There are few workouts more intimidating than indoor cycling. Between fancy cycling shoes, Lycra-clad riders and pseudo-celebrity instructors, it’s easy to scoff at the idea of clipping into a bike that rides nowhere for a 45-minute cardio session. However, step into one of these dimly lit studios and you’ll soon realize that the buzz surrounding indoor cycling is well merited.
How to prepare
Indoor cycling works far more than just your legs. You’ll leave a 45-minute class having worked your quads, hamstrings, glutes and core, and many studios insert an upper body segment as well. Cycling is not only a killer cardio workout but also a low-impact and joint-friendly alternative to running.
That said, preparation is key before hopping up on an indoor bike. Because your quads and hamstrings are bearing the bulk of the effort, it is wise to avoid a leg-heavy workout the day before. You should also hydrate both before and during class, as riders can torch upwards of 500-700 calories per session!
What to wear
If there is one thing you can be certain of when tackling your first indoor cycling class, it’s that you’re going to break a sweat. Sporting your favorite pair of leggings not only completes your look but also helps your performance, so come prepared in a snug, sweat-wicking outfit. Moisture-wicking materials help pull sweat to the surface of your t-shirt or tank while working out. This allows your sweat to evaporate faster (read: cooling you down) than it would if trapped between your skin and clothing.
Additionally, avoid baggy shorts or shirts in an indoor cycling class. Loose-fitting garments can get caught on the bike seat or handlebars and can pose some hazard when dismounting the bike.
What to bring
It’s class day! Be sure to check with your studio beforehand on whether or not cycling shoes are required. Many studios will offer rentals for a small fee or free of charge, while others have bikes with foot cages so you don’t need cycling shoes at all. For the studios that do not require shoe rentals, make sure to wear comfortable athletic shoes. Other than the proper footwear, the only other necessity for class is a water bottle.
When you arrive
You arrive at the studio a bundle of nerves and energy. Don’t be afraid to tell the front desk staff and instructor that this is your first time. It’s helpful to reserve a bike in the middle section of the studio in the second or third row. This not only provides you with a clear view of the instructor but will also allow you to follow some of the more veteran riders in rows one and two. Additionally, be sure to have a staff member or the instructor help you with your bike settings. An improper bike set up can result in poor posture and body kinematics, which can ultimately result in injury.
The door to the studio closes, and the instructor dims the lights. A heavy bass line drums through the sound system, and the hum of 50-plus wheels fill the room. Take a deep breath and enjoy the ride! There are a few different styles of indoor cycling classes, the most popular being rhythm-based rides and road-rides. As the name suggests, the rhythm-based rides follow the beat of the music. Instructors will base their RPMs (how fast you are pedaling) on the BPM of the song that is playing. If you’re feeling confident in your ability to match the beat, feel free to close your eyes and fall into step with the music. Road-rides, on the other hand, tend to mimic the feel of true outdoor cycling. Many outdoor cyclists prefer these types of rides, as the instructor will simulate steep hills and fast breakaways. If you consider yourself a cycling purist, this type of ride may be more your style.
What to do next
You finish your final breakaway sprint and exhale as you begin to slow your legs. Take a moment to catch your breath and then admire the human-sized puddle of sweat beneath your bike and your calories burned. You successfully completed your first indoor cycling class!
Almost all indoor cycling classes will include a brief cool down and stretching component, but be sure to give your muscles some extra love once you leave the studio. Pay close attention to your calf muscles, quads and hamstrings.
If you have access to a foam roller, don’t be afraid to roll out your IT-bands, as the repetitive motion of pedaling can cause stress. Be sure to drink plenty of water after your spin session, coupled with a healthy snack that is well balanced in protein and carbohydrates.
Bit by the indoor cycling bug? Feel free to book your next class as soon as the following day. The low-impact nature of the sport makes this perfectly safe to frequent on back-to-back days. Just be sure to give your body the stretching and rest it deserves!