Spinning for runners- part two

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:

1) Experiment!

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.

3) Position

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.

4) Pace

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).

5) Intervals

  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?

31 thoughts on “Spinning for runners- part two

  1. The ability to push yourself and make the workout as tough as you want is a great perk of spinning. It has gotten me through injury that prevented me from running and provides great leg strength.
    Jen recently posted..The half marathon that wasn’tMy Profile

  2. Great tips Laura!! I definitely wish I had my tri shorts when I was taking Indoor Cycling, my running shorts definitely didn’t cut it.

    I like an instructor who is upbeat and positive and gives some guidance during the class. I’m sure you would be a a great instructor!
    Jamie @ couchtoironwoman recently posted..Keuka Lake Tri Training Week 9My Profile

  3. Music and instructor make a great spin class for me. I love an enthusiastic (but not too much) instructor that changes things up. Good tip on the shorts. It always makes me cringe when I see ladies wearing short shorts. Yikes, rubbing nightmare!
    hikermom recently posted..Monday MishmashMy Profile

    • I only recently got spinning shoes, too… the nice thing is that you don’t need to replace them every few months! I’m planning to use mine for as long as possible. If you’re going 1-2 times a week, you can get by on sneakers. When it’s more often, it’s helpful to have a shoe that holds your ankle in place and can prevent any foot pain.
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part twoMy Profile

    • I really struggled with that for awhile, too! Now I have a few that are a good fit, but it’s changing again as I start teaching more and I’ll drop the ones I used to attend. Ha! I do have to video tape myself soon… maybe I can send a copy your way. 🙂
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part twoMy Profile

  4. I like that spinning allows a great workout if you have an injury you cant run during. I have broken my toes more times than I can count and the bike is always something I can still do. I just wish i still belonged to a gym so I could take spin classes still!
    Lindsay @ Fuel My Family recently posted..9 Months and CountingMy Profile

  5. Before I started spinning, I always thought that it would be really hard. I didn’t realize that you have control over how hard you make it. That being said, I love an instructor who pushes you, because I am pretty competitive with myself, but sometimes when you are tired, you just need that extra bump!

    I used to love the classes when we would simulate hills and really crank up the gear and push it! Man I used to sweat my butt off in that class!
    Travel Spot recently posted..Do and Do Not (3): RunningMy Profile

  6. Great post. I enjoy spinning as my primary cross training. I have a padded cycling skirt I wear to class. A padded skirt or shorts is a definite must have. I also try to get a bike close to a fan, the spin room can get really hot.
    Kim @ (Just) Trying recently posted..Viper!My Profile

  7. I always thought I hated spinning until I took a class with a good instructor. She took the time to set my bike up properly… it did wonders for the soreness I’d remembered from past experiences. The music was also a big thing for me -we even ended the class with a little sing-along ride. 🙂
    Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table recently posted..Pigging OutMy Profile

  8. I’ve never managed to make it past the tushy soreness with spinning. I’m not quite willing to invest in padded shorts, but I can’t last through a class because the pain is so excruciating.
    Sarah S recently posted..A cheetah and a dog?My Profile

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