7 Ways to Maximize Your Ride Without Giving 100%

Let’s face it: If you take four or five indoor cycling classes per week, it’s hard to give 100 percent of your maximum effort in every session. Nor should you (because you’d risk burnout or injury if you did). But that doesn’t mean the only alternative is to dog it. You can maximize each session by focusing on different aspects of what you’re doing, without going full throttle the whole time. Read on for 7 great strategies to use.


Find your sweet spots.

Adjust your resistance level and your cadence (or pace) until you find your true comfort zone where you feel mildly challenged but also like you could pedal with that pace and gear level for long stretches of time. Next, add resistance and come out of the saddle (with your hands in position 3) and find what feels like the optimal tension for you to do on a standing climb. Discovering these personal sweet spots will help you get better at pushing yourself out of your comfort zone when the opportunity calls for it and settling back into it when appropriate.


Pedal to the beat of the music.

For an extra dose of fun, spend an entire session pedaling to the beat of whatever song is playing at a given time—faster during up-tempo songs, slower during ballads and other gentle songs. (This is a great way to hone your technique for beat-based classes.) The extent to which you adjust your resistance is up to you. Just remember: Always keep some resistance on the bike.


Engage in power plays.

Use a particular session as an opportunity to gain control of your pacing. Spend a good chunk of time maintaining a consistently strong pace with moderate-to-heavy resistance on the bike. Then, slightly dial down either the resistance or your pace and focus on accelerating quickly; see how quickly you can add 10, 20, or 30 RPMs to your current pace before dropping down again. This is a good skill to have when you’re riding (real or simulated) switchbacks or breakaways


Refine your pedaling technique.

To improve the efficiency of your pedal strokes, try a traditional method called ankling, which involves flexing and extending the ankle during each pedal stroke. Specifically, the idea is to flatten your heel during the downward part of the stroke, roll through the foot (from heel to toe) at the bottom of the pedal stroke, then lift the heel as the pedal begins its ascension to the top of the arc, which gives you extra leverage. For a visual image, think of it as a motion that’s similar to scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe.


Work on your breathing techniques.

During an endurance ride or a recovery ride, seize the opportunity to reconnect your mind and body by focusing on your breathing. Try experimenting with different breathing patterns such as diaphragmatic breathing or rhythmic breathing to see how they affect your energy, stamina, and performance. By doing this exercise, you will become more cognizant of breathing properly on a regular basis. 


Strengthen your non-dominant leg.

Whether they’re riding indoors or out, most people tend to push off with the same leg or let their stronger leg drive their pedal strokes. Over time, this can exacerbate imbalances in muscle strength between your right and left legs. The solution: Spend a class or solo workout alternating between letting your weaker leg drive your pedal strokes and engaging both legs equally.


Practice visualizing different terrain as you ride.

With indoor cycling, your mind can be a powerful ally. Even though you’re in a darkened studio, you can keep your workout interesting by picturing the terrain your rides are simulating—flat roads, rolling hills, switchbacks, coastlines, lake settings, and more. Similarly, if you want to suddenly push your pace during a sprint, it can help to visualize yourself breaking away from a pack of riders as you pour on the pace. Seeing it can help you believe it and achieve it! 

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