From Spin Bike to Sprint Tri

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Cycling can be a tricky part of triathlon. It’s the most gear-intensive part of the sport and brings a variety of risk factors to the training equation, which can feel daunting when you’re just starting out. Enter the spin class.

Spin classes, essentially just indoor cycling workouts, can give budding triathletes ample opportunity to build the confidence and skills needed to succeed outside. Valor Triathlon Project coach Mary Eggers agrees. "People need to let go of the idea that spin classes don’t correlate to cycling. Yes, the low resistance and jumping all over the bike doesn’t always help, but you have the ability to control your own ride," she says. That control is the secret to making spin class work for you.

Here are five ways the flywheel can help you cross your first finish line.  

Safely explore your power

The spin instructor will prompt you to add resistance to the spin bike in order to create "hills" or bring up the intensity. Revise this in your mind to be an exercise in exploring your power. A small increase in tension on a spin bike is akin to a small shift in the gears on your road bike. While the rest of the class might be using tension to "picture the hill," your focus can be on hammering the big chain ring along a flat road. This small mental tweak can build confidence, encouraging you to push yourself beyond the easier gears and find your power out on the road.

Practice those pedals

Many spin bikes allow for "clip-in" pedals, it’s just a matter of determining what kind of pedal will fit. If you’re considering a pair of clip-in pedals for your road bike, you might want to check out the set-up on the spin bikes in your local club or studio and get the same style. This will help you practice clipping in and out of the pedals in a safe environment, before heading out to the road. Another focus should be on foot position while pedaling. An effective pedal stroke means your foot should be parallel to the floor as it approaches the bottom part of the movement.

Bang out a brick

There’s a convenience factor that comes with a spin bike that cannot be matched on a road bike. The moment you’re done spinning, you’re free to hop off the bike and make a seamless transition to running. Quickly getting on the treadmill or outside to run a mile or two after spinning is an excellent way to condition the legs for one of the biggest challenges in triathlon.

Get 100% into your head

On the road, you’ll always have to be tuned in to the environment around you. This can drain your ability to focus on your workout and tune in to your body and mind (important characteristics of mental skills training). A spin class not only gives you the opportunity to let go of the "safety feelers" you have on while outside, it also provides the added motivator of music.