Things New Rpm or Spin Students should Know

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Maybe you’re considering trying a spinning class, or you’ve just begun.  Spinning or RPM is a fun way to get fit and it’s relatively easy on the knees.  Here are a few tips for the beginner to help make it a great ride.

Gear

“Should I buy padded cycle pants?” You could invest in a pair however, typically “saddle soreness” goes away after about 2 weeks of riding 3 or more times a week. Yes, you should ride 3 or more times a week!

Frequency

Instructor in foreground with spinning class at a gymThe American Heart Association recommends doing cardio 5 times* per week for at least 20 minutes, working to the point of breathless during peak intervals. Doing so creates a gas needed to expand and contract the arteries, which makes them more elastic and able to take stress at a greater capacity. This in turn makes the whole body more efficient in bringing oxygen and vital nutrients where it’s needed. (Increased VO2 max)  Add to this the benefit of a better survival rate for heart attack or stroke!   *As with any exercise regime, check in with your healthcare provider to make sure you are healthy enough to embarq safely.

All that serious stuff aside, riding is a blast! It should be an enjoyable experience and leave you feeling very accomplished. Make sure to do the amount of exercise you feel is right for your body, even when you push yourself.

Start every ride in “cycle set” and reset continuously throughout the ride. Have your instructor walk you through proper setup or use this guide.

  • Step up to the bike and generally start with the saddle about hip height; Handlebar Height should be slightly lower or level with the saddle. Push your hips to the back of saddle. Give everything from the waist down a slight squeeze and sit high up on the seat bones. Tip forward from the hip.
  • To insure correct Seat Height, take one foot to the 12 o’clock position and the other to the 6 o’clock position. Note that the foot in the 6 o’clock position should have a slight bend in the knee. Don’t reach from the hip for the full circle stride; keep hips firmly pushed back in the saddle. Adjust accordingly.
  • For the Seat Fore and Aft, with your feet in the straps and centered with the widest part of the foot in line with the axle of the foot pedal, take one foot to 3 o’clock and the other to 9 o’clock. Look straight down the front of the knee, keeping hips back in the saddle. You should be able to draw a straight line from the knee to the center of the pedal and the foot. If you can’t, adjust your seat backwards or forwards, depending on what is needed.
  • Handlebars should be comfortably in reach and create a slight bend in the elbow. In a race position, you should have a 90-degree angle between your upper arm and your torso. If you feel like you need to slide forward in the saddle to create a 90-degree angle, move your handlebars a little closer. If you have low back problems, you will probably find that you like your handlebars higher.

Now that you are ready, reset again and sit with firm glutes and seat bones pushed back in the saddle. Your hips should not bounce if you have sufficient load.

Let’s clarify some terms:

  • Base Load is having push-back enough to speed up with some work. When you relax the feet, slow slightly with an amount of pressure you could comfortably ride with all day.
  • Working Load is the amount of pressure to push against when you gain momentum and slow instantly when you let off. It should be a little uncomfortable when pushing forward.
  • Climbing Load is achieved when you have enough load that the glutes want to come out of the saddle when you push forward or when you have to stand to keep moving.
  • Race Position is typically when you might experience bouncing. Don’t necessarily look at the dial to set your pressure. Instead use how the bike feels, usually somewhere between base load and climbing load. Exert pressure on the pedal pushing forward over the top of the circle and shortening up the back side, ankle fixed in place, toes pointed down, and knees pulled straight up and down like sewing needles.
  • In Race and Race Forward Position, the glutes are tight and really light in the saddle because you are using all the muscles of the legs to pull the pedal up the back of the circle and over the top and forward. This movement shortens the length of the circle, making you as efficient and aerodynamic as possible. Enough load will strengthen you, so you can’t go wrong with more pressure. Too little load can create a bumpy road, sore saddle, and hip pain. Don’t be afraid to adjust pressure to smooth out the road. Your results will be a testament to your smart riding!

Remember that as a beginning rider it’s important to build up gradually. Olympic Athlete, Les Mills, recommends 4 song-track intervals followed by a cool down and stretch. Add a track each week until you are completing a full class.  Stay in for the long ride. Your body will thank you!