Physiology of Exercise Part IV: Improving Your Cadence Without Stressing Your Heart

We know that RydeOn!'s clients come to our indoor cycling classes for a large variety of reasons including a desire to improve speed and efficiency while biking outdoors.

-Dawn Wolfe

We know that RydeOn!'s clients come to our indoor cycling classes for a large variety of reasons: they want to have more energy, it's time to get back into a smaller size of clothes, they want to live longer … The reasons can be any or all of the above and more – including a desire to improve speed and efficiency while biking outdoors.

Increasing your speed while biking depends on a lot of factors. One is training your aerobic and anaerobic systems. Another is strengthening the muscles in your legs.

But did you know that there is another way you can increase your speed without raising your heart rate? It's true, and it's something all of our RydeOn! instructors stress from Day One – using proper form.

According to this article*** by Certified USA Cycling Coach Tom Scotto, proper form/alignment and relaxation are the keys to improving leg speed without impacting your heart rate. As Scotto says, “... if you are patient (with yourself), and dedicate some time to perfecting your form, you will see the results portrayed as faster leg speed with little to no impact on heart rate.”

This is great news for RydeOn! clients who are trying to do just a little bit better every time they race!

Making sure your body is in proper alignment while cycling also helps prevent injuries and keeps you from feeling like you're “fighting” the bike, which can lead to all sorts of contortions and bouncing around in your seat while you struggle to feel in control.

Once you know you're “ryding” properly, relaxation is the other key to increasing your cadence without impacting your heart rate. Why? Because stressed muscles are tight muscles, and tight muscles waste energy (and invite injury).

How can you check to be sure you're relaxed and in proper alignment? In addition to checking in with yourself and with your RydeOn! instructor, Scotto recommends paying heed to your body's response to increasing speeds:

“As we approach leg speeds that are challenging to us (this can be 80-90 RPM for some and 100+ RPM for others), we need to observe both our mechanical response and cardiovascular response to the speed. Mechanically we may start to feel like we are losing control of the pedals and weighted flywheel, which can cause us to bounce in the saddle and/or contort our upper bodies to try to fight the movement. This is often a case of inadequate muscle engagement and control, which has its root in relaxation and alignment. ... The other telltale sign is cardiovascular response. If one's heart rate wonders up into Zone 5 (85% to 100% of max effort) just because of a faster leg speed, we may have a problem with form and technique. The rider's battle with the mechanics of the bike will drive their heart rate up.”

So what is “proper form” – in other words, how should you be positioned on your (indoor or outdoor) bike, and how should you peddle, to insure that your body is in proper alignment? We'll be covering that topic in more depth in the next installment of our series on the Physiology of Exercise.

Looking for tips about your form? Whether you're new to indoor cycling classes or an old pro, there is almost always something new you can learn that will help you improve your performance both in class and while biking outdoors – whether you're interested in racing, or just biking to work on time. Stay tuned to this blog.

If you have any doubts, or just want to refine what you're doing, please take the time to ask your RydeOn! instructor for help!

*** = member login required

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