Indoor Cycling- A Pain in the A*!?

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Pushing through the burn is part of a great, indoor cycling sweat session. There’s a big difference between that ‘hurts so good’ feeling and real pain.  If you’ve ever left a class with a killer workout under your belt, but an aching body, here are some suggestions to stop the pain, and why it could be happening.

What’s causing your pain?Indoor cycling- stretching.JPG

Everybody and every “body” is different.  Pain from cycling can be related to several different factors including improper bike setup, poor form, the muscles used in the workout itself, overuse, or a combination of these factors.

The standard cycling position—strapped in and leaned forward is not a comfortable positions in itself. It can stress the lumbar spine (lower back),  and because you’re not outdoors on the road using your core to turn, steer, or coordinate the bike, you can wind up putting even more pressure on your back.

Compounding this issue, since most of us sit at a desk all day, our hip flexors are already predisposed to shortening and tightening.   If you consider the actual mechanics of an indoor cycling workout- a form of sitting as you bring your knees up and down, while we may not be actively engaging the hip flexors throughout the movement, they are still shortening and contracting.  Resulting in tight hip flexors which can contribute to lower back pain.

How to fix the pain and prevent it later

Avoiding pain comes down to mastering good form—and the fundamental aspect is a straight spine.  I have been teaching cycling for over 10 years and I see it all the time, as participants push through a hard class, they have a tendency to slump and crunch down.  This is why I am always cueing my class to tuck their belly buttons in to support their spines, and to pull their shoulders back.Indoor cycling posture

Proper bike setup also sets you up for pain-free success. What to check for? Make sure your knees aren’t coming up too high and your extended leg should have a slight bend in the knee so you don’t feel like your reaching for the pedals. A seat that is too low or too high can result in pain behind or above the knee.  As for the bike itself?   The handle bars should be a few inches higher than the saddle, but ultimately the height should be based on comfort and posture.   How far forward or behind you are from the pedals is also crucial. When you’re at the front of your pedal stroke, your knee should line up with your shoe laces, it SHOULD NOT extend over your toes.

Your instructor probably already includes stretches at the end of class, this is the key to longevity in any sport. If you aren’t already incorporating these 3 stretches try adding them into your post cycling routine.

Kneeling Hip-Flexor Stretch

Kneel on right knee, with toes down, and place left foot flat on the floor in front of you, knee bent and aligned with ankle. Place hands on left thigh. Press hips forward until you feel tension in the front of your right thigh. Extend arms overhead, with elbows close to head and palms facing each other, and slightly arch your back while keeping your chin parallel to the ground. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Doorway Stretch

Stand slightly in front of a doorway and place arms on either side of doorway or adjacent wall. Bend elbows at 90 degrees, keeping upper arm parallel to the floor. Lean forward and hold this position for 30 seconds.

Modified Lizard Pose with Quad Stretch

Stretching for indoor cyclingTurn left foot out at a forty-five-degree angle and roll onto the outer edge of the foot. Use left hand to push against inner left thigh, opening up hip. Hold for a few breaths. Bend right knee and catch the pinky toe edge of the right foot with the left hand. Pull to stretch the quad.

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23 thoughts on “Indoor Cycling- A Pain in the A*!?

  1. Gillian says:

    This great information. Most people don’t realize how important proper riding position is. I used to go on cycling holidays where we were doing 100K every day and if your bike is not properly adjusted and your technique is wrong you will be in pain. Taking time to set up the stationary trainer is vital.

    • VenusFitness-Shannon says:

      It really is and it’s so important to arrive early to class to do this. So many new participants don’t know this and as a result may. It enjoy their ride as much as they could have.

  2. Lexi @ TheGirlOnTheT says:

    This is such an informative post! I’ve been doing indoor cycling for a few months and WOW the pain can be real if you don’t stretch properly beforehand. I’m trying to get better at it but I still get sore all the time! I’ll try these stretches next time

  3. Andy says:

    This is really useful information. I cycle indoors on a regular basis and know how the wrong posture can easily affect your back. This is great straight-forward advice to avoid mistakes. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Jon Bailey says:

    I love indoor cycling, and appreciate the stretches and proper positions shown here. I’ve made the bad mistake of poor form in the past, and you are right – it can be painful! Now I will incorporate some of these stretches into my workout routine.

  5. Jamie says:

    I have bad knees so biking is one of my only options and I’m an indoors type of girl so cycling is such a great idea for me. Thanks so much for these great tips because I’ve always been hesitant because of the sore bottom idea. May have inspired me to find a spin class locally ❤️❤️❤️

  6. shannon says:

    I wish I had read this a few months back! I broke down and bought padded cycling shorts for spin class hahaha!

  7. Nicolle says:

    I’m not a huge fan of indoor cycling, but maybe it’s because I was doing it all wrong! These are excellent tips! I will have to try them to see if maybe it will make indoor cycling more enjoyable for me!

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