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The Top 10 Mistakes in Indoor Cycling

 How to avoid the most common mistakes in indoor cycling

Do you know how to train safely and effectively?

I came across an article in the L.A. Times recently that covered a cycling studio that uses weights while on the indoor bikes. I began to wonder how far we will go with indoor cycling to make it so different and unique that it suddenly becomes unsafe and dangerous. Indoor cycling is an amazing cardiovascular workout and is extremely popular among all fitness classes offered around the world. However, as with all group fitness classes, there is concern that instructors try new and 'exciting' ways to do certain exercises on the indoor bike and some of these moves can cause injury.

Jillian Micheals techniques on The Biggest Loser, as well as some new cycling techniques, remind me that less is more when it comes to indoor cycling. Many instructors use moves that may be dangerous in the name of creativity. Indoor cycling can be very safe, but make sure you are aware of the following mistakes that instructors make while teaching class or while using your indoor bike at home. When it comes to designing and planning an indoor cycling workout: less Is more! Focus on the beats of the music and try to keep it to a simple cycling routine so that everyone in class can follow no matter what level you are.

1) Make Sure Your Instructor is Certified

The instructor should be certified as a group fitness instructor by a nationally accredited organization. There are many indoor cycling programs offered as cycling continues to dominate the group exercises classes around the nation. Nearly every bike has a certification and anyone who teaches classes should be well informed of proper cycling technique and coached on safe riding rules.

2) Mind Your Hearing

Music is going to be the most important aspect of a cycling instructors indoor cycling routine. Most instructors like to play the music very loud so be sure to be cautious of everyone else in class. Music is an integral part of indoor cycling, and the classes are notorious for cranking up the volume. You can try to speak to the instructor about lowering the music, but if that doesn't work keep yourself out of hearing aids by wearing ear protectors in class. You can purchase inexpensive silicone or foam earplugs that will reduce the volume while allowing you to hear.

3) Properly Adjust Your Indoor Cycle

Adjustments to the indoor cycling bike are very important in setting up an indoor cycling class. Making the proper adjustments can make a huge difference in comfort and overall calorie burn during class. The seat is typically as high as the individuals hip height where you would wear a pair of pants. To make this adjustment, make sure you are standing by the side of the bike and use your hip as a reference point in order to get the right angle for pushing down into the pedal. The seat should also be more fore than aft while riding in order to get the best possible push and power straight down into the crank. This will burn more calories and will create less back tension and injuries.

The handlebars should always be higher than the seat position in order to create a relaxed position and avoid any lower back injuries. Refrain from grabbing the handle bars too tight. Relax the arms and shoulders as much as you can while riding. If someone is a competitive rider or is used to cycling with a lower handlebar setting then make sure you tell them it is an aggressive position and warn them of possible back soreness before letting them have that body position during class. Outdoor cyclists or triathletes tend to train with the handlebars lower than the seat in order to practice less wind resistance and be more efficient while taking that riding technique outside. A cyclist's seat and handlebar adjustments and good form are keys to a safe ride. If you are unsure of the correct fit, ask a certified instructor before the class begins.

4) Always Control the Resistance Yourself

Make sure not to let anyone, including your instructors adjust the resistance on your bike. No one can know how much resistance you are feeling except for yourself. Ride at your own pace and level and hold yourself to your own goals and accomplish them at your own pace. Make sure to avoid turning the tension too high where you find yourself barely able to turn the legs or even stopping the pedal rotation because the resistance is too high. This is bad for your knee joints and also the bike itself. If you were turn up the gear on an outdoor road bike while climbing uphill, the chain would actually snap (I've actually done this twice before :/ .. so it's not realistic or effective strength training).

5) Leave the Weights on the Rack

Do not use or hold weights while on the bike. Not only is it ineffective, but it is unsafe. You need your body and core stabilized to lift weights. Your instructor may tell you it will increase your heartrate, but any increase is caused by the “pressor effect.” Instead, you will probably slow down your legs, reducing the actual intensity of the ride while you try to remain balanced on the bike.

6) Keep Your Hips in Motion

Always move your hips and use your core while riding and never isolate them to put more emphasis on the quadriceps and hamstrings. By isolating the hips into one position, it actually puts extreme pressure on the knees and joints.

7) Watch Your RPM

Refrain from going faster than 120 RPM at any point during your ride. The typical indoor cycling class should try and hold anywhere from 80-120 RPM while pedaling. Anything faster than 120 RPM (or what some programs like to call "Free-wheeling") and you run the risk of literally flying out of the pedals with your shoes or clips and can cause serious injury with hyper extension to the knee joints or just by being hit by the crank while a 50lb flywheel moves the crank forward with tremendous momentum.

8) Indoor Cycles are for Indoor Cycling

Push ups on the bike are unsafe and not effective for core and upper-body strength building. If you want to do some arm-toning calisthenics hope off the bike and do your workout on solid ground. If you want to combine your indoor cycling with your upper body training workout, you'll need a more capable indoor cycle like the Evo Fitness Bike. The pivoting motion of this indoor cycle allows you to work your core and upper body with each pedal. It also promotes a more natural, full body pedaling movement.

9) Indoor Cycles Have Two Pedals for a Reason

Never take a leg out and pedal with just one leg at a time. If an individual has a leg out of the pedal while cycling to work on a one-leg push, they will run the risk of hitting their leg with the pedal as it comes around the back end. If you want to work the one-leg push on the indoor bike just power down one leg at a time while still tied in to the pedal and increase power with the opposite leg to get the same effect.

10) Bring the Proper Gear for a Proper Workout

Wear the proper equipment in a proper indoor cycling room setting. Cycling shoes with the standard indoor cycling SPD clips, athletic shorts, towel, light-breathable dri-fit clothing to promote cooling body temperatures, and water in a room at home or fitness center. Make sure you have access to proper air circulation! You do burn more calories in the heat, however you can run the risk of overheating and dehydrating or even get heat stroke. Always have the option to cool down as your body heat rises. Outdoor cyclists typically do not run into this issue because the wind usually cools your body while you sweat. With indoor cycling, there is no wind so it can get hot quickly, especially with 30 people or more in a cycling class.

Author Information:

Jack Nunn, Powerhouse FitnessJack created Powerhouse Fitness after winning numerous medals in various events on the international stage. He was a gold medalist in 2007 at the first ever Concept 2 Team Indoor Rowing challenge, held in Essen, Germany. In 2006, he took silver at the Masters Nationals Open Single Event. As a member of the US Rowing National Team from 2001-2004 he placed second at the 2003 Pan American Trials in double sculls and had an outstanding 2002 that saw him claim a gold medal in Senior 8 and a silver medal in the Elite Double at the US Nationals. He was also a silver medalist in 2001 in the Nations Cup (now the U23 World Championships) 8 in Ottenshiem, Austria. Find out more.