The Beginner’s Guide to Indoor Cycling
You know those mornings when you can’t find your motivation to work out?
You check behind the door, maybe take a look in last night’s pizza box, or in the glovebox where you keep your stash of snacks… but no motivation anywhere.
It’s a sinking feeling.
The good news is that you can geolocate that motivation and then supercharge it with an indoor cycling workout.
Whether you’re new to working out or a seasoned road cyclist, an indoor cycling workout can push you to new limits and help you build endurance in a low-impact way.
Here’s a guide for beginners.
What Is Indoor Cycling?
Simply put, indoor cycling can involve hooking your bike to a stationary trainer in your living room, riding a stationary bike at the gym, doing a cycling class at a studio, or joining a virtual class at home — on your trainer or an exercise bike.
The one thing you can expect regardless of the method is buckets of sweat and the fitness that comes with practically any cycling workout.
You can also expect positive physiological changes.
One metastudy of 300 research papers concluded that indoor cycling may improve aerobic capacity, body composition, and cardiovascular health.
How Is It Different From Riding Outside?
According to former pro cyclist Peter Stetina, “I’d say the biggest benefit is quality over quantity. There’s never any stopping at lights or coasting through corners, you pedal literally the entire time.”
That makes indoor cycling perfect for midday or before-work workouts.
Its benefits include a safe and convenient workout that can efficiently hit your fitness goals no matter how crazy your schedule.
Stetina points to the scheduling benefit of indoor cycling “if your work demands that you exercise after daylight hours.”
(Is that motivation we hear tapping on the door?)
And there’s more — retired pro cyclist and 10-time U.S. national champion Rahsaan Bahati sums up the key benefit: safety.
“Riding indoors allows you to build up the strength and personal knowledge of what your skillset can handle before setting up outside in the real world,” he says.
If that’s not enough, Bahati throws this cherry on top: “Indoor cycling allows you to save time, yet get the training and exercise you desire in the comfort of your own dwelling.”
Other differences between riding indoors versus on the road? It eliminates the hazards and discomforts of bad weather.
Cycling indoors has lots of options to help you get fit.
First, decide whether you want to train at home, in a gym, solo, or with a group. Each has pluses and minuses, so find out what works for you.
Some find home calming, whereas more extroverted people may prefer the gym or a cycling studio.
Sign up for a trial period at a gym or borrow a friend’s indoor trainer before committing.
What Can You Expect From an Indoor Cycling Class?
“Indoor cycling classes will provide you with coaching, camaraderie, some competition, and fun,” says Los Angeles-based personal trainer, Ironman competitor, and former competitive figure skater Kristie Fox. “And a whole lot of burn.”
Online group cycling via an app or streaming service can provide an even bigger dose of motivation, whereas solo training may appeal to the “my pace” types.
Ultimately, says Fox, “the key is consistency. Start small, build slowly. If you’re doing two-hour sessions from the gun, you’re likely overdoing it. Make it a journey, not a target.”
Can you do it daily?
“Yes,” says Fox, “but always listen to your body. Injuries, work, exhaustion, and stress can always justify taking time off.”
Next, Fox suggests building a realistic plan that fits your schedule.
“Indoor cycling lets you mold the activity to your calendar, something you can’t do with surfing, say, or ice skating. Is your golden time 5 A.M.? 10 P.M.? Let your schedule be your guide,” she adds.
Many people turn to indoor for weight loss.
“It can be a powerful tool, but the cornerstone for all weight loss is nutrition,” says Fox. “Indoor cycling burns calories, no question.”
When you discover the workout flexibility and fitness that come with a few weeks of cycling indoors, you won’t be searching for your long-lost motivation anymore.
You’ll be searching for your cycling shorts.