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  • The Science of Indoor Cycling
    What you need to know before signing up for a class. Read >>

The Science of Indoor Cycling

What you need to know before signing up for a class.

You remember riding your bike around the neighborhood as a kid, the wind rushing through your hair and the feeling of freedom away from home. Today, you prefer the idea of exercising indoors away from the rain, cold, and heat. What better way to get your exercise than on an indoor stationary bicycle? Thousands have found their workout of choice to be indoor cycling, also known in many gyms as “spinning.”

With upbeat music, a room full of cyclers, and a motivating coach challenging you to your limits, indoor cycling can be a fun and effective way to get your cardio and strength-training exercise. Cycling is a low-impact activity that targets your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves, while strengthening your heart and lungs.

There’s no need to be intimidated about signing up for a class. Just know the basics before you go.

The Bike

Each person in the class will have his or her own bike that faces the front of the room toward the instructor. Some studios and gyms let you reserve your bike before class starts. Choose a spot you’d feel most comfortable. You may not want the front row, but you may be motivated to work harder if you’re front and center.

Upon arrival to class, check your bike to see if you need to make some adjustments. First, adjust the seat to hip height when you’re standing next to it. Next, sit on the bike and pedal. At the bottom of the pedal stroke, your leg should bend at a 25- to 30-degree angle. The distance between your seat and handlebars should be the length of your forearm from your elbow to the tips of your fingers. Change the handlebars to a height that feels most comfortable. Then clip your feet into the pedals so they stay in place.

Unlike a road bike, an indoor bike doesn’t have gears. A resistance knob is used to adjust how hard your muscles have to work to pedal at a certain speed.

The Class

Sign up for a class that meets your fitness ability. Newbies should look for a beginner’s class. Your instructor will lead you through a series of different types of cycling. Easy pedaling, bursts of intense speed, and uphill climbs are typically included. During the class, your instructor will tell you to increase or decrease your resistance numbers. Follow the instructions, but pace yourself. Don’t feel like you have to keep up with your neighbor. Typically, music is set to a rhythm that goes along with the speed or intensity of the pedaling.

Do’s and Don’ts

Ready to hit the cycling class? There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind, including the following:

  • Don’t use your phone or wear headphones during class.
  • Do wear comfortable workout clothes that wick away moisture.
  • Don’t bounce while pedaling as doing so places stress on your knees.
  • Do keep a towel nearby for excess sweat.
  • Don’t stand with a straight spine when pedaling. Rather, but bend at your hips.
  • Do let your instructor know of any special health concerns you may have before climbing on your bike.
  • Don’t read a book or talk with your neighbor during class.
  • Do wear clip-in cycling shoes if you’d like, but remember they’re not required.
  • Don’t focus on pushing your feet down, but think about pulling up your feet with each pedal stroke.
  • Do enjoy your workout and have fun!