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The Top 6 Spin Class Mistakes

Ann's Spin Class

If you love spinning, raise your hand. Yeah, me too! But are you doing everything you can to get the most out of your spin class?

In recent years, the popularity of indoor cycling has skyrocketed. Spinning is a fantastic cardio and strength workout that combines low/no impact activity with high intensity: the perfect calorie crushing storm that's also easy on your joints. Many people cite boredom-busting as one of the best benefits spin class can offer. Getting lost in the music while pedaling your brains out to the beat is a fun way to make the time fly and create a your own gorgeous #sweatpool under the spinning bike.

Spinning is fun to do with friends and is a skill that can be picked up quickly. Perhaps best of all, because you control the resistance on your bike and how quickly you pedal, spinning is appropriate and safe for almost anyone. Beginners, people with injuries, the older population, people with medical restrictions, youth, and aerobic phobics can all reap the rewards of this highly addictive class that leaves you in a state of euphoria.

Ann Stansfield, a certified spinning, group ex, and gravity instructor in Los Angeles knows a thing or two about spinning form. A gorgeous and crazy fit mom of two, it's easy to see how her quick smile, welcoming vibe, and inspirational positive energy make her classes so popular. Here are the top 6 mistakes she regularly sees.

1. Improper Set-Up. "If you're new to spinning the very best option is to get to class early and have an instructor set you up. But if you're on your own, here's the best way to get a proper set up. There are three main adjustments you make on the bike:

  • Seat Height. Stand next to your bike and raise the seat up to your hip bone. Mount the bike and double check your measurement by extending one leg in the down stroke with a flat foot. In that position, there should be a slight bend in your knee. If your leg is straight, your seat is too high and you can hyper-extend your leg while in motion, which can be uncomfortable and lead to injury. Also, if your knee has a dramatic bend, your seat is too low. You're going to tire out really quickly and miss using all the muscle groups in your legs.
  • Handlebar Height. Raise or lower the handlebars until you feel comfortable with no strain in your back. In general, beginners usually feel more secure with a higher handlebar.
  • Seat and Handlebar Distance. You can move the seat and handle bars both forward and back. The appropriate width is all about torso and arm length. Move the pieces of the bike until you're sitting in a natural arms-extended-position that doesn't feel like you're reaching too far or that that your movement is constricted."

2. Leaning on the Handlebars. "The handlebars are there for balance and support but NOT for leaning. Your body weight should be centered over your feet and your fingers resting lightly on the handlebars. I see this mistake a lot when we're standing and climbing. When your butt is off the seat, always make sure your hips are pulled back far enough so that your body weight is over the pedals. When you lean heavily on the handlebars, you take some of the work out of your legs and put yourself at risk of injury in the upper back and shoulders."

3. Hunching Your Shoulders. "A lot of times, even if someone has a good bike set up, you'll see shoulders hunched around the ears. It's a common reaction to effort to pull your shoulders up. But all of your energy should be flowing towards your lower body, so it's really important to relax your shoulders and keep them down."

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4. Unequal Cycle Stroke. "While pedaling, make smooth circles.The downstroke should be matching or equal to the upstroke. A lot of people just push the pedals down and let the momentum of the bike bring their feet back up or rely on the other leg to continue the pushing motion. You should be pushing down AND pulling up with each stroke so you work all of the muscle groups in your legs. Some people find that wearing cycling shoes helps them to make the pulling motion as well as the pushing, but you can definitely achieve those smooth circles in sneakers just using mindfulness."

5. Improper Resistance. "If your resistance is too light, you can't maintain the cadence and your legs are just flying around. I call it 'crazy legs'. It's important to make sure you have enough resistance to control the bike. You don't want the bike to control you. In that same vein, you also need to use enough resistance to make it challenging for yourself. Don't let yourself off the hook just because it's hard. You want to use the time you've devoted to taking the spin class in the most efficient way you can. However, if you're using so much resistance that you can only push the pedals down but can't pull them back up, take it down a touch. Keep the resistance in the place where you're getting the best workout you can while maintaing proper form."

6. Leaving Class Before the Stretch. "I know everyone is busy, but it's so important for you to bring the heart rate safely down, cool down, and stretch. It's crucial to elongate all those muscles we've just been contracting so intensely. Stretching protects you from injury and helps to squeeze all that lactic acid build-up out of your muscles, reducing soreness. If you can't stay through the stretch, make sure and stretch on your own."

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Image: Sarah Olive Bergeson

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