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5 Things You Need to Know About Indoor Cycling

5 Things You Need to Know About Indoor Cycling

Cycling is one of the best workouts you can do, but few people are willing to get out with their bikes under cold rain or hot sun. Luckily, we have establishments where stationary spinning bikes await for us to exercise on any weather, while listening to the coach and some pumping tune.

Indoor cycling or spinning (which is in fact a trademark term) was invented in the 1990s and now it’s a worldwide phenomenon, which helps women like you and me lose pounds and build up some muscles. Indoor cycling is very effective, as it’s a low impact workout, compared to running, for example, yet it provides you with an intense cardio session. Depending on your fitness level, you decide how intense your cycling session will be, but you can be sure your lungs will be working, your heart will be pumping, and your glutes, hamstrings, quads, core, and calves are going to scream.

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Despite this indoor cycling is a very popular thing, there are many secrets you don’t know about it. For a beginner, even the lingo can get intimidating, so here are all the things you need to know about indoor cycling.

1. Pay attention when you pick your seat.

Newbies are going to run to the last row of the bikes, but this is not a great way to tackle indoor cycling. You should be reserving a bike in the first row, where you can see your instructor. This way, he can advise if you are not moving right and you can get more motivation from his pace.

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However, if you don’t manage to find a seat in the front row, check if the studio has a tiered seating, which can offer a 360 degree perspective for those sitting in the back row.

2. Learn the lingo of indoor cycling.

There are couple of differences between the indoor bikes and the outdoor bikes, the most noticeable being the lack of gears for the first ones. Instead of gears, indoor bikes have resistance knobs, which control your RPM. Then, there is the Q factor, which helps the biker make sure the rotation is correct – yes, there is such thing as a wrong rotation during cycling. And there are many more things to consider. So, first, inform yourself on what each thing means and then head to the gym.

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For example, the RPM should be seen as a road: the higher the RPM, the road is uphill, the lower, the road is downhill. As you see, make correlations with daily things in order to remember all the lingo.

3. Get used with the clip in and clip out.

When you are cycling, clipping in helps you focus more on the pull, because your feet stay in place as you cycle. When you are wearing regular shoes, to clip in, just place the ball of the foot in the cage of the pedal. If you are wearing special cycling shoes, just clip one foot at a time, by putting the toes in a downward angle on the pedal, then pushing the foot until you hear the shoe is locked in, just like you would do with your sky equipment.

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To unclip, turn your show away from the bike, forcing it out. You might not manage to do it from the first time, but don’t panic, just repeat until you manage to unclip.

4. Work more on pulling up your feet.

Most cyclists focus on pushing the pedal, but the real work is done when you are pulling up, because this is when you are building momentum and increase your RPM. Concentrate on the upstroke, for a more effective cycling session.

5. It’s all about yourself.

The best thing about cycling classes is it’s all about yourself. As soon as the lights dim and the music turns on, you are alone with your bike. Focus on yourself and allow your mind to empty, as you follow the rhythm of the music. You can even close your eyes and pedal, listening to the instructor and the music.

Featured photo credit: Global Panorama/Flickr via flickr.com

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Published on October 11, 2018

7 Killer Upper Back Stretches to Reduce Pain and Boost Endurance

7 Killer Upper Back Stretches to Reduce Pain and Boost Endurance

Building and maintaining a strong upper back depends not only on strength-training, but stretching and nutrition as well. Stretching the upper back muscles, along with a healthy diet can help alleviate pain while improving endurance.

Did you know that stretching your upper back builds endurance for sports, your job – which may require heavy lifting – and simple, everyday activities? Many people who exercise don’t recognize the importance of having a strong upper back, and often neglect this part of the body, focusing more on the lower back where injuries are more prone to occur.

Upper back endurance is necessary for runners, hikers, golfers, tennis players, bowlers, cyclists; the list goes on and on. If saving time is important to you, you want to reduce chronic back pain, boost your energy levels, or you simply need ways to get through a day at the office while confined to a computer, you’ll begin to understand why the following upper back stretches and exercises are necessary.

Here are seven stretches, combined with exercises, to help you maintain a strong upper back:

1. Lat Pull-Downs

By contracting and lengthening your latissimus dorsi muscles, trapezius, deltoids, rhomboids, teres major, along with the other muscles groups in and around your upper back, you are building muscle endurance and increasing mobility.

Seated at a lat pull-down machine, select a weight stack that is comfortable. Remember, you’re not preparing for a bodybuilding competition, you just want to exercise the back, so heavy weight is unnecessary.

Grab the wide bar above your head, palms down, and using a wide grip, pull the bar down to your chest and contract your upper back muscles.

Keep your head up, looking at the bar. This also helps keep your spine straight and provides a clearance so that the bar doesn’t hit your face. Slowly return the bar to the top and repeat for 15 reps. Do three to four sets.

