Years ago, when I joined my first gym, I was very curious about the cycling classes. At that facility, they were in a special room, from which muffled, thumping music could be heard when class was in session. People emerged after class sweaty and smiling, which made me want to try it out, but I was intimidated. I was afraid it would be too intense, that I wouldn’t be able to figure out the bike, or that I would be wearing the wrong gear. I didn’t have any idea what to expect, and it was years before I actually tried out an indoor cycling class for the first time. Now here I am, instructing Monday night’s 5:30 pm cycling class at ZŪM, which is one of my very favorite things to do! I consider it part of my job to make sure that anyone who is cycling-curious feels comfortable joining in, so I’ve written answers to some commonly asked questions about indoor cycling. I invite you to try it out!
Q: I’ve heard indoor cycling classes are intense. Is it a class that’s mostly only for people who are already super fit?
A: Indoor cycling is always appropriate for beginners, for the simple reason that each cyclist is in control of their own resistance. As your instructor, I will guide you through the workout by specifying the rate of pedaling–RPM, or revolutions per minute–which you find on the bike’s computer, and the rate of perceived exertion–or how hard you feel like you’re working.
It’s your job to adjust your resistance knob until you are feeling the specified rate of exertion–and everyone will have a slightly different setting because each rider is at a different level of cardiovascular fitness. So the person next to you may have more (or less!) resistance at a cadence of 85-90 RPM than you do, but you are both experiencing the same level of exertion–breathing hard, but still able to speak, for example. Additionally, you can always modify the workout to meet your needs. This means that if you are uncomfortable with the intensity I’m calling for, or the cadence I’ve specified, you can adjust those variables throughout the class.
I also like to include sections where newer folks can take the rest they need before climbing the next hill or attacking the next sprint, while riders who don’t need a break can keep cycling at a higher intensity. This may vary from instructor to instructor, but you can always take a break if you need one, even if it’s not specified.
Q: Do I need special shorts, shoes, or other equipment?
A: All you need to participate in an indoor cycling class is regular workout clothes and sneakers. That said, padded cycling shorts go a long way toward mitigating the discomfort caused by the bike saddle. Some riders get used to the saddle after just a few classes, but others find the shorts make a huge difference in their enjoyment, so if there is one piece of special equipment I would recommend, that’s it. Wear what makes you comfortable!
Our pedals feature Look Keo cleats, or SPD cleats for you mountain bikers, so those of you with cycling shoes can use them in class. But we also have removable pedal cages that make every bike sneaker-friendly. The cages are easy to snap on and off, and I’m happy to assist if you find yourself on a bike lacking cages and you need them.
Q: What if I don’t know how to adjust the bike?
A: That’s what I’m there for! I always arrive a few minutes early, and keep an eye out for newbies in class so that I can help you set up your bike to fit your specific proportions. If I don’t approach you first–sometimes I get several new folks and am already setting someone up–give me a head’s up that you need help and I’ll make sure you’re taken care of. I will also show you how to adjust your bike yourself, but I’m always there to help if you forget. I definitely want your bike to fit properly so that you have the best possible experience!
Q: How will indoor cycling improve my overall fitness?
A: Even if cycling-specific adaptations aren’t high on your list of must-haves, each class will improve your fitness simply due to the cardiovascular challenge of the workout. You will absolutely burn calories and fat and, over time, increase the efficiency of your heart and lungs. It’s a very inclusive workout!
If you are already a cyclist, or want to train to like one, you will also gain adaptations such as building endurance for long hill climbs, increasing leg speed for sprinting, and improving your biological recovery mechanisms.
Q: What kind of music do you play during class?
A: This depends on the instructor, but I play high energy music that inspires and enhances the workout. I make a new playlist each week, and like to mix it up, drawing from hip-hop, pop, EDM, alternative, even sometimes a little grunge or metal–anything with a beat that works with what I’m asking my riders to do on the bike. Music really helps make the class, since the scenery is static, and can motivate you, the rider, to spin a little faster or make it all the way up that hill you’re climbing.
I also enjoy doing theme playlists–for example, I’ve done themes for summer, the moon/eclipse, and back-to-school. My favorite themes are silly ones like the time I did a “Rainbows and Unicorns” playlist full of upbeat, cheerful songs when we’d all had too much rainy weather. I love to make my class a fun experience, rather than just a workout, and music plays a big part of that.
Q: What should I bring to class?
A: The most important things you can bring to class are a sense of fun, and a willingness to try out a new experience! I also strongly encourage you to bring water, as cycling can be a sweaty proposition and staying hydrated will increase your comfort and enjoyment in class. Don’t forget to grab a sweat towel, as well, although we usually have them at the front of the classroom if you do.
Q: When can I try one of ZŪM’s indoor cycling classes?
A: Luckily for you, ZŪM offers indoor cycling six days a week at a variety of times. Here is the complete schedule. We hope to see you there!
Monday 5:30-6:30 pm Laurie (That’s me!)
Tuesday 12:00-1:00 pm Everett
Wednesday 6:30-7:30 am Liz
Thursday 12:00-1:00 pm Liz
Friday 12:00-1:00 pm Kym
Saturday 9:00-10:15 am Liz
Photo (left to right): Sugandha Singh, Liliana Novac, Lisa Nelson, Ramya Dasarraju, Li Chen, Nathanael Benz