What Happens in an Indoor Cycling Class?

Spinning-brand Classes or Other Indoor Cycling Workouts

Female trainer with group on exercise bikes
Yellow Dog Productions / Digital Vision / Getty Images

Spinning®-brand classes or other indoor cycling workouts (such as LeMond, Reebok or Schwinn, which all have slight variations to how they approach this) can be a great way to get in a vigorous workout - burning calories and keeping your muscles in shape - especially during the off-season. But you have to have a high tolerance for exercise bikes and being cooped up inside with a bunch of other sweaty people for this to be a satisfying alternative to the real thing.

Pros

  • An effective workout
  • Allows you to train in the off-season
  • Varied routines keep things fresh
  • Great for all ability levels
  • You don't have to wear your helmet

Cons

  • You're not on a real bike
  • Classes can become monotonous
  • You have to push yourself for maximum effect

More About Indoor Cycling Classes

  • Indoor cycling classes are done in a fitness studio, with various light and music settings to create an energized atmosphere.
  • Instructors guide participants through workout phases. Warm-up, steady uptempo cadences, sprints, climbs, cool-downs, etc.
  • You control resistance on your bike to make the pedaling as easy or difficult as you choose. Constant adjustment is normal.
  • All you'll need is workout clothes, a towel (to wipe your face) and a water bottle.
  • Stationary bikes have toe clips so you can wear tennis shoes. But many pedals also work with Shimano-style SPD cleats.

What Happens in a Stationary Cycling Class?

Imagine a whole bunch of exercise bikes lined up inside a health club studio.

Riders are on each one, spinning the pedals at a rapid pace. The lights are turned down, pumped up music fills the air and an instructor with a headset sits atop a lead bike, calling out commands.

"Climb out of the saddle," she barks at the class. "Big hill coming!"

The riders rise as one, pedals turning faster as they grimace with exertion, sweat dripping off their bodies.

What you're witnessing is an indoor cycling class, a workout option available at fitness clubs everywhere. It is a relatively recent phenomenon, where participants take part in a group workout on exercise bikes that typically lasts anywhere from 30-75 minutes. The classes are lead by instructors who normally guide participants through a series of phases, from warm-up to more challenging phases, to a period of peak effort followed by a cool down.

In indoor cycling classes, including the popular Spinning® version of this training, the intensity of the workout is influenced by a couple of things:

  • cadence, or pedal rate
  • resistance of the bike's flywheel, which can be continually adjusted throughout the class to make pedaling easier or more difficult
  • by the rider's body position, as they either pedal from a seated position or rise from the saddle.

Ultimately, participants determine their own levels of exertion, something that works better for some folks than others. For instance, I personally find myself slacking from time to time in an indoor cycling class if I don't stay focused. I know that I do better when I'm being pushed, such as when riding a real bike and the only option to hustling on a group ride is being dropped.

But a good instructor can certainly encourage and motivate you to push yourself, and you'll most likely find an indoor cycling class on a stationary bike to be a vigorous workout. It's a decent way to stay in shape when you can't get outside on the road.

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Fiedler, David. "What Happens in an Indoor Cycling Class?" ThoughtCo, Jul. 10, 2017, thoughtco.com/what-happens-in-an-indoor-cycling-class-365841. Fiedler, David. (2017, July 10). What Happens in an Indoor Cycling Class? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-happens-in-an-indoor-cycling-class-365841 Fiedler, David. "What Happens in an Indoor Cycling Class?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-happens-in-an-indoor-cycling-class-365841 (accessed September 25, 2017).