A Refresher Course on Warm-Up Ideas
Think back to grade school and physical education class—you pretty much always started out with a warm-up, right? Your teacher wanted to get blood flowing to your muscles and introduce skills you'd use in the day's class. A warm-up in Spinning class is equally necessary—it helps prepare us for the ride to come.
What are some effective ways we can help our Spinning classes warm up? Obviously, you cannot start with a really light warm-up or an intense warm-up, as this may put your students at risk for decreased performance (and possibly injury). Thus, my warm-ups often have different components to them, allowing the student to make their own personal adjustments.
One thing I notice a lot is that students often focus only on one action of their leg—the push down on the pedal. I am sure other instructors have noticed this—students often do not envision their foot drawing a circle but rather some sort of lopsided ellipse. I often incorporate an “isolation” drill into my warm-up, helping students get a feel for all parts of the pedaling action. I might first have the students focus on the push-down motion, as if they are just stomping on the pedal. Then, I will have them focus on the pull up (“think about barely stepping on the pedal because there is a nail under your foot”). I’ll have them focus on each of these aspects of the pedal stroke for 15–30 seconds, then put the push and pull actions together in another interval. I like to use this drill because I see it as setting an important tone for the class—it allows everyone to get in touch with what the actions of the leg should be when you ride. As we get tired, we are likely to start to lag in some area. If students have gotten a sense of how work is distributed in their legs at the very beginning of class, they can reflect back to what parts of their pedal stroke are missing as they tire from their ride.
Another warm-up I like to do helps students understand each of the positions we take on the Spinner®. I might ask everyone to pedal with moderate resistance while in the saddle and then ask them to transition out of the saddle using Hand Position 2. Here, I will remind them about the critical components of Hand Position 2—wrists neutral, hands for balance and not support, and chest open. Finally, I will ask them to transition to Hand Position 3, again thinking about the right form—fingers lightly wrapped around the handlebars while the feet push and pull on the pedals without dropping the toes toward the floor. Again, this allows the student to get a sense of body positioning and gets blood flowing to all areas of the body that will be utilized in the ride to come.
Finally, the last warm-up exercise I use incorporates cadence checking. First, students should find a comfortable starting pace where they feel as if they can go forever and not feel tired. Again, the good thing is that students can gauge this pace for themselves. We might ride here for about a minute; then I will ask them to increase the pace just a bit by adding two to three revolutions per 15 seconds. It is a small increase, which allows for a gradual rise in heart rate. I might do another slight increase two minutes later, increasing the aerobic activity again.
Regardless of what we do, we must always keep in mind the safety of our students—this is especially important at the beginning of a class because students do not have blood flowing to their muscles yet. Creating a warm-up that allows people to find their own pace to start is certainly a challenge for us as instructors. Usually, I have completed 30 minutes of cardio before arriving at my Spinning class to teach, so “toning down” my warm-up can be tough at times. Ultimately, I think back to what my role is when I am leading a Spinning class and make sure that I cater to the student—I am not there just to get my own workout in for the day.