Spinning is one of my favorite – ok my very favorite – workouts out there, which is (surprise surprise) why I teach it. It’s an awesome sweat-inducing cardio workout, but it also has the potential to help you build strength. It’s super simple to follow along – no confusing steps or moves to memorize – and who wouldn’t want to just ride their hearts out in a dark room with blasting music that makes you wanna get out of your seat and dance?
Apparently I’m not alone in my love of Spinning – it’s made a super hot comeback in the past few years. Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve taken at least one Spin class in your life. But have you been getting the most out of your Spin? Here are some things that many people do wrong in Spin class that can impede your chance of getting the most out of your ride.
1. Not engaging your core the whole time. Most people don’t know that Spin is just as much of a core workout as it is a cardio one. Whether you’re in the saddle or out of it, as soon as you engage your abs, as well as the more subtle core muscles underneath your abs, then you’ll bring a whole other level of stability to your ride. Your core is what holds it all together and allows your body to move in a synchronized fashion. It’s where any movement up and down, backwards and forwards, should emanate from, and it’s what will allow your legs to fly during a sprint.
2. Wagging your tail. When you’re out of the saddle in 3rd position and you’re sticking your butt out over your saddle, do you ever feel it moving from side to side, like a dog wagging its tail? As cute as this may look 🙂 it’s not good form. If your tail is wagging from side to side, independently of the rest of your body, then you’re not engaging your core enough to keep it all together. Your whole body should be moving together, cohesively, with a slight side to side motion that is led by your shoulders and held together by your core.
3. Overthinking it. Spinning is super simple. You don’t have to know any of the moves in advance, and there are only a few ways to make it easier or harder. Everything in this post will become second nature to you after a bit of practice and reminding yourself. You could, if you allowed yourself to, completely let go of thoughts during your ride. But many of us don’t. Many of us have a little negotiation session with ourselves when it’s time to turn up the resistance or pick up the pace, maybe justifying less resistance this time because there will probably be another hill coming up. My advice? When you notice that you’re starting to think a lot, just bring your attention back to the room – to the music and to your body – and let your body take over and just do the ride.
4. Running away from resistance. For many of us, our automatic reaction to challenging or painful situations is to run away from them. The same goes for physical challenges. When an instructor says to turn up the resistance, a very natural reaction could be UGH and to maybe turn it up just a tad less than he or she instructed. But what if instead of “running away” from the resistance, we leaned into it? What if we dove in, knowing that this will make us stronger and faster?
Many women are also afraid that if they turn up the resistance too much they’ll get big thighs, which isn’t true at all. You’d need a hell of a lot more weight to effectively add bulk, and actually what you’re doing is boosting your metabolism by challenging those muscles and adding this level of intensity to your workout.
5. Hunching/caving. Many of us round our backs when we spin, creating a cave with the front of our bodies and dropping our heads. This places strain on our shoulders and neck and constricts our breathing. When you’re riding, try instead to feel a sense of uprightness and openness. Gently elongate your spin and open your chest, allow your head to fall in line with the rest of your spine, which will end up at about a 45 degree angle so that you’re looking out over the front of your handlebars. Try it – I promise you’ll feel a difference.
6. Not taking advantage of 2nd position. For some reason, not a lot of instructors spend much time in 2nd position these days – the position where you’re standing all the way upright with just a light touch on the handlebars (again you need to engage your core to stabilize you as you stand). I LOVE 2nd position because I feel like I’m emerging from a cave. It’s a rare chance to stretch all the way up to your full height, therefore giving your legs and back a chance to unwind and stretch too, and since you’re not hunched over, your breathing is completely unconstricted and flowing openly. My favorite is to go straight to a standing 2nd right after a sprint so that I can really breathe it out.
7. Tightening your shoulders. It’s a perfectly natural reaction – I even find myself doing it on and off the bike. When the ride starts to get tough, especially when I’m on a hill, my shoulders start to creep up to a shrug. This adds tension to your upper body that is taking away from your ride…and that will likely give you stiff shoulders later on. It’s so common to do this in Spin class that if I could, I’d set a timer to go off every 2 minutes as a reminder to drop your shoulders, and most likely those shoulders would be up again the next time that timer went off!
8. Pointing your toes. Many instructors forget to give the instruction to ride with flat, or flexed, feet. We’re not doing ballet here. When you point your toes, you’re risking injury to your ankles, and you’re not getting the full power of the pedalstroke. By riding with a flat foot, you can channel your strength through your leg to the ball of your foot to the pedal of the bike. Try it.
9. Bouncing too much. When you start to really get in to the music, it can be easy to want to bounce along to the music, especially when you’re standing upright in 2nd position. If you find yourself bouncing so much that you resemble a bobblehead, then that means you don’t have enough resistance on your bike and that you’re not engaging your core enough.
10. Gripping the handlebars for dear life. Many people, especially those who are new to Spin, hang on to those handlebars to hold them up. The handlebars are there just for balance – you should have a light touch on them and use your core to hold you up. It also takes a certain level of trusting the bike to hold you up – once you get your legs moving in cadence you will also find that you don’t need to lean on those handlebars quite so much. Similarly, don’t rest your arms on the handlebars, if you can build the habit of allowing your core to hold your body up rather than resting on the bars, you’ll be in good shape.
11. Wear loose-fitting clothes. Well you can if you want, but I’ll just give you a word of advice – loose fitting clothes tend to get caught on the saddle. We wouldn’t want an unfortunate accident to happen with those pants!
12. Not stretching your hip flexors afterwards. Chances are, the muscles you’ll be feeling the most after your Spin class are your quads. But the muscles that probably most need a stretch is your hip flexors, the small muscles at the front of your hips. Each up-movement of each pedalstroke shortens that muscle a little bit, and if you like going fast like I do, then it shortens it a lot. To get in a nice hip flexor stretch, you can do a 2-for-1 and keep your knees together when you grab your foot behind you for your quad stretch, or you can take a lunge with one foot forward and shift your pelvis forward.
13. Don’t listen to your body. One of the unique things about spinning is that it is completely individual, even though you’re doing it in a room full of people. Each rider is in ultimately the one in control of his or her resistance knob and leg speed, despite the instructions being given. Listen to your body during your ride and make adjustments as necessary. Yes you want to push yourself past your comfort zone, but you also need to feel when it’s time to adjust for where you are at the moment. Don’t compare yourself to your neighbor – each of our bodies as well as each bike is different. Make it work for you.
I’d love to hear from you – what’s your experience with Spinning and the tips above?