Get the Most Out of Your Cycling Workout

Take a moderately intense cardiovascular workout, add an energetic and encouraging instructor, throw in some upbeat tunes and loads of sweat, and you’ve got a Cycling Class! Cycling is not only a fun way to burn calories and get your heart pumping, it offers loads of other health benefits, as well.

Benefits of Cycling

It is well understood that physical fitness and an active lifestyle is good for your health. But, did you know there are additional health benefits from cycling-specific workouts?

  1. Cycling is a relatively low-impact workout, especially compared to the more common exercise of running. According to a study by researchers at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, long distance runners suffered 133 – 144 percent more muscle damage, 256 percent more inflammation and 87 percent higher Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) than cyclists.
  2. Cycling can help with injury recovery. Researchers from Beaver College in Pennsylvania found that older adults with knee pain and symptoms of osteoarthritis improved their physical condition after cycling was introduced to their exercise routines.
  3. Cycling boosts your brain power. In a 2013 study, researchers found that blood flow in cyclists’ brains rose by 28 percent, and up to 70 percent in specific areas. The blood flow in some brain areas remained up by 40 percent even after exercise. Increased blood flow promotes new cell growth and can improve cognitive functions.
  4. Cycling may help you live longer. According to a study of Tour de France riders from the past, cycling seemed to increase their longevity. On average, the former riders lived to 81.5 years compared to the general population’s 73.5 years – a difference of 17.5 percent!

Before you hop on the bike to start spinning, take a few minutes to review how to properly set up the stationary bike to improve your safety and get the most out of your cycling workout.

Proper Bike Set-Up

  1. Seat Height
    Adjust the seat height so that it is level with your hip bone.

  2. Handlebar Placement
    Adjust the handlebar (either by moving closer to or farther away from the seat), so that when you grip it your arms are slightly bent, but your back stays straight. For people with lower back problems, make sure your handlebar is raised slightly higher to prevent your back from bending.
  3. Foot Placement on Pedals
    If you have cycling shoes, snap into the pedal. If you’re wearing regular athletic shoes, slip your foot into the pedal cage so your foot is secure. Make sure the strap goes over the arch of your foot and that your foot can not wiggle around inside the pedal cage.
  4. Proper Pedal Strokes
    Pedal one foot down into the 6 o’clock position. The knee should be slightly bent and directly above the toe. Your knee should not be fully extended when in this position and your knee should not be bent too far over your toes.
  5. When Making Bike Adjustments
    Make sure that you lock each part in place after each adjustment. The picture on the left shows the lock in neutral position, allowing you to raise/lower or shift the part as needed. The picture on the right shows the lock in the locked position. If you don’t properly secure the bike parts, you could risk hurting yourself or the bike!

You’re almost ready to get pedaling, but here are a few more things you should know before you spin!

Operating the Gears

Before your workout, hop on your properly set-up bike and begin pedaling. Make sure the metal gear shifter is angled to the left and the blue gear knob is turned all the way to the left. This gear position should present the least resistance when pedaling. Lower gears allow you to cycle at higher RPM’s. 

Now, turn the blue gear knob to the right. You should feel more resistance with each revolution of the knob. If you move the gear shifter to the center, you should feel a lot of immediate resistance when pedaling. Now, move the gear shifter so that it’s angled to the right. You should feel even more resistance. The cycling instructor will tell you to boost or reduce your gears throughout the workout.

Make sure to bring a towel and some water. Cycling is truly a cardiovascular workout and you will sweat!

Lastly, make sure to go at your own pace. Don’t shift the gear beyond your athletic capability or push yourself to maintain high RPM’s for long periods of time. Make sure to take a break for water when you need to.

Now, you’re ready for your first spin class!

Check out the Group Exercise calendar at an acac club near you to find a cycling class!

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