See Jane Ride: Special Considerations for Female Students
in Spinning® class or on the road, women are reaping serious benefits
from cycling. According to American Sports Data, 45% of fitness
cyclists and 54% of Spinning participants are women. Help your female
students ride strong and derive maximum benefits from your next class
with these tips.
abdominal and back muscles tend to be weaker in women than in men. This
impacts cycling performance because women with weak cores use their
arms to support their upper body while riding, which is not only
inefficient but can also lead to pain in the triceps, traps and neck or
cause early-onset fatigue during long rides. Core strength also
stabilizes and balances riders during standing climbs. Female riders
should aim to strengthen their abs and lower backs at least 2-3 times
per week. Using an exercise ball for for abdominal and back
strengthening exercises is a fast and easy way to build core strength
that will yield tremendous benefits on the bike.
If the Shoe Fits
tend to have smaller, more narrow feet than men. Whether they’re using
pedal cages or clipless pedals, a properly fitting shoe is imperative
to preventing numbness in the toes and promoting a powerful, efficient
pedal stroke. Here’s what to look for in cycling shoes.
Shoes should fit tightly at the heel. The heel cup
should be snug against the heel so there is absolutely no slipping
during the pedal stroke.
Because women’s feet are typically shorter, it is
extremely important to position the ball of the foot over the middle of
the pedal when using toe cages. Most riders are inclined to shove their
foot all the way to the front of the cage, which can cause toe numbness
or cramping in the arches.
Whether lacing up or using Velcro straps, make sure
the shoe is snug, but not tight. It is helpful to let the foot move a
bit inside the shoe (especially the toes) to ensure adequate blood flow
A Need for Speed
tend to have a higher percentage of fat burning enzymes than men do,
because our bodies are genetically programmed to store more fat than a
man’s. While this may seem unfair, it is actually beneficial because
having more fat burning enzymes means women naturally recruit stored
fat as an energy source more readily and efficiently than men. This is
why, after riding for an hour or two, women still feel somewhat
energized while men may be seeking carbs to fuel their efforts.
that women naturally burn fat for energy, they are generally more
predisposed to be successful endurance athletes. Long, slow, sustained
efforts, fueled by fat, make women great marathon runners but
not-so-great sprinters. This means that women need to train their
weaknesses and Spinning classes are a great way to improve speed and
power. Intervals and short, powerful sprints are unbeatable ways to
train the body to perform better under anaerobic conditions.
bones weaken more easily than men’s. Women need more calcium because
they lose much of their vitamin and mineral intake during menstruation.
Cycling is a non-impact, non-weight-bearing sport—which makes it easier
on the joints—but weight-bearing activities are needed to promote bone
strength and density. Female cyclists should consider adding weight
bearing activities like running, walking or aerobics to their fitness
regimen to compensate for cycling’s lack of impact.
width is very important for women. The Spinner bike’s saddle is
appropriately sized for men and women, but your students who ride
outdoors may need guidance on selecting a seat for their bike.
the male anatomy allows most men to ride comfortably on virtually any
saddle, women’s bodies prefer a slightly wider saddle. Women’s sit
bones are further apart than men’s so wider seats provide better
support and less pressure. If the seat is too narrow, women end up
supporting their weight primarily on their groin, which can cause
discomfort and a host of problems including:
Sore triceps, shoulders, traps and neck as a result of trying to hold oneself up and off of the seat.
Saddle soreness, which can lead to inflamed glands,
numbness that can become permanent, and general discomfort that can
last several days.
The hamstrings may be almost neglected in the pedal
stroke, because lifting up on the pedals with the feet causes more
discomfort in the groin.
Female students may benefit from using lotion or chamois butter to minimize the risk of irritation.
your female students up for success. Proper technique, the right gear
and a sound approach to training can transform a half-hearted class
participant into your most loyal and successful student. Empower your
female students to embark on rides that maximize effectiveness and
minimize discomfort and you’ll help them grow stronger and more
powerful for the long road ahead.
Hottman is a STAR 3 Spinning Instructor and has been teaching since
2000. She owns a coaching business and manages a women’s cycling and
triathlon team. In addition, she is a licensed attorney who competes as
a semi-professional road cyclist on behalf of the TREK-VW racing team.
Her husband and fellow road racer, Rob Helton, RN, BSN, also
contributed to this article.