Thursday, January 10, 2013

So you want to try a cycling class...

I've got a cold... again. I feel like lately I've been getting sick more often than usual... Anyone watch Parks and Rec? I'm choosing to believe I'm sick because I'm like Chris Traeger

But let's get to the actual point of this post - Indoor cycling!

I've mentioned before that I teach twice a week but haven't talked about it much since lately the blog has been focusing on running and strength training fashion and crafts. But cycling is a great cardio workout!

First, let's get the lingo down...
• "Cycling" versus "Spinning" - They're the same thing.  "Spinning" is an actual brand of bike (like Kleenex is a brand of tissue). And cycling is the overall name of the exercise. If your gym uses Spinning brand bikes, the class will be called spin.  Otherwise it will be called cycling because that's what you're actually doing.

• Gear or resistance - when you hear someone talking about that, they're talking about increasing the difficulty in pedaling.  The purpose of indoor cycling is to mirror outdoor cycling as much as possible.  When you're on a bike outside, you will experience all different types of terrain and incline. And naturally, as you start pedaling up a hill, the harder it will get. So when you add gear or resistance to an indoor bike, it's to simulate that same feeling of climbing up a hill.

•Hand Positions
Source: Fitsugar
An instructor will often use the numbers 1, 2 or 3 to refer to where to place your hands. As the picture above demonstrates, 1 is the base (closest to your body), 2 is the beginning of the curve and 3 is the ends (where her hands are currently).  They might also tell you to place your hands at the middle bar (it's a curve on the bike above) and they'll sometimes call that the "racing" position.

Now about cycling...
•It's a really good cardio workout that also incorporates strength training because of the resistance. Which means, you can burn a TON of calories.  According to my heart rate monitor I usually burn between 600-800 a class!
•Nearly anyone can do it. One of the greatest things about a cycling class is that you can completely tailor it to your fitness level - and no one will even be able to tell! My students are all different ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels  - and they are all getting a great workout. Don't be scared to attend a cycling class just because you don't feel "fit" enough. You control the resistance the entire time and can make it as light as you need to. I tell every newcomer that their goal for their first class is to just pedal the entire 55 minutes. They don't have to try to do anything else. They don't have to stand or turn the gear up - just pedal.  Then as they improve over time, they can start making it more and more difficult. 
yeah, this is staged
•You don't need any special equipment or specific cycling shoes.  They help, but they are NOT necessary.  All you really need during a class is a towel because you will sweat a lot.  Having a water bottle is nice though, too.

However, along the lines of shoes, certain shoes are better than others.  Something that's been coming up a lot lately with my students are people experiencing foot pain in their arch because they're wearing those trendy Nike Frees (here goes any hope of ever getting a Nike sponsorship...)

Nike Frees are a minimalist running shoe and are not a good idea for cycling. But it's not just Nike - no minimalist running shoe is good for cycling.  Here's why.

Minimalist running shoes are designed to bend and allow your foot a natural movement.  However, when you're cycling, you want your shoe to stay rigid and firm. That's why most cycling shoes have a hard plastic bottom and thick sides. 
Bend = good for running, bad for cycling
Source: Lose the Shoes

my cycling shoes plus a very cute kitten
Wearing a minimalist shoe while cycling doesn't guarantee you'll be in pain or injure yourself, every foot is different, but I would highly recommend wearing a different pair if you're just starting out.

•Don't be embarrassed to ask questions.  When I first started out, I was so nervous that people would be able to tell that I was new.  But there is no shame in being new! As an instructor I love having new people in the class and I want to give them the best experience possible.  And I know other instructors feel the same way.  So ask about how to set up your bike and don't be afraid to not look like a pro.  Instructors are passionate about it and want to share their knowledge and experience - so let them!

So try it out! If you don't go to a gym, look online for guest pass offers for gyms in your area.  If you know me in real life, let me know if you're interested and you can come try my class for free!

Hope that was helpful, let me know if you have any questions!


  1. I love cycling! I just took my first class a couple weeks ago, and now I'm hooked. I even started cycling during non-cycling class hours as my cardio after I lift weights. It really does burn serious calories if done correctly. I always have to clean the floor around me after I'm done because I sweat that much!

    P.S. I love reading your blog, so I finally had to comment. :)

    1. Yeah, cycling is great! Thanks so much for commenting - I love knowing that people are reading :)