It’s a very miserable bank holiday Monday. It has been raining all night and it still is. Breakfast done, soup for dinner is already on the stove and now just having an hour or so of me time before I cover a class in my local gym.
It has been a very busy week. Two classes almost every day plus I finally had my fitness testing session at Cadence. I must say I am really happy with the results as in most areas tested I am on a “trained athlete’s” level. Now the challenge will be to fit the training session into my day. Fingers crossed.
Today I wanted to talk about something that we as instructors witness and mention very often especially if you teach across many different locations: how to maximise the effects of your indoor cycling session. It all comes down to a few top tips. these are relevant at whatever your level as a rider.
Let’s crack on then:
1. BIKE SET UP.
I am like a broken record: I go through it at the start of EVERY class. I walk around and check it individually and then go through it again with the group. Please follow it. PROBLEM: with the wrong set up you can’t work as hard as you would otherwise, you risk discomfort and over time injury. SOLUTION: ask your instructor. In many cases people say: “I have it like that because I have back problem”. I often respond: “You have a back problem BECAUSE you sit that way”. It doesn’t apply to everyone but it does to many.
2. YOUR FITNESS GEAR – WHAT ARE YOU WEARING?
This is crucial. There is so much available in terms of gym clothes out there we are spoilt for choice. Even price wise. Yet still many people make basic mistakes.
First, wearing cotton T-shirts. PROBLEM: they get soaking wet in the more often than not incredibly hot studios. That means that they get heavy, you get very hot or very cold very quickly especially if you sit close to an air con vent. SOLUTION: get a proper moisture wicking gear that will transform your experience.
Second, wearing long sleeve tops and long trousers. Some people wear these because they want to sweat more and as a result burn more calories. PROBLEM: if you overheat your body, you cannot work as hard as you would if you were able to keep cooler. If you want to do a long endurance ride – same tempo without many surges or intervals then probably you can get away with it. Otherwise you are not doing yourself any favours. SOLUTION: I know some people feel cold when they enter a studio and only after the warm up they realise they may be overdressed: wear layers so you can take the long sleeve top off for the class and put it back on for the cool down/stretching.
Next is wearing loose trousers with wide leg. PROBLEM: have you seen people cycling outside with one leg of their trousers folded up or wearing a funny rubber thingy over their ankle? There is a reason for it: the trouser leg may get entangled in the pedal.
3. WHAT IS THAT ON YOUR FEET? PLIMSOLLS?!
My advice to anyone who takes even just 2 indoor cycling classes per week but regularly, to invest in the cycling shoes with cleats. Yes, they will set you back about £60-£70 at least but you will never look back after wearing them. And they will last you a couple of years at least (provided they are not the cheapest thing out there). I have seen people come to the class wearing normal trainers, MTB shoes, plimsolls and the barefoot running rubber-thingies. PROBLEM: with all these shoes are the soles. MTBs just don’t fit in the cages. Plimsolls or very thing soled trainers just don’t give you enough support and when you are to do a standing or seated climb with a lot of resistance your foot will arch. That means you are facing discomfort in the class, pain and over time even an injury.
Even wearing a good pair of trainers you will always face the dreaded STRAPS that are to hold your foot in the cage. These are very often broken or keep getting loose during the class and you need to stop to tighten them up.
When wearing the cycling shoes your foot will always be positioned in the right way above the pedal, you will be able to actually pull from your heel rather than just push down as you are one with the pedal. They will take some getting used to – especially clipping in and out 🙂 but they are so worth it.
4. THAT’S A BUMMER.
Yes, the bum. PROBLEM: We spend a lot of time sitting on it in a class. And no, it is not comfortable. The level of discomfort comes as a real shock to many beginners. After the first class (or if you only do one a week) you need to remember not to sit on hard surfaces for a couple of days after the class… People try to deal with it in different ways. Some fold a towel over the saddle. I don’t think it’s a good idea at all. The other week I have witnessed for the first time in 3 years someone who goes as far as to keep on his feet the whole 45 minutes rather than sit down on such an uncomfortable surface.
SOLUTION: first and foremost bike set up. That answer is like “switch it on and off” in IT 🙂 Then try taking 2-3 classes a week even for a couple of weeks. It should get the derriere used to the idea. Otherwise there are gel seats or those padded shorts. If you decide to go with the shorts make sure they are well fitted.
5. I AM NOT A SCIENTIST. I AM NOT A PRO ATHLETE. I AM NOT INTERESTED.
Did you guess what this one is about? The computer consoles on bikes. Thankfully, more and more gyms are putting in new generation bikes that are giving us back loads of valuable data so we can actually see where we are at in terms of fitness and whether we are getting any better.
PROBLEM: For many people suddenly having a screen with many (sometimes too many) numbers feels like they can no longer have fun in the class. Now it’s all Watts’s this and Watt’s that 🙂
SOLUTION: if you take part in a power oriented class these numbers are vital to know how hard you should be working. However, you are always free to ignore them and follow other clues from your instructor like keep to the beat of the music, make sure it feels like a hill/flat etc. You may not care about the number of Watts you are producing and that is fair enough. However, you can always benefit from tracing your speed – RPM.
As an instructor I am thrilled to have these tools available so I can vary the focus of my classes. I used to do cadence/speed drills on the old school bikes and they did work well. But now when you can actually SEE what speed you are at and can keep yourself in check rather than GUESS whether you have slowed down or not, it makes for such a better and more challenging workout.
What I am saying is having a bike with a console only to put a towel over it for the whole class is like getting an Aston Martin or a Ferrari and just drive it at 20mph to the local corner shop and back. Just give it a chance, see what it can do. You don’t have to use all the gadgets. Also as the instructors do use these numbers more and more, you may feel a bit excluded having to work out where you should be while everyone else is just following a number.