While body-fat percentage, height, age, and other factors determine just how many calories you’ll burn per session, a 190-pound guy riding for an hour can incinerate upwards of 670 calories, according to mapmyfitness.com. But if you pedal like a mindless meat stick, your odds of experiencing joint or back pain or screwing up an awesome cardio session kick into high gear.
Here, Mantas Zvinas, a senior instructor at SoulCycle in New York City, explains how you can avoid the most common mishaps.
When you’re racing crotch rockets, you might want to take lean angle into consideration. But when you’re sweating your ass off in a spin class, don’t bother. “It can lead to chronic back pain,” Zvinas explains. “Think of yourself as a scared dog and tuck your tailbone between your legs to keep yourself centered and your back slightly rounded.”
Chances are the person who pedaled before you has different measurements. So spend a minute adjusting the seat and handles to your size. Zvinas’ rule: “You should have a slight bend in your knee at the bottom of the pedal and a slight elbow bend when you reach out to grasp the handles.”
Zvinas notes that newbies often come into class looking tense and riding stiffly, which affects the way they ride. “Being tense restricts your body, your blood flow, and the way your muscles move.” Instead, be mindful and keep your grip light and your shoulders down.
Jack up the resistance on your bike too high and it’ll feel like you’re trying to maneuver your way through quicksand. But you need some resistance to make your workout tough. Also, if the resistance is too light, you’ll put too much strain on your joints as you pedal. Find the sweet spot, where you feel your quads and glutes working with every rotation.
“Your hands are there to keep you balanced,” Zvinas says. Leaning on them too heavily will force you too far forward and deactivate your core. “Your weight should be centered, with your hips directly over your pedals,” he says. “Keep your hands on the handles, holding on to them lightly for support.”