Indoor Cycling: What is it and How does it work?

Indoor Cycling: What is it and How does it work?

Indoor cycling has gained popularity in the fitness world. Gyms offer indoor cycling classes, indoor cycling studios, and new smart-fitness equipment like the Peloton bike offer cycling classes in your home. Are you ready to give indoor cycling a try? What is it? How does it work? Let’s take a more in-depth look into this latest fitness craze.

Indoor cycling classes will get you dripping with sweat in no time. These classes are fantastic at shedding fat, improving cardiovascular fitness, and boosting muscular endurance. You are guaranteed a serious leg workout and a rush of endorphins when class is over.

Many gyms offer indoor cycling classes, or you can join an indoor cycling boutique studio. Studios like Flywheel offer classes with weights added for your arms, whereas SoulCycle adds mindfulness exercises to the routine. You’ll need to do 3-5 classes a week if you want to see results. Classes are usually between 45 and 60 minutes long.

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An instructor will guide you through a series of cycling, including speed bursts and uphill climbs, with short recovery periods in between. Some cycling will be done sitting; some will be done in a standing position out of the bike saddle. Everyone in class gets a bike to themselves, usually all facing the instructor (or sometimes a mirror). The instructor will choose music to go along with their class layout. For example, an upbeat song will play while you pedal as fast as possible for five minutes. Then a slower song will play so you can pedal slowly and catch your breath. You might be asked to increase your bike's resistance to simulate riding uphill with a higher tempo song to match. Some instructors will take you on an imaginary journey throughout the class to avoid boredom. So you can bike across a desert in one class and up a luscious rainforest mountain the next.


The intensity level of indoor cycling classes is very high. Your heart rate will significantly rise during your time on the bike. There is recovery time, but most of the class is steady, hard work. The classes primarily target your lower body, mainly your legs and glutes, unless you attend a class where you hold weight in your hands. Indoor cycling is highly aerobic, meaning your heart rate will stay up the whole time. Because you are constantly pedaling, it’s a great lower body strength workout, too. Cycling is considered a low-impact workout because there’s no pounding on your joints. So if your hips, knees, and ankles can’t take jumping around, don’t let that hold you back. This will up the intensity of your workout without the impact. A single class of indoor cycling can burn between 400 and 600 calories. If you’re looking to lose weight, this is a great way to start seeing results.

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Because indoor cycling is done on a stationary bike, you must have access to one to do these workouts. Gyms have specialty bikes for indoor cycling classes. You’ll probably want a sweat towel and a water bottle, and if you’re a real enthusiast, you may want to invest in a pair of cycling shoes to clip onto the pedals. These will set you back about $150. Of course, if you're going to do indoor cycling at home, bikes like the Peloton or the NordicTrack studio cycle can help you do that, but they are expensive. Either way, you have options to work out alone or in a group. Taking an indoor cycling class at a gym or boutique studio has the benefit of an instructor to make sure you’re cycling safely. This will help you to work out to your full potential. Fitness classes are also a great way to meet new people. It’s often hard to do an intense workout on your own because it’s hard to stay motivated. A group environment can keep you on track. On the other hand, if you don’t want to socialize while you work out, you can still zone out to the music and the instructor’s voice cues. Here’s a quick list of dos and don’ts for indoor cycling classes:

  • Be on time. Indoor cycling classes have a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Arrive early if you think you might need help setting up your bike but don’t disrupt the class by coming late.
  • Set up your bike. Get your seat and handlebars in the correct position before class starts.
  • Don’t bring your phone. It’s disruptive to you and everyone else in the class. Leave it in your
  • locker or your car and take the hour to focus on cycling.

Don’t go too hard on your first indoor cycling class. These workouts are intense, so listen to your body. If you’re out of shape or just starting, go at a moderate pace and work your way up over time. Otherwise, you risk injury or being so sore you’ll never go back. It’s normal to feel a bit tired and sore after your first few workouts, but it should be tolerable.

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For individuals with health conditions, solid aerobic workouts like indoor cycling may be what the doctor ordered. Of course, you should always consult your doctor before starting a high-intensity workout program such as this, but there are some health benefits to consider if you have a chronic condition. Aerobic workouts are great for people at risk of heart disease. A solid one, like indoor cycling, can lower your blood pressure and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association’s recommendation for exercise is 150 minutes of cardio per week. Indoor cycling has been shown to help your muscles use blood glucose more efficiently, helping maintain lower blood sugar levels for people with diabetes. Individuals with arthritis may benefit too, as cycling is a low-impact exercise that protects your joints.

Indoor cycling can improve your overall physical fitness by building strength and cardiovascular
endurance. They are a healthy, enjoyable activity. To see results, commit to doing between 3 and 6
classes a week and stick with it. You will reap the benefits for months to come.