A Cycle Instructor Answers Your Burning Questions

Have you ever taken a new-to-you workout class and left with more questions than when you walked in? We get it. That’s why we asked group fitness instructor and Schwinn Cycling master trainer Tahneetra Crosby, who has been teaching group fitness classes for 17 years—and cycle for six years—a few burning questions about cycling class.

Below are insights we wish we’d had when we first strapped on cycling shoes and gone for our first ride. Here’s what Crosby, whose passion is helping people reach their goals, had to say.

24Life: Why are my feet/toes going numb during cycle class, and how can I stop that from happening?

Tahneetra Crosby: When your feet or toes get numb, it can be for a few reasons. The first thing to check is bike fit. Proper bike fit makes all the difference in the world. The second thing is to periodically remember to relax your toes within your shoes as the class progresses. People often get so into the ride, they tense up in their hands and feet. Third, if you are not wearing cycling shoes, be sure to press into the ball of your foot and not your toes. Cycling shoes naturally put the pedal position on the ball of your foot and when you use the cages it’s often easy to default into pressing with your toes. Lastly, try different shoes. Even if you are wearing cycling shoes, it might be worth trying a different brand that feel more comfortable to you.

24Life: I can only feel my thighs burning, but nothing in my glutes while I ride—am I doing something wrong, and how do I correct that?

TC: This can have a lot to do with riding position. When seated, be sure to place your sit bones at the back edge of the saddle. It should feel like the lightest part of the saddle so you can maximize your pedal stroke. It could also have to do with your bike fit: You might be sitting too low.

24Life: If I’m riding up and out of the saddle, where should my hips be in relationship to the seat, to get the most out of my workout?

TC: Your hips should be directly over the pedals when riding out of the saddle. To feel the proper place, move forward and back a few times to find where it feels most comfortable right over the pedals.

24Life: The cycle seat is so uncomfortable! What should I do?

TC: When the seat is uncomfortable it always has to do with the bike fit and riding position. Seats are designed to be small so riders can sit comfortably. With practice, finding the right position when seated on the saddle will help eliminate discomfort. Also, feel free to go out of the saddle whenever you need to, regardless of what the instructor is doing. It’s not disruptive to simply take a break out of the saddle if you need to at any time. At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you during class.

24Life: Some cycle classes incorporate upper body and core work into the ride—do these “push-ups” and “crunches” actually work? Or should I skip out on those and focus on cycling?

TC: As a master cycle trainer, we promote authentic riding and appealing to a broad base of exercise participants. Cycling is a lower-body exercise and there are many upper body exercises that should only be done off of the bike. Upper body work in a cycle class is ineffective and takes away from the power you are able to generate as you ride. To burn calories, you need to be efficient in the power you are able to produce at different intensities. If you are constantly trying to “work” your upper body, you take away from the continuous effort you are able to give to your power output.

In order for an upper body exercise to be effective you need stability and gravity, which are impossible to get while pedaling on a bike. The most effective way to incorporate upper body is to simply get off of the bike and do push-ups and so on. The reason you feel like you can do 100 push-ups on a bike is because you aren’t doing anything to strengthen your upper body. You can take those combination classes—if they are the only ones that fit into your schedule—and simply choose not to do the upper-body portions.

24Life: Any other tips for a beginner cyclist to make the workout experience the best it can be?

TC: If you think you will be taking class regularly, I highly recommend purchasing cycling shoes. This will make your experience more enjoyable overall. Also, focus on trying to relax your upper body. The more relaxed you are in your upper body, the more power you will generate in your lower body. As your intensity increases, you never fully brace your core. Lastly, find instructors you like, and have fun!

Photo credit: Courtesy of Tahneetra Crosby