Is Indoor Cycling For You?
6 Reasons Why You Should Try Indoor Cycling
The season of bingeing and partying is over. It’s now time to head over to the gym and get rid of the excess calories you gained over the Holidays. One of the best ways to do this is to do some cardio work such as running and cycling.
Not everyone likes running though. And not everyone is built up to jog or run regularly. Yes, running may be the best cardio exercise in terms of accessibility and affordability. However, cycling is non-weight bearing and therefore is a good alternative especially for those with challenges in weight and suffering from joint injuries.
The first time I learned about Indoor Cycling (IC) apart from when the country’s first ever IC studio opened in Katipunan, Quezon City in the early 2000s was in 2003 when I signed up as a Member of a Gym chain in Makati. Because the Club housed some of the Country’s best group exercise instructors even though it was only a year old then, it became one of the new go-to Gyms for ‘aerobics’ enthusiasts like me. I would usually join the lunch-hour IC class, do some weight training after, go around the mall or have coffee with my gym buddies, then go back to join more classes.
After almost a year of being a Member, I decided to audition as a Group Exercise teacher and one of the classes assigned to me was Indoor Cycling. I got certified as an Instructor and was given several classes in 3 of the gym chain’s branches. Thus began my love story with IC.
My background in IC is not as interesting as its roots though, thanks to endurance cyclist Johnny Goldberg, the creator of the (Johnny G) Spinning® bikes. Goldberg developed a stationary bike that he could use indoors to train for a long distance race while his wife was pregnant. He made sure the bike had a flywheel and an adjustment knob so that it could simulate an outdoor ride. Goldberg partnered up with his friend John Baudhuin and developed the first Spinner® bike in 1992. Then, in 1993, Indoor Cycling classes were offered in Crunch Gyms around New York.
Indoor Cycling in the PH didn’t start gaining more popularity outside of the big box gyms until around 2014. The way things are going these days, this craze may last for as long as there are fitness fanatics who love to sweat buckets but would rather do so indoors.
In case you have never experienced Indoor Cycling, just imagine reaping the following benefits after a full 45-minute or 1-hour class:
1. Strengthens the heart and lungs, builds endurance, and aids in weight loss
A typical IC class works around the moderate- and vigorous-intensity levels. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), exercising at these intensity levels for 150 hours a week can reap you good health benefits especially to minimize Cardio Pulmonary Disease (CPD) risks, improve blood cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and aid in weight loss.
2. Reduces stress levels
Exercise releases the ‘happy hormones’ called Endorphins. Aside from this, your IC instructor will be your motivator and coach while you and your classmates feed on each other’s energy. “My students tell me they get a high just like when they’re running when they attend my class,” says Annie Neric, a certified IC instructor, triathlete and Club Manager of Gold’s Gym Mandaue.
3. Very effective as a training tool for endurance athletes
Cyclists, runners, and triathletes include IC classes in their training program as it is a breath of fresh air from rigid outdoor training. I have one student in my IC class who is a competitive triathlete who once told me that he likes joining my class as it keeps him from slacking from his regular indoor cycling training session.
4. Builds muscular endurance
The sprints and the posture builds the stamina of the muscles involved. The more you challenge or overload the muscles with repetitive motions, the more the muscles will adapt to the motions thereby building over-all endurance.
But it is not easy to challenge the muscles if there isn’t any stamina left during class. Neric, who has been teaching IC for 10 years, uses different types or genres of music depending on the profile of her students. She says, “My class finds my program very challenging. One of the ways I motivate them to endure the class is by using music that they like. Good music keeps the class exciting and full of energy.”
5. Low impact therefore it is a safe yet effective form of cardiorespiratory activity for the injured and overweight
I’ve had students in my class who have joint injuries or lower back issues. As long as they would follow my cues for proper posture and alignment, they’d never feel any pain and discomfort during and after class. Of course, the bike fit or adjustment also matters.
IC is a non-weight bearing form of exercise. Although some classes like mine have a lot of standing climbs, students are always given the option to remain seated. This is why it is important that your IC instructor is knowledgeable and is either IC-certified or a certified Group Fitness instructor by any of the major Certifying organizations (see the list here).
6. Builds muscular strength
Due to overloading of the muscles using moderate to heavy resistance, the leg muscles build strength over time when you join IC classes. This does not replace your usual legs day at the gym though. Core strength (as well as endurance) is also improved if you’re a regular. Holding the correct posture forces you to engage your core (and leg) muscles so that you don’t fall off the bike whether during standing or seated positions.
All these benefits are probably making you wonder what are the specific muscles targeted by this particular workout routine. According to the Start Trac Precision Cycling Manual, the specific muscles targeted during the revolution are the Hamstring group, the Vastii (quadriceps), Gluteus Maximus, Soleus, and Gastrocnemius. If you’ve been joining IC classes regularly, you’ll notice a positive change in your posture. Your instructor should correct your form everytime you slack so that your muscles remember that posture and adapt to it eventually. Postural muscles include the lower back, the abdominals, the latissimus dorsi, the pectoralis region, and the deeper muscles of the torso. Your arms also work isometrically throughout the class while you’re holding your riding position.
Old school IC instructors, like myself, and students have long realized that Indoor Cycling is not only a workout for the legs and the cardiorespiratory system. The whole body works synergistically so that you get a good workout while enjoying the experience.
A 45-minute to 1-hour long IC class can burn 400 to 1,000 calories depending on your effort especially if you pair that with a well-balanced nutrition program! If you haven’t experienced an IC class, we’ll be making a list of Cycling Studios, and Gyms, and Health Clubs that have regular IC classes on the next article.