Being an avid runner, I’ve usually skipped out on taking cycling classes in the past. This is because a ton of repetitive forward movement can be a bit too much on the body if both are your primary forms of exercise. If you’re like-minded and have ruled out cycling altogether, or find it boring or difficult, you’re not alone. As a personal trainer, I’ve heard it all from my clients, saying it’s stressful, hard, or not a fit for their fitness goals.
That, however, couldn’t be farther from the truth!
Cycling class has many hidden benefits for the body if incorporated smartly into a well-balanced fitness routine. I’ve debunked a few of the most common misconceptions I hear about cycling below, so read it if you’re on the fence about it, or think it’s not right for you. You’ll be surprised at just how helpful it can be!
1. Cycling requires expensive shoes you’ll only use in class.
Not true! While it is recommended for proper form and injury prevention, many studios on ClassPass now offer shoes for you to use, making it less of an ordeal to prepare. While proper cycling shoes do help perfect your form, they’re certainly not required. However, that doesn’t mean every workout shoe is made equal. To avoid injury, opt for an athletic shoe with a stiff sole, which will give you proper support during longer more intense rides, or rides that involve lots of movement, such as BEATS at Flywheel. Your favorite minimalist shoes are some of the worst to wear, so leave your Nike Free runners or Crossfit trainers at home when it comes to cycling.
2. It’s easy to fake it during the ride, and you won’t get as intense of a workout.
Yes, this is half true, but it’s because of personal misconceptions given the environment of the class. The close proximity to your other riders and the sometimes heated room temperature makes you seem like you’re sweating and getting results even when you might not be working to your full potential. This makes it hard to tell the difference. The good news? It’s completely NOT true that you cannot ever get a solid workout. Wear a heart monitor to keep yourself honest during class, and focus on those numbers instead of how fast your legs are going. Forcing yourself to stay at an elevated heart rate during intervals will make you a better athlete across all forms of exercise!
3. Cycling is only a lower body workout.
Definitely not! While your legs do most of the work, the rest of your body supports you and gets a solid workout too. Cycling (especially when you’re riding out of the saddle) works the muscles of your core and back when you use proper form, helping you improve your balance. When you begin to ride, focus on pulling your abs back toward your lower back, keeping your shoulders away from your ears, and shoulder blades pinched toward your spine. This ensures you stay free from lower back injuries, and helps you build the foundation for stellar balance. Many cycling classes from boutique studios now incorporate upper body weighted exercises, taking it up a notch too. For athletes looking to take it to the next level, add in a weighted vest or small backpack. This is a personal pro tip, being a former mountain biker myself. Adding a bit of gear to the equation was a functional part of my rides, and it helped me develop the muscle endurance and balance I needed to crush difficult trails.
4. Classes are often shorter, which means you won’t get as good of a workout as you would in an hour-long running or HIIT class.
This is totally a myth. The length of your workouts is irrelevant, as intensity dictates the quality of your workout. For example, my speed days in track & field were often shorter but were the days that were most important for my results. Cycling class forces you to push yourself on speed when it comes to sprints, making you stronger and faster when it comes to other workouts. Focus on the quality of your speed intervals during class, resistance on hills, and your heart rate and you’ll burn just as many calories as you would in an hour-long class of another form of exercise.