For all riders, getting the most out of your workout can be a challenge. At the beginning, class can be confusing and intimidating. Should you really be able to do everything your instructor is calling out? Experienced riders, on the other hand, can start to plateau as they get stronger. Here are a few tips to ease new riders into the flow of class and help experienced riders keep getting the most out of their bike time.
Find Your Flat Road...and Keep Finding It - “Flat road” is a term used by nearly every instructor. It’s the tension you’d feel if you were riding a bike on a flat road. Not too hard, not too easy. It should take some effort to keep pedaling smooth and steady circles.
Flat road can vary from person to person. While instructors often use it as a starting point and for recovery periods, many use it as a reference point, asking you to steadily add tension to your flat road number. To keep getting the most out of your workout, adjust your flat road to reflect your fitness gains. For example, as a beginner, you might start at a flat road of 5 and go into climbs that peak at 14. As you get stronger, challenge yourself and increase your flat road to put yourself into a steeper climb. The extra power you put out will translate into a better workout with more calories burned.
“Push and Pull!” - It’s something you’ll hear instructors call out, especially when you’re pedaling through high tension. Anyone who has ridden a bike is used to the pushing down motion. But your foot is strapped (or clipped) to the pedal for a reason. To get the most out of your ride, make sure you’re pushing down and pulling up on the pedals evenly. Not only will it work more muscles, it’s a more efficient way to get the pedals around.
Use Your Legs and Core: When you get up out of the saddle, don’t pull yourself up by the handlebars. Use your legs and core to stand. Once up, don’t lean on the handlebars or grip them too tightly. Your hands are on the bars for balance only, so have a loose grip and light touch. Keep your hips and weight slightly back over the seat, allowing your legs and core to do the work. Now and then, check that you’re not leaning by momentarily taking your hands off the bars.
Put Out the Right Amount of Effort: Your workout shouldn’t be too hard or too easy. It should push you just beyond your comfort zone. The ride your instructor put together is meant to raise your heart rate, build strength and endurance, and work certain muscles. The numbers she calls out are a great baseline, but they’re only a target. More important than hitting those specific numbers is pushing your body through the changes in tension and speed, as well as getting up and down in the saddle. Being able to adjust those numbers to your fitness level is key for beginners and experienced riders alike.
If you’re a beginner, it may be hard to hit the numbers your instructor is calling. That’s normal. Don’t try to do more than you can. Pedaling with too much tension can cause injury, so just try to put out a strong, even effort. If your instructor wants 90 RPM at 13, but you just can’t do it, adjust the tension. Maintain that speed, but go down to 12 or 11. Once you’ve established where you are relative to the numbers in her workout, you can adjust accordingly. If you’re 2 below her, subtract those 2 from the numbers being called (when she goes up to 15, you go to 13). So long as you’re putting out the right effort, you’re getting the same workout as the pros in class. As you ride more often, keep challenging yourself and build toward those target numbers.
Experienced riders also need to occasionally tweak their settings. If you find you’re doing the workouts with ease, you need to adjust. Flying through the ride without breaking a sweat isn’t doing you any good. In fact, you may not be getting as much out of your ride as a beginner. Rather than staying at that target of 90 RPM at 13, challenge yourself. Go up 1 or 2 on the tension and see if you can maintain that 90 RPM. If you can, apply increase to the rest of your workout. You’ll see a noticeable jump in strength and calories burned.
No matter your experience or fitness level, we want all our riders to have the same goal: each time you come in, do a little more than the last time. It’s a sure way to get the most out of your ride and keep making gains.