Make a few adjustments before you saddle up to your stationary bike and pedal for the medal!
If you hop on your stationary bike right as spin class starts and begin pedaling before making adjustments, you are at risk of injuring your joints. Spin class, when spun correctly, should leave you spent and sore—in the best possible way! But, you must remember that soreness and pain are too different things. Your bike is a versatile piece of equipment that works for all body types. This means that it must be adjusted to your person before your ride. Below are a few considerations for your spin set-up before you get back on the saddle.
When your seat sits too high, you can end up overextending your legs as you try to reach the pedal—especially when pedaling fast to keep up with the class. On the other hand, if your seat sits too low, your knees remain bent the entire ride, which places unnecessary stress on your kneecap. This also means you are not pedaling at maximum capacity and you are cheating yourself out of a better workout.
Stand beside your bike and adjust the seat to hip bone height. This should ensure that, when you do settle into your saddle, your legs should remain just lightly bent at the bottom of your pedal stroke. If you are unsure and are attending an in-person class, arrive a little early and ask your instructor to help adjust the bike for you. If your bike has adjustments with numbered settings, write it down for next time so that it's an easy tweak before starting class.
Once you have adjusted your seat, hop on your bike and inspect your handlebars. You want to make sure you can reach them easily and don't have to overreach to hang on during your ride. You also don't want to sit too close to your handlebars and feel squeezed in. During your spin sesh, check in with the grip on your handlebars as well. You don't need to hold on with a death grip—the bike isn't going anywhere without you! Loosen up, especially during the more grueling "uphill" battles, and you will notice that you have to work your core and quads harder to keep you stable.
Have you ever driven by cyclists and seen their legs moving extremely quickly, but their bikes not moving very quickly at all? It means they have set their resistance too low for the terrain they are riding. It's very easy to pedal, but they aren't going to really get anywhere.
Resistance is where the rubber meets the road. It's what makes spin class tough stuff. After all, you are here to burn calories and challenge yourself, right? Then, you want to set your resistance within your instructor's RPM range. You will be changing it throughout the warm-up, workout, and cool-down to be able to both push yourself and pace yourself.
Your downstroke should happen naturally, but an upstroke needs your assistance for proper form and efficiency. Focus on lifting your foot up as you pedal and you are now giving your hamstrings and glutes a little more of a push. You will find that you have more power in your spin and a more balanced workout for your quads, glutes, and hammies.