Spinning or indoor cycling is a great and extremely popular aerobic workout. However, as with all group fitness classes, some instructors are performing moves that can cause injury. Be aware that what you see on TV or on Youtube can be harmful to your body. Jillian Michaels stirred up a firestorm of controversy over the dangerous moves her contestants performed on a spin session during The Biggest Loser. Many instructors use moves that may be dangerous in the name of creativity. Indoor cycling can be very safe, but make sure you are aware of the following:
Your instructor should be certified as a group fitness instructor by a national accredited organization. As with personal trainers (see post from Nov. 2, 2010), there are no standards or requirements for group fitness instructors. ASCM and ACE are the most prestigious certifications.
Your ears are the body part most likely to be injured. Music is an integral part of indoor cycling, and the classes are notorious for cranking up the volume. You can try to speak to the instructor about lowering the music, but if that doesn't work (see post from Dec. 2, 2010), keep yourself out of hearing aids by wearing ear protectors in class. You can purchase inexpensive silicone or foam earplugs that will reduce the volume while allowing you to hear.
Seat, handlebar adjustment and good form are keys to a safe ride. If you are unsure of the correct fit, ask before the class starts.
I will get into some riding specifics in the next post, but here are two red flags to watch for:
Do not let anyone adjust the resistance on your bike. No one can know how much resistance you are feeling. Ride at your own pace and level.
Do not use or hold weights while on the bike. Not only is it ineffective, but it is unsafe. You need your body and core stabilized to lift weights. Your instructor may tell you it will increase your heart rate, but any increase is caused by the “pressor effect”. Instead, you will probably slow down your legs, reducing the actual intensity of the ride.
If you love your instructor but he or she teaches some risky moves you can point her to these links:
The first is a blog by a master instructor who emphasizes safety; the last two discuss contraindicated indoor cycling exercises.