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Here’s the correct technique by Denice Moberg:

2. Indoor Rowing

If upright exercises like walking on the treadmill or running outdoors bore you, you can strengthen your core using a rowing machine. Not only will you chisel your back, but the elongation of the upper back during the stroke motion creates a good stretch.

First, select a tension that is challenging but not a struggle. Make sure that your feet are securely placed in the machine’s foot straps, nice and tight to prevent the feet from moving while rowing.

Next, slide yourself in the rowing saddle forward toward the row bar and pull the bar toward the mid-section of your trunk area, which is the finish. Pulling the bar, bring your elbows beyond your back while contracting your upper muscles and rear shoulders.

Your back should be straight with a slight angle of around 100 degrees. Do not hunch.

During the catch, your legs should be at a 90 degree angle while locking out your arms completely. As a stretching exercise, repeat this motion for five minutes.

Here’s how you can do it:

3. Side Plank Rotation

If you’re short on time, floor exercises such as planks strengthen your core and can be done at home or during your lunch break at work. They can be done in 30 to 60 second increments.

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There are a few plank variations:

The low-position forearm plank in which your body weight is supported by your elbows; the straight-arm plank, which is a high-position plank; side plank in which your body is turned to one side and supported by one straightened arm; the stability-ball plank which is more challenging for your trunk; and the plank that gives you a good stretch is the side plank rotation.

To begin the side plank rotation, begin in the high plank position. Slowly turn your body to one side while stacking one foot on top of the other. Extend the opposite arm toward the ceiling and as you lower your arm, reaching underneath your body and rotating your trunk.

Done properly, you will feel the stretch along your rhomboids and shoulders. Repeat the rotation – reaching and tucking – 10 times. Switch sides.

Here’s a Side Plank Rotation demonstrated by Train Aggressive:

4. Yoga Stretches

A good way to incorporate breathing with stretching and gain flexibility in your core is Kundalini yoga – an intense yoga practice – gets your blood flowing and works wonders for the spine and posture.

The “Cat-Cow” pose is a great upper back warm-up, and when combined with the “Breath Of Fire”[1] or “fast breathing,” energy is sent through the entire body which stimulates the flow of cell activity and increases lung capacity.

On all fours, arms straight and directly below your shoulders, and knees directly below your hips, hunch your back, inhaling as you tuck your head into your chest, then exhale while arching your back and raise your head toward to sky.

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The rapid inhaling and exhaling in this exercise is known as the “Breath Of Fire,” as mentioned above. Increase the pace of both the “Cat-Cow” and “Breath Of Fire” and repeat this movement for up to five minutes.

This is how to do a Cat-Cow pose for energy:

5. Side Bends

This is a simple stretch to elongate the space between your ribs and increase range of motion, which helps achieve flexibility in the abdominals, spine, and lateral core.

Seated or standing with your back straight, raise your arms above your head and firmly hold your wrist. Gently pull your trunk to one side and hold for 20 to 30 seconds. When finished, repeat on opposite side.

Note: If standing, keep your feet shoulder width apart, if seated keep your feet flat on the floor.

Let’s take a look at how to do a standing side bend:

6. Pole Stretch

By creating opposing force and pulling on a stationary object, you are stretching your lats. The upper sides of your back. Here, you are performing a static stretch which is a stretch held beyond its normal range.

Find a pole, mounted gym apparatus, or other floor-affixed object and, while standing, pull on the object with slightly bent knees and back flat at a 45-degree angle.

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Continue to pull while extending your arms, feeling the stretch in your lats and rhomboid muscles. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat if needed.

7. Shoulder Blade Stretch

The shoulder blades are connected to the rhomboid muscles in the upper back. Sudden, quick movements like pulling a heavy object or even tossing a near-weightless object overhead, like a tennis ball during a serve, can strain the unstretched muscles between your shoulder blades, causing spasms.

Here’s how to avoid muscle strain:

Standing tall with feet shoulder width apart, gently pull your elbow across your chest, just beneath your chin, and hold for 15 seconds. If you do not feel immediate relief, try lowering or raising the elbow and perform the stretch again. Different angles can make a big difference.

There you have it – Seven upper back stretches and exercises to reduce pain and improve endurance. But while upper back stretches are important, a diet rich in antioxidants is equally key.

Bonus Tip: Getting a Diet Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants, also known as “Super Foods,” prevent the build up of free radicals in your body and control oxidative stress. These free radicals are toxins that get in the way of endurance, flexibility, and cause inflammation, among other fitness obstacles.

How do you incorporate antioxidants into your diet? Here are some common foods and beverages rich in antioxidants:

A good combination of quick and easy targeted cardiovascular exercises, static stretches, range-of-motion stretches, and yoga poses can increase upper back endurance and boost your energy levels, making your activities – both sedentary and active – manageable and fun.

Once you begin to incorporate these methods of relief into your routine, you will begin to walk taller, run farther, and hike longer!

Featured photo credit: Geert Pieters via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Yogapedia: Breath of Fire

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