your working resistance may eventually become your base load, and this is a great way to track your strength progress (easier to track with digital gears!)
7) Come prepared
Bring a water bottle! Wear comfortable clothes, ideally fitted shorts or capris. (Running shorts can expose your skin to the seat, and after 45 minutes… ouch!) And grab a towel – you should be sweating enough to need it!
If you had a question I didn’t answer, let me know! And if you want more information on spinning, Meredith wrote an excellent post recently covering all the basics.
I’m teaching on Fridays right now, and will soon be adding more classes. I’m still experimenting and finding my style so for those of you who spin regularly, I’d love your opinion… what makes a great spinning class?