As a 4x Full Ironman finisher and over 10x Half Ironman Finisher, Certified Ironman Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and Certified Spinning® Instructor I want to narrate about the health and fitness benefits of indoor cycling classes. You might first wonder how indoor cycling fits into the training plan for a Full Ironman, and let me tell you, as a 4X Full Ironman Finisher, it does, and it can. But you don’t have to be a cyclist or be training for an Ironman to take an instructor led indoor cycling class.
Currently there are many types of indoor cycling formats available. I would suggest that you experiment a bit and find the format and instructor that fits your needs. Before you do, ask yourself what your goal(s) is, if don’t have a particular goal, set one. Whether your goal is to burn calories, slim down your waist line, improve your overall fitness, add a low impact aerobic workout, socialize, network, listen to good music, get assistance on being routine and accountable, and/or improve your race performance (strength and endurance), look for the indoor cycling instructor and formats which will help you to achieve your goal(s).
As an indoor cycling instructor, I enjoy instructing classes with a diverse group of participants the most. A great cycling class format tends to caterer to anyone regardless of the participant’s goals, age, gender, lifestyle, cycling experience, and/or limitations; is dynamic; changes from time to time as to not allow you or your body to become complacent; is innovative; makes most out of the equipment made available to instruct the class (music, power meter, rpm, heart rate, distance, stationary bike, and elapsed time) to give you the optimal workout experience. Oh, wait, of course I forgot to mention one other item, the class is fun! Below are several benefits of indoor cycling:
1. A Great Way to Achieve Your Fitness Goals
Most fitness goals require some sort of aerobic activity. Indoor cycling is an aerobic workout. If your health and fitness goal is to get leaner, indoor cycling does burn calories, and can build muscle. If you desire to improve performance in a race, or perform basic strength workouts then adding resistance during a indoor cycling class is a great way to do both. In triathlon the key term for fitness is achieving muscular endurance, which simply put is sustaining optimum performance over a long period of time, while staying in the lower heart rate zones. Managing your heart rate during cycling, while adding resistance in this controlled environment is an exceptional way to achieve and build muscular endurance.
2. Can Optimize Available Time in Your Day
Sometimes there just doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in a day and squeezing in a bike ride or aerobic workout can be a bit of a challenge. An indoor cycling class can optimize use of your time. Especially if you are looking for a quick good workout on the bike. Why, well, if you were cycling outdoors, you’d have to check over your bike, load your bike, possibly repair a flat tire, check nutrition, worry about changing weather, look for an available buddy to accompany you, and perhaps even drive to a safe place to start your bike ride. Well with indoor cycling you don’t have to worry about any of those things. In fact, even if you forget your cycling shoes and helmet you can still do an indoor cycling class. If you are training for a triathlon you can optimize your brick workout by possibly doing both an indoor cycling class and/or swim session and/or treadmill run. There is no hassle of getting your bike out and ready to go outside. If you don’t own a bike and want to ride one, well then, what do you know, there is Indoor Cycling! The weather when working out indoors is a non-factor, so if it is raining, snowing, cold, or extremely hot you can still achieve your workout goals indoors.
3. Instructor Led Indoor Cycling Burns Calories
Yes, it does burn calories. As an instructor, I often ask my class how many calories are burned by a showing of hands. You probably will not believe the results I get. I have seen as much as 1200 calories burned in my hour class. What? Yes, people have reported burning up to 1200 calories in my hour classes! How is that possible? Well, it is all based on the format being provided to the class as well as guiding the class to stay within certain important parameters, while working in a moderate intensity heart rate zone. I never do more than 10% of a class in the anaerobic heart rate zone. About three and a half years ago, I started a special format in class that gave focus to their calorie burns. Every first full week of the month, I instruct this special class, which I call cycle glow. During the cycle glow class, I ask who has reached a calorie burn of 300, then 600, then 900, then 1200, etc. For each 300 calories I hand the member a glow stick, some members have earned up to 4 glow sticks. The participants enjoy this format so much that they keep their glow sticks on their workout bags as a token. I have noticed that some of the gym bags have over 30 glow sticks. So, can you burn calories? Yes, you can, just like any other workout routine, it takes a little practice, ensuring good form, and the want and desire to actually workout (sweat, get out of breath). I often say to my class, “if your legs or your lungs aren’t burning, or both your legs and your lungs are not burning, you are not changing, you need to burn to change, so let’s get burning”.
4. Ride Here or There…Practically Anywhere
The popularity of an instructor led indoor cycling class means that you can find a gym that offers indoor cycling anywhere, including on the internet. Yes, if you really find a format, and instructor on line that works for you then you could do this in the convenience of your own home. However, doing an indoor cycling class at home instead of going to a gym, doesn’t allow for you to obtain instant feedback on form from the instructor, it also precludes you from the other benefits of going to a gym to cycle amongst others. Again, the key is to find a place that offers an accommodating class time, other amenities and instructor whom can help you to achieve your goals.
