The importance of cycling shoes in spinning


This is a much belated article and a follow-up to a couple of posts from 2012 when I experimented with two different types of regular trainers.  Since then I have invested in some proper cycling shoes and have never looked back.  I am much less susceptible to injury and I am able to exert myself a lot more effectively and get more bang for my buck in every class.

The purpose behind these is to be able to strike the pedal with something firm and solid.  I always use the analogy of hitting a nail with a hammer rather than a cushion.  Your foot is soft and malleable so striking a pedal with it causes an overwhelming amount of stress on your calf muscles in proportion to the rest of your leg muscles.  If you are sitting now just push the ball of one foot into the ground as hard as possible and feel how the outside of your calf is contracted.  The rigid sole of the cycling shoe will limit this force so that you have a better distribution of load around the lower body.  So even if you are not so fussed about performance, from an injury prevention point of view cycling shoes are an essential investment.

There then remains two reasons why people don’t go for cycling shoes in a spin class:

1. ‘I don’t want to be the odd one out.’  I have taught classes in both commercial gyms and corporate gyms.  My experience is that in the corporate gyms a greater proportion of people are wearing cycling shoes so it is almost the norm.  The key thing is to not worry about it and do what you know is right.  People in London seem very unwilling to try something different…ramble over.

2. ‘I’m scared I won’t know how to use them’.  Simple solution is to find your favourite instructor and ask them to help you.  I’m sure they will be more than willing to help out.  Of course, you will have to take the bold step of talking to them (something else that is hard for Londoners…OK I’ll stop).

Glad I got this post out the way as I will tomorrow attend the official two-day spinning course after freestyling it for two years.  So 14 hours of study including at least four classes are ahead of me, let’s hope I come out alive so I can share my thoughts.


Bodyweight Training: the dangers

So it looks like bodyweight training is really becoming more and more attractive to fitness enthusiasts.  Not so fast though; before you start doing jumping jacks and burpees in the park make sure that your body is ready for it all.  All that high impact stuff is great for improving athletic fitness and staying lean and agile but I do cringe when I watch people performing any variation of jumping exercise and then landing on the ground like elephants.

If we cannot land on the ground with almost pin-drop silence then that is a skill we need to learn.  There are two steps towards this, mobility and stability:

With mobility, the aim is to be able to swing your leg from the hip like a pendulum, forward and to the side.  The knee should also have a good degree of freedom being able to easily bring the heel to the butt.  The traditional ‘butt kick’ is often used as a warm-up but quad-presses are also important to train yourself to close that range of motion between heel and butt.  Check this video out for a tutorial in the quad press

So this not only is a great bodyweight exercise that few people practice but it helps encourage better mobility at the hip and knees in preparation for high impact jumping exercises.  Basically, good hip mobility allows you more ‘hang-time’ before you hit the ground, allowing you to use more elastic recoil to absorb energy.

Such hip mobility may be compromised by tight IT bands, the band of connective tissue going down the side of your thigh.  For this, only foam rolling seems to work.  Brent Brookbush gives a great demo on this and a whole heap of other stuff:

Make sure you view the accompanying videos on this subject.

As for stability then you need to train your glutes to perform their job of being the first line of defence for your knees.  Not all leg exercises are created equal and if you are quad dominant, no matter how much you squat or lunge your upper hams and glutes will not get enough work.  So practice step-ups with an upright shin or box-squats, perhaps even TRX squats which will help shift emphasis to the posterior chain of muscles.

Swiss ball curls and glute bridge exercises will really target the back line as well.

At some stage I will provide a more image-based article on going through the above progressions.  Until then be careful about your bodyweight exercises.  I still stand by my view that CST instructors have the best knowledge regarding which bodyweight exercises are best for you.


Newly updated; head over to the workouts section and read the article step before you squat with a video tutorial.