You've been going to spin class on the regular for a while now, yet you still can't make it on the leaderboard. Or maybe you just aren't seeing the benefits you hoped you would by now. What gives?
You've never spoken to your instructor.
It can be tempting to skip the post-workout stretch and run to the showers before everyone else has a chance to line-up, but taking just a few minutes after class to introduce yourself to your instructor can make ALL the difference in your ride and your results, says Jessica Fracalossi, owner of and instructor at The Handle Bar in Boston.
"I definitely encourage people to introduce themselves to their instructor," says Fracalossi. "Let her know what your goals are, what current challenges you're having on the bike, and ask if there are any tips to help you improve."
While the idea of walking up to your instructor red-faced and sweaty may be slightly intimidating at first, especially if you go to a boutique studio where you feel like everyone knows everyone and the instructor looks like a ripped Barbie doll, Fracalossi says that instructors actually value that one-on-one time with riders. "Just like a private personal training session, we want to make sure our clients and our athletes are getting the attention they need," she says.
Without touching base with your instructor, you could be missing out on a tip or trick that could take your success in the saddle to the next level. One of the biggest tweaks that pros suggest is also one of the most frequent mistakes riders make (even seasoned cyclists), says Fracalossi—and that's your alignment or the bike's set-up.
"I want people to call me over at the beginning if they think I can make a tweak to their bike," she says. The most common culprit of improper set-up? Seat height. Chances are, yours is too low. At the bottom of your pedal stroke, your leg should be at a 90 percent extension, says Fracalossi. Otherwise, you're shorting changing your workout and potentially risking joint injury or discomfort. You can strain your knees if your seat is too low or too far forward. (P.S. Here's why you might have lower back pain after spin class and how to fix it.)
If your studio utilizes choreography on the bike during class, getting the hang of that while also making sure your resistance and speed are where they're supposed to be can be tricky. Again, the secret is asking your instructor for feedback, says Fracalossi.
Resistance or torque is also something even intermediate riders can improve on, and this can be a big player when it comes to topping those leaderboards or upping your power output (that's your speed and your resistance combined—a.k.a. how hard you're working). Fracalossi says she can tell immediately if a rider has the resistance up too high or too low (they struggle on the sprints or are bouncing around in the seat). "If can't figure out why you look different from the instructor, ask," she says. Once you find the beat of the music and are matching the speed of your instructor, that's where you start tapping the resistance to the right, she says. "Reach down and add just the littlest millimeter on to feel something different—it's so minor, but it allows you to push your body just a little bit more." (Increasing the resistance can also help you build a better butt in spin class.)
So if you want to up your spinning game, feel more comfortable on the bike, or just enjoy your ride more, don't be afraid to talk to your instructor—she wants to hear from you. "You're there to get better, so no matter what your question is, it's worth asking," says Fracalossi. (We have nine more ways to maximize your ride.)