5. Improves Your Cardio Health
Indoor Cycling can be performed as an anaerobic exercise, pulling energy from reserves and building up muscular endurance over an extended timeframe. However, there are also aerobic benefits. Indoor Cycling classes can provide both endurance and cardiovascular training.
Heart health is one of the most obvious benefits of Indoor Cycling, as is lung capacity. As we work harder, we learn to work on controlled breathing. This can help with anxiety and help lower the heart rate when in a situation where physical exertion begins to take the breath away.
6. You can Set Your Own Intensity, Pace, Make it Your Workout
As I mentioned above, an instructor led indoor cycling class offers you an opportunity to control your own workout. Say for example you are coming off a hard, intense workout from the prior day and need a recovery workout you can simply take off a bit of resistance to ensure that you are giving your body a chance to recover and yet still achieve a low impact recovery workout. Or say for example you want to work on speed, or hills, if you adjust the resistance accordingly to achieve either the simulation of a flat road, or hilly road. You can also manage your heart rate to work in the heart rate zone(s) which you desire. Some indoor cycling bikes will have a power meter, and the instructor will provide guidance using it so that you are building consistent strength and burning calories. You can push or go as easy as you need to in an indoor cycling class, no one is watching you, there is no racing taking place, you don’t need to keep up with anyone but yourself. If for any chance you find that you are not hitting your goals, talk with your instructor, let them know what you were trying to achieve, they should be able to assist you.
7. Builds Comradery, Make New Friends
The toughness of the class builds a comradery amongst the members in the class. For some reason, members love to share in the success of completing a tough class. I don’t know if it is because the members share a feeling of accomplishment, or survival, yet I do enjoy the comradery that has evolved. With comradery comes a dedication to show up time after time, to work hard, to achieve goals together, it is a wonderful bond that is created amongst the participants. If you attend one of my classes as a newbie, you will find other members wanting to help you set up your bike, talking about the class, sharing tips for survival, reminding you to sign in, and when the class is done congratulating you for sticking it. My indoor cycling classes are a wonderful place to find encouragement, inspiration, and energy. From where I sit, as the instructor, I have the pleasure of encouraging the bonding and workout, providing cues, playing energizing music, delivering a challenging format, and watching the participants enjoy themselves. I often say in my class, “we start as one, we finish as one, we don’t leave anyone behind”. The class environment should not only be focused on getting a workout, it should also encourage enjoyment. Time goes by quickly in a great class, how could it not with the endorphin rush you get!
8. It is Low Impact, Thus Increases the Longevity of Your Fitness
It isn’t by coincidence that one of the first things a physical therapist has you do after having an acute collateral ligament replaced in your knee is to get on a stationary bike. An indoor cycling class can help you with strengthening muscles, tendons, and joints. Indoor cycling is a great way to exercise while putting little pressure on your knees, feet, or ankles. Other traditional cardio alternatives such as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) classes and even running are considered high impact. Although high impact workouts have some benefits, they can also stress your joints, tendons, and muscles. Doing a high impact workout several times a day, or even several times a week can result in injuries such as stress fractures, pulled muscles, or over training. Indoor cycling is considered to be low impact workout. Low impact workouts accommodate aliments, are easy on injuries, promote joint and tendon health, and increase your longevity of your fitness.
In my class, you will often hear me say that I keep the anaerobic portion of class to no more than 10% of the entire class. Any more than that can break your body down over time. Low impact workouts such as indoor cycling allows you to work harder, while limiting potential injuries.
9. Build Muscle, Get Lean
If you are consistent in attending indoor cycling classes, pay attention to your meals, and pump out great low impact workouts during the indoor cycling class, it won’t be long before you begin to notice some great changes to your body. The most noticeable place will be the added lean muscular definition you see in your legs, and core. Yes, you might be sore, remember, something must burn before it changes, and if it burned then it is likely to be sore. Enjoy the lean muscle you being to observe.
10. Increases Your Mental Strength
During an instructor led class, follow the cues when you are asked to relax, and learn to manage your heart rates within particular zones as instructed. These drills will help you to get in touch with your body. Over time you will notice that you are more relaxed and still burning higher calories.
More than anything finishing a tough and challenging indoor cycling class can help you develop a “can-do” attitude. It is very powerful when you are asked to push yourself in a class, and when you do push, you begin to achieve higher watts, further distances, and even a higher calorie burn. The result is gaining mental strength. Just remember that there are both good days and bad days. Consistency is the key. Consistency in showing up and doing the cycling workout, consistency in pushing though the difficult times, consistency in working up the hill climbs, and consistency completing the anaerobic interval sets. Gaining mental self-discipline and strength is yet another tremendous benefit of indoor cycling. Such gains can be applied to other aspects of your life.
I hope that if you haven’t tried an instructor led indoor cycling class that you will give it a try. If you do happen to show up to one of my classes, please let me know it is your first time. I will help you to set up your bike and provide a brief orientation of the monitor and class format, which will give you an even better experience.