Take a Lap With Indoor Cycling

When you cycle outdoors, weather, traffic and rough terrain can conspire to foil your good intentions to work out.

That’s one reason people are taking their cycling workouts inside, where they do intense aerobic exercise with a roomful of people on stationary bikes, with music and an instructor’s motivating encouragement.

“Group indoor cycling is an excellent cardiovascular workout, providing the same health and weight-management benefits as outdoor cycling and other aerobic activities,” says Kathie Davis, executive director of IDEA, Health & Fitness Association in San Diego. “Indoor cycling also is a great way for outdoor cycling enthusiasts to stay in shape year-round.”

In indoor cycling workouts (also known as spinning classes), participants ride stationary bicycles specially designed to mimic outdoor bikes. They have fixed-gear racing handlebars, pedals equipped with clips or cages to keep shoes engaged and adjustable seats.

But unlike street bikes, indoor bikes can be set to different levels of intensity by adjusting the resistance, so people of different ages, sizes and fitness levels can participate in the same class.

Take a ride

Indoor cycling classes usually last 30 to 45 minutes. Some instructors speak through a speaker system or through headphones the participants wear during class.

Participants are often led through a simulated bike ride, where they may encounter steep hills, straight-aways and rolling country roads. They make adjustments on their cycles to correspond to the difficulty of the imagined ride. With heart-rate monitors, often worn during the workout, participants can gauge how hard they’re working.

“Continuous coaching, up-tempo music, visualization or life-sized videos played behind the instructor keep the workout fun and exiting,” says Ms. Davis.

Spinning classes should begin with a warm-up routine and end with a cool-down segment that includes stretching exercises. An average 40-minute workout burns about 500 calories, but the amount burned by each individual will vary, depending on the workout’s intensity.

Spinning can enhance cardiovascular fitness and improve muscle tone and endurance. It’s also a non-impact activity, so it’s ideal for people recovering from certain injuries, such as knee and hip replacements, and people with overuse injuries, back pain or arthritis.

Join a class

To coast into the indoor cycling experience, keep the following in mind:

  • Talk with the instructor. Describe your fitness history, goals and injuries. Ask about proper posture and learn how to adjust resistance and speed.

  • Check out the bike. Become familiar with the bicycle and have the instructor fit the bike to the proper height and angle for your height before class begins.

  • Be sure you’re at the right level. If you’re just starting out, or haven’t been to class in a while, sign up for a beginners’ class.

  • Pace yourself. Start at a reasonable pace and resistance level. You can always increase the intensity as the workout progresses.

  • Come prepared. Wear comfortable clothes, including padded bike shorts and low-top shoes with stiff midsoles, such as cross trainers or cycling shoes. Bring a water bottle and a small towel.

  • Make a commitment. Don’t let initial discomforts scare you off. Try this activity for several weeks, rather than giving up too soon. Indoor cycling may provide just the boost your fitness program needs.

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