The music is pumping, the sweat pouring down your forehead, and you're dead set on reaching the finish line. Legions of men and women swear by indoor cycling classes, thanks to the calorie-torching intensity and addictive rush of endorphins. But while hitting the bike is often praised for its low impact on joints, it's still quite easy for even seasoned riders to injure themselves during spin class.
"I often see improper form on the bike that could lead to injuries," says Christina Lodde, senior instructor at Flywheel Sports in Boston, who cites pain in the knees, hips, lower back and shoulders as common cycling injuries.
In fact, improper bike setup is a surefire way to injure yourself in a cycling class, particularly in the knee area.
"People have a tendency to ride too low," says Emily Southworth, lead instructor at Recycle Studio in Boston. "Your ideal bike setup is when your leg is totally extended, there should be a soft bend in your knee."
Keep your ears open for the cues given by your instructor, says Lodde. Those postural instructions they're shouting out during class aren't just for effect.
"Listening to cues from the instructor, like relaxing your shoulders, keeping your core engaged with your weight back over the seat, and keeping your head in line with your spine, are all important reminders to keep your body safe and your workout effective," says Lodde.
Even if you're not feeling a specific ache or pain, some riders simply need to learn to give themselves a break. (Also, uh, be careful when you’re dismounting.) Overexerting oneself to the point of exhaustion is a common, yet dangerous habit for cyclers, many of whom live for the feeling of pushing their limits. Doubling up on classes that are specifically designed to last only 45 minutes can be harmful, says Southworth, especially if you're doing it seven days a week.
"If you're doing two classes back to back, you're probably not putting your resistance up as high as you can, which can lead to knee problems," says Southworth, who herself rests one to two days a week. "Your body's going to perform better when you're giving yourself a break."
Fitness professionals outside the world of cycling say they frequently see the hazards of spending too much time on the bike.
"With too much spin, you may start to notice knee pains, quadricep tears and injured hip flexors," says Bron Volney, Founder and Personal Trainer atBronCore Fitnessin Boston. "You need to counterbalance your spin workouts with at least one hamstring, glute, and [hip] abduction-specific workout during the week."
Volney suggests moves likeCurtsy LungesandAbduction Side Stepsusing circle bands. Stand in a slight squat position with your toes pointed forward, and perform reps of 20 in each direction to contrast the sagittal plane of motion (forward and backward) that indoor cycling focuses on.
Both Lodde and Southworth suggest varying one's routine through pilates, yoga, and barre classes. But they say it's being in tune with your own body that can really ensure a safe and effective workout.
"I think exercise and the fitness industry has totally blown up and it becomes such a social thing," says Southworth. "But you have to listen to your body, and if you're having any pain, maybe take a couple days off."