Try group cycle classes – Tips for an efficient and comfortable ride!
There may be a point in time when, after years of engaging in a particular form of cardiovascular exercise, you are thinking of trying something new. Perhaps you have been a runner, and you are wanting to transition from running to cycling. As a competitive runner for many years, I discovered cycling to be fun, social, and a great workout without the constant impact on (and consequent joint pain in) the feet, shins, knees or hips.
What runners often fear about changing to other forms of cardio is the potential loss of the powerful feelings associated with running — the sense of freedom to just get up and take off down the street. “How am I feeling today? Oh, I feel good, light, smooth, and air is brushing softly across my face as my stride starts to lengthen.” For me, it was the sense of power and confidence along with a joy in moving easily.
By your late 40’s, the ease of movement may not feel as easy anymore. So how do you get those same feelings you love so much from another exercise? Being an endurance athlete all my life, I found cycling to be a simple choice. Once I tried it, I learned that the cycling experience can actually be quite similar to running. At times, I can feel very powerful on a bike — noticing the air on my face, getting the endurance rush of energy, and feeling satisfied with my accomplishment.
Perhaps you are making a choice to try cycling. Where do you begin? It sure takes a lot more equipment than running. This is the first in a series of articles I am writing to guide you through the process.
1) CHOOSING A BIKE. Let’s start off by making it simple. You will need a bike. I recommend starting with a stationary bike or Spin bike. You most likely know how to ride a bike because as a child you did it without thinking about it. As an adult, you will need to be more careful about fitting a bike specifically to your frame because your body is not as forgiving as it once was. A bike not adjusted to your frame can lead to injury rather quickly. At Body Kinetics, we use Keiser cycle bikes because they are stable and feel light at the same time. They are like riding on a regular road bike, but with a particularly smooth “ride” because they are belt driven (without a chain) and are easy to adjust to your size and frame.
2) HOW THE BIKE HELPS YOU GET A GREAT WORKOUT. Keiser bikes also feature an easy-to-understand computer that gives you the feedback you need to have a strong, yet safe, ride. The computer displays what gear you are exercising in, which is extremely important so you can know how your effort matches the difficulty of the bike. I recommend wearing a heart rate (HR) chest strap, allowing the bike computer to display your HR. This will determine the effectiveness of the workout. You want to try to exercise at 80% of your max HR for at least 30 mins. If you are new to cycling and push too hard, your HR may be too high too soon; conversely, if you go too easy, your HR may never reach a good training rate (between 60%-80% of your max HR).
Your bike should also track your pace or Revolutions Per Minute (RPMs) — the revolutions of your pedals. Your pace will change through a cycle class depending on the type of riding – hill climbing, tempo riding, or sprinting. A skilled cycling instructor will let you know when to adjust your pace, along with you gear. The bike also will display how long you have been riding and how far, an estimate in miles. As you get more experienced, you may even track your riding power output (estimated in Watts).
3) HOW YOUR INSTRUCTOR GUIDES YOU. Cycle classes are normally 50 – 60 minutes. The instructor will play some great music and motivate you to push yourself more than you would if riding by yourself. He or she will also encourage each participant to trust their own bodies and adapt instructions as appropriate. New or experienced, every rider is welcome!
Since commercial cycle bikes need to accommodate any client, you will need to adjust the bike to your body. Below is a step by step description of how to do just that.
Cycling can be loads of fun and be a very effective cardiovascular workout. What you will likely find is that you can cycle fairly hard with little or no pain in your joints, and your recovery time between workouts is much faster than running.
In the next article, I will talk about the benefits of cycling, different types of cycling, and how to effectively use the different muscle groups during a workout.
HOW TO FIT A KEISER BIKE TO YOUR FRAME (adapted from Keiser.com):
Pictured: Saddle level with hip bone; Slight bend at the knee
- Standing close to and beside the saddle, first establish the height of the saddle so that it is level with the highest point of the hip bone.
- Sitting in the saddle, note the seat height in relationship to knee bend. As the knee extends into a straight line, a bend at the knee of approximately 35° (the angle of deviation from a straight leg) is optimal for most riders.
SADDLE—FORE AND AFT POSITION
Pictured: Knee in line with pedal; View from above knee
- With your right foot halfway down at the 3 o’clock position (with the crank arms parallel to the floor) keep both pedals level.
- With the hands remaining on the handlebars, the front of the knee should be in line with the center of the pedal where the pedal attaches to the crank arm.
- Move the saddle back or forward if necessary to adjust the knee alignment.
HANDLEBARS—HEIGHT, FORE AND AFT POSITION
Pictured: Height adjustment; Fore and aft adjustment
- When first positioning the handlebars, the lowest part of the handlebars should be slightly higher than the saddle height. Adjust the handlebars until neutral spine is comfortably achieved while pedaling.
- The elbows should be slightly bent while maintaining a neutral spine. Slide the handlebars in or out as needed.
TOE CAGES—FOOT PLACEMENT
Place foot in correct position, Pull up the strap to tighten; Finish by threading the strap through the buckle.
- To complete bike set-up, ensure the foot is in the right location on the pedal.
- Always secure the pedal-clip strap by placing the widest part of the foot on the pedal and within the toe cage. This positioning is applicable when not using the Keiser M Series Pedal.
- Locate the strap and pull on it to tighten. It should be snug, but not too tight to cause discomfort.
- Seat-Post Height (raise or lower)
- Saddle Fore and Aft (slide forward and backward)
- Handlebars Height (raise or lower)
- Handlebars Fore and Aft (slide forward and backward)
- Toe Cages (tighten or loosen)
- Water Bottle Holder
- Right Adjustment for Leveling
KEISER M SERIES COMPUTER
FINAL SEATED POSTURE
When seated on the bike, body weight should be evenly distributed across the saddle, handlebars and pedals. The basic posture serves as a point of reference for all other positions.
- Shoulders, neck and arms are relaxed
- Wrists should be straight and elbows slightly flexed
- Shoulder girdle and cervical spine are in neutral alignment
- Pelvis is in a neutral position and the rider is activated through the core
- The rider’s feet are in contact with the pedals
- Knees are parallel and in line with the second toe