This month we are talking about ways to maximize your gym experience and today it’s all about cycle classes. Last week we talked about Group Exercise classes in general and while cycle (or spin) classes fall in to the group exercise category they are really their own
super fun class beast. I took my first cycle class in college…I know you all think that was probably just a few years ago, but it was in the late 90’s! I was instantly addicted as I was young and thought a good workout was the hardest thing you could do in the shortest amount of time. The cool thing about cycle classes is that they haven’t changed too much from the early days. The bikes we use today have had many upgrades, but the bulk of the workout is pretty much the same. There is only SO much you can do on the bike, and while I’ve seen yoga and dance cycle hybrid classes come and go cycle classes have really stood the test of time as an effective and safe workout for everyone. My reason for taking a cycle class has also evolved from just getting a good sweat to using them as a training tool for triathlons, but regardless who you are and what your reasons for taking a class I’m positive there’s a perfect fit for you. Let’s break down the cycle class and I’ll tell you what to expect as a beginner and how to maximize your class if you are using it as a training tool. Again, most of my information will come from my experience at Lifetime Fitness in Apex and Cary. Cycle is another signature class at Lifetime. All cycle instructors hold a national certification as well as further training through Lifetime so you will be in good hands. Most of the instructors I know also bike outdoors or do triathlons which isn’t mandatory, but is nice if you are looking for classes to compliment your training and/or want to make friends who ride outdoors. Lifetime in Cary has an amazing cycle studio and offers outdoor rides all year long weather pending through their Cycle Club. While you have to be a member to join studio cycle classes the outdoor rides are free and open to anyone.
Cycle For the Beginner
If you have never experienced a cycle class before here is what you need to know. You will survive despite feeling like you will surely die and you will have a sore bum. Luckily with frequent attendance both of these things improve! Seriously though, you shouldn’t feel near death in a cycle class as a beginner. The cool thing about cycle classes is you control the intensity. The bikes have a resistance knob so you can control how hard you have to push the pedals and when your instructor tells you to ADD more resistance (which they will) you absolutely don’t have to! You can pedal away as easy or hard as you want. I will caution you to at least add a little resistance. You will feel like you are spinning out of control if you don’t have enough weight on the wheel….if you are bouncing in your saddle or feel like you can’t control the pedal speed then definitely add some resistance. Another thing you may see in a cycle class that you may want to build up to is standing on the bike. This is an advanced move and takes proper resistance, balance, and strength. If you would like to try to stand and pedal on the bike make sure you have enough resistance…maybe even put on a little more than you think you need. Stand so your bottom is hovering just a few inches over the saddle. Most of your weight should be balanced in your legs with a light grip on the handlebars. Standing will really raise your heart rate so ease into this for sure. Standing also relieves pressure on your bottom so that is definite motivation to master this move! So, that brings us to your bottom. You can expect some general soreness your first few classes. Some ways to alleviate this are to come to your first class a few minutes early and have your instructor set up your bike for you. There are four adjustments you can make to your bike and just a few inches in one direction or the other can make the biggest difference. Do you need padded bike shorts or bike shoes??? I would say for your first few classes you will be ok without, but if this is something you enjoy I would say for sure get some good shorts and cycle shoes. Cycle shoes especially make a huge difference! You will be amazed at the power you can get and standing is so much easier. I use a super old pair of bike shoes for cycle class…they are beat up and not cute, but they get the job done. So, for your first few cycle classes just come with a full bottle of water, fitted shorts/bike shorts (if you have them), your firmest pair of tennis shoes and arrive early to get set up. You are ready!
Cycle for “BRING IT”….Triathletes and Cyclists
I will run in ANY weather. Bring on cold, rain, hot…whatever. I have all the gear and am up for anything. This is not true for biking. I usually hang up my bike in November and won’t bust it back out until March unless there is some crazy warm spell. Actually I totally lie….we have had a very mild winter so far and I still haven’t seen my bike since late October oops! Therefore, I depend on studio cycle classes to keep me somewhat fit during the winter and you can absolutely use cycle classes for this. My husband can ride HOURS on his bike trainer. I just can’t. I’m tired just setting the trainer up and I would just sit and cruise and watch Netflix. No way I would work as hard as I do in a cycle class! Lifetime also has the perfect class for those who want to continue training in the off season. They have a Performance Cycle Class that meets on Tuesday and Thursday nights at 6pm. These classes can be up to 90 minutes long and focus on an endurance building phase and a strength/speed building phase. The first class in the performance series is a 20 minute time trial. This will help you figure out your heart rate training zones so you can get the most benefit out of the workout. I love this class…even though I’ve truthfully only been twice (darn kids!), but I can absolutely see how this can keep you in bike shape or even improve your fitness. If you can’t make it to the performance class you can still get a kick butt workout out of any of any cycle class. First, you can just do everything your instructor tells you! When they say sprint you go as fast as you can…climb every hill, and hit the goal RPM’s. Again, the best part of a group exercise class is the careful planning your instructor will put in. They will make sure you have a balance of endurance and strength with a proper warm up and cool down. They will also put the workout to an awesome playlist and keep you motivated. I love going to Karen’s class and hearing her say “if you made it to class you are already successful” and I equally love Shannon’s class where she calls me out by name and tells me to increase my resistance HA! I love Christine’s class because she has the best theme workouts and I always average the most miles in Stacy’s class because we never STOP MOVING. NONE of this I could get in my living room at home, and that is just four instructors out of many that have a very different approach that serve every need I could have as a participant. My other tip for making a cycle class challenging is paying attention to your Watts. I used to think pedaling as fast as I could was the way to go, but then realized if I have more resistance and tried to sustain that then I was way better off. Instead of focusing so much on your RPM’s increase the resistance and work on your power. That has transferred to the biggest gains in my outdoor cycling. If I can work a harder gear at less effort I’m going faster and further, YAY!
Don’t be afraid of the cycle class! You may have to ask the front desk where the cycle studio is since they are usually tucked away, but I’m confident that whatever your needs are you can meet them in a cycle class. Happy cycling:)