6 Fast Fixes for Exercise Mistakes You Don't Know You're Making

How to swing into repair mode and gain greater fitness benefits.

Now and then, we all make mistakes with our approaches to exercise. Sometimes it's because we're in a rush to get to the gym and we're not thinking ahead. Other times it's because we become so goal-oriented that we lose sight of what's important in the grand scheme of things. And sometimes it's because we simply don't know what we don't know. It's time to repair mistakes that could compromise your gains from indoor cycling. Here's how . . .

The mistake: Moving like a camel.


If you don't drink plenty of water, watered down juice, or electrolyte-containing beverages before, during, and after your cycling class, you could compromise your performance or become dehydrated. The latter state can lead to headaches, muscle cramps, a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and other worrisome symptoms. The fix: Aim to consume 45 ounces before, during, and after a 45-minute cycling class. If you don’t usually appreciate the taste of plain H2O, you can make water more exciting by adding slices of lemon, cucumber, or orange.

The mistake: Trying to keep up with the Joneses.


Even though it’s a form of group exercise, it’s a mistake to focus too much on how hard other people are riding in an indoor cycling class. Sure, you can use your fellow riders to help you stay motivated and energized but ultimately it’s your ride so you need to pay attention to what you’re doing. The fix: Focus on yourself—your own posture, pedaling technique, breathing patterns, and how hard you feel like you’re pushing yourself. Dial up your effort if you realize you’re slacking off; dial it down when your body tells you that you’re going too hard.

The mistake: Riding on empty.


If you take a cycle class in the early morning or early evening, you may not feel like eating much before the ride. But showing up with an empty stomach is like taking a road trip with an empty tank of gas. In this case, you’re likely to sabotage your energy and your performance and perhaps feel shaky during or after the workout. The fix: Fuel up! At least half an hour before your workout, consume easy-to-digest foods such as a small banana, a slice of toast with peanut butter, or a handful of whole-grain cereal.  

The mistake: Taking short, shallow breaths.


Breathing quickly and shallowly can lead to early fatigue and impaired performance during exercise. Plus, breathing shallowly or holding your breath on a hill climb, for instance, can make you hyperventilate, triggering dizziness, anxiety, palpitations, and other scary symptoms. By contrast, breathing efficiently ensures that your blood, brain, nerves, and muscles receive a steady flow of oxygen. The fix: Breathe from the diaphragm—in through your nose, letting your belly expand like a balloon and your diaphragm rise toward your chest; slowly exhale fully, allowing your belly to deflate and flatten again.

The mistake: Leaning on the handlebars.


For one thing, offloading your weight can compromise your posture on the bike, which can lead to back and shoulder strain. For another, it robs you of the opportunity to build core strength (as you would while riding in an upright posture) or gain maximum fitness benefits by relying on your lower body muscles to support you. The fix: Sit tall in the saddle or use your legs to support yourself in a standing position and keep your body weight and center of gravity over the pedals at all times.  

The mistake: Skipping the cool-down.


After riding hard, don’t just hop off the bike and head to the shower without cooling down first. If you don’t let your heart rate come down gradually, you may experience blood pooling in your legs, which can lead to a rapid drop in blood pressure, along with dizziness, fainting, muscle cramps, nausea, or other unpleasant symptoms. The fix: At the end of an indoor cycling class or a hardcore solo ride, continue pedaling at a gentle pace and low resistance for at least three minutes to let your blood pressure normalize. This will allow you to leave the studio on steady feet.

Ride Smart, Not Just Hard

So there you have it: Repair these common inside cycling glitches and you'll feel better while you're riding and get more out of your workouts. Pedal on!

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