Proper postural alignment can make a world of difference when it comes to enjoying your cycling class. I always begin my class with a few friendly reminders – all of which will make you a little more comfortable throughout your ride.
Here are a few tips to think about, and remind yourself throughout your class – from the bottom, up:
Feet Your feet should always take the lead in your pedal stroke – never the pedals. Keeping enough resistance on the flywheel on your flat road will help make this happen. Also, only take those hills as heavy as your body is comfortable with – it’s easy to start “mashing” the pedals just to get through it, but it’s rough on the body. Also, remember, a good cycling shoe – hard-soled, clips into the bike pedals, vs. a softer-soled running shoe – makes a world of difference.
Knees Your kneecaps should be facing forward, legs parallel. You should have a slight bend in the knee at the bottom of your pedal stroke – not enough of a bend will leave you reaching for your pedals, while too much of a bend will force you to kick your knees out to the side. Proper seat height can address both issues (if your seat is in the right position, you shouldn’t feel pressure in your knees).
Thighs (Quads/Hamstrings) Your legs are your primary power source. If you think about using your thighs to push through your pedal strokes – especially as the weight on the flywheel increases – you’ll find it easier to maintain strong, complete, even pedal strokes. Don’t be afraid to push the hips back a little to increase your power output.
Abs/Core Control of your abs means control of your upper body and protection for your lower back. I often tell my classes (as we start to get into heavier climbs) to think about what a bicycle crunch feels like. Heavy(ish) resistance + Strong, controlled core = Bonus abdominal work.
Back A flat back will help keep your shoulders properly aligned, as well as take some of the pressure off of the low back. The more you relax the upper body, the more comfortable your ride will be.
Shoulders First and foremost, keep them relaxed! Shoulders should be pushed down and back – think about trying to tuck them down into your back pockets. Another way to think about it: push your chest forward. It will naturally draw your shoulder blades back and down.
Arms Always maintain a little bit of a bend at the elbow, regardless of position. When climbing in position 3, make sure the forearms stay lined up with the handlebars – this will also help in keeping shoulders aligned.
Head Keep it up! Not only does it allow for better spinal alignment, but the more space you can keep between your chin and your chest, the more space you create in your airway. This works two-fold: not only is it easier to breathe deeply, it also FEELS easier when you have more oxygenated blood circulating throughout your body. And as I always tell my classes: more air means more blood, more blood means faster recovery, and faster recovery means faster gains … which, at the end of the day is why we’re all here (to get stronger, lose weight, feel better … whatever your goal may be).
It seems like a lot to think about, but as time goes on, you will find that your posture will start to naturally align itself. If you cycle in a mirrored studio (most are), don’t be afraid to take a peek in the mirror and check yourself from time to time and adjust your posture as needed. Your body will thank you!