If there’s one person who knows a thing or two about cycling, it’s Victoria Pendleton. The British sportswoman, best known for picking up gold and silver at London 2012, is one of the UK’s most successful female Olympians, and has recently turned her hand to becoming a jockey (to which I say RESPECT – most people would probably just put their feet up!)
Anyway, Victoria has recently teamed up with Barclays to promote its new Budget Bootcamps, which is how I found myself in the rather serial situation of arriving at the bank’s Piccadilly branch to do a spin class with the lady herself.
Naturally, I got a photo with her before the class so you wouldn’t see how red and sweaty I got, although all the randoms peering through the glass frontage of Barclays during our class did get to witness my descent into sweaty mess!
Unsurprisingly, it turns out that apart from looking fabulous in photos (apparently she gets those amazing arms through horse riding), Victoria also had some excellent wisdom to share on the best practice biking.
In fact, despite being a rather seasoned spinner myself, there were a few mistakes I was making that I wasn’t even aware of until the session, so I thought I’d share in case you’re doing the same!
- Pushing your feet too far forwards
You know those cage style pedals you have in spinning? Well, I always just shove my feet straight to the front of them and strap my feet in as tightly as possible.
However, Victoria pointed out that these pedals are made for ‘man sized’ feet and that you shouldn’t necessarily have your toe right up against the end if you have smaller ones.
Instead, focus on positioning the ball of your foot on the centre of the pedal, which could mean a few centimetres of space between the front of your foot and the cage thingy.
If this sounds confusing, then just look at the photo of Victoria’s foot below and hopefully it will make more sense!
2. Bouncing your shoulders during the sprint
Part of our session involved everyone‘s favourite cycling move, the stand up sprint.
Victoria pointed out that most of us were getting our technique wrong here, bouncing our upper bodies around with gusto as we tried to force the peddles down on each side.
Instead, you need to try and keep your shoulders absolutely steady and level, and your back straight, as you drive through the legs. Basically top half of body = still, bottom half = going like the clappers.
‘This will work your glutes more’ said Victoria, and I can confirm my bum definitely noticed the difference!
3. Cycling at one speed for ages
While instructor-led spinning classes tend to see you do all sorts of things on the bike (I even did a bike rave once), alone in the gym many of us tend to just sit on the bike and pedal through a set distance or time at a steady speed.
I know I’m certainly guilty of plodding along on the static bike for 10 minutes, before sloping off thinking ‘my work here is done’.
However, Victoria emphasized that improving your cycling – and therefore your body – is ‘all about intervals’.
In fact, she said intervals were the number one component of her Olympic training, involving short bursts of high power, high speed cycling interspersed with more gentle sections (I have a strong feeling Victoria’s version of gentle is very different to mine!)
4. Having the wrong attitude to the gears
Ok, say when your spin instructor says ‘Guys, I want you to turn your gears up to the maximum you can manage for this next 60 second sprint’ do you think a) ‘Hmm, it’s quite a long time, I’ll put my gears up but to a level I know I can manage’ or b) ‘YES I’m going to put my gears up so high I don’t even know if I can make it, but I’m going to try’.
If it’s b) then God’s speed, you are a hero and don’t need to read any further.
If, like most of us norms, it’s a), then you need an injection of Victoria Pendleton thinking in your life.
I have honestly never seen anyone so enthusiastic about the prospect of adding another gear. Or, in fact, about the prospect of pushing yourself in general. She proudly told us that her power on the bike used to go up to 1500 watts in training (to put that in perspective, most people can maintain around 200 watts in a spin class) and she re-emphasized the importance of pushing your body in order to strengthen and tone it.
Her enthusiasm definitely rubbed off and I found myself cranking the gears up to a level I wasn’t even sure I could manage – but you know what, I did. And it’s that kind of drive that’s going to give you the GAINS *gun fingers*
Budget Bootcamp classes are open to everyone, and a session will be taking place in Central London, on Sunday 29th January. Enter a competition to win a space through Barclays Twitter (twitter.com/BarclaysUK) and Facebook pages (facebook.com/BarclaysUK).