Cycling is a great way to stay in shape on your commute, but anyone who’s ever been to a spin class can attest to the fact that spinning has very little to do with a pleasurable early morning bike ride. Spinning is a great workout, but between the pounding music and the constant changing of positions, it can be intense. It can also be painful if you don’t use proper form on your spin bike.

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According to spin instructor Felicia Walker, there are three main positions in a spin class. “Though a spin class can sometimes mimic aspects of road cycling, the majority do not,” Walker says. “The intention for a spin class is a high-intensity cardio workout. Music becomes a key component so that riders can move to the beat. Moving up and down elevates cardio, as do quick movements.

Spin positions include position one, sitting; two, standing vertically, and three, standing with hands out keeping the body horizontal. These positions are rotated around to create a profile for the class.” And with all that sitting, standing and moving to the music, spinners can pull muscles or even get muscle strain if they’re trying to ride like they would a mountain bike or a fixie.

“Road bikes dictate a lower, aerodynamic position with handle bars level to keep the upper body low,” Walker says. “Standing occurs only on hills when more strength is needed to get up to the top. Position two doesn’t exist.” But in a spin class, bikers need more momentum to follow along with the music, and hunching over the handlebars will only cause more strain on the neck, back and  shoulders.

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Walkers’ advice? For a better spin workout, raise those handlebars and sit up straight. Not only will it minimize discomfort, it will also engage your core. And if you’re a road biker who doesn’t see the need for spinning, Walker says you may be missing out.

“Even though spin and outdoor cycling are apples and oranges, each activity helps the other,” Walker says. “Spin builds cardio endurance and speed, which can all be translated into a stronger rider on the road. Outdoor cyclists, in turn, come to a spin class and tend to add more resistance to the spin bikes because they have muscle recall for the hills and more focus sticking with them. The best kind of cycling is a combination of the two.”

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