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Let's Ride! First Time Indoor Cycling Tips

New year, new workout!

Whether it's your resolution or not, cycling is an incredible cardiovascular workout. Because of the lower-impact on the joints, you have a lower perceived rate of exertion. Meaning you can trick your body into working harder for longer, and burn more calories!

If you've never cycled before, here's my glo-guide to have the most successful ride!

Arrive Early + Set Up Your Bike

Unlike classes without equipment, you can't sneak in early and get to work. A properly set up bike makes all the difference. Arriving early will allow you to get checked in and ask the instructor to help you. If you don't get a chance to talk to the instructor, here's a quick video on how to set up your bike in 3 easy steps!

Now I'm not saying the bike will be lazy-boy comfortable, but bike set up can help minimize pressure on your seat and prevent more serious injuries in the future. (Check out other cycling class tips from CycleOm)

Bring water and a towel! The studio might have these but you don't want to risk it. This is serious cardio. You WILL sweat.

If loud music bothers you, consider ear plugs. Some studios offer these at the front desk. Part of the appear of indoor riding is the ability to pair a ride with music and coaching for motivation. Things might get loud. Don't let this stop you from having an awesome ride.

Cycling Class Terms

Like any class or culture, cyclist have their own lingo. Here are some things you might hear:

  • Resistance - Gear: This is your best frenemy. It's usually a knob on the bike that you increase to make it harder to turn the pedals. Trust me, it's a good thing. If you do not have enough resistance on you 1) won't get any work done 2) will end up putting more pressure on your bum as you "bounce" in the saddle and have a really miserable time sitting down later. How do you know if you have the right amount? Listen to the instructors queues on what the ride should feel like. If you are bouncing in the saddle or if your toes can easily point down as you turn the pedals, turn it up!

  • Cadence - Pedal Stroke - Tempo: How fast you are turning the pedals. If you are musically inclined, pedal strokes are usually on the beat of the music. If not, just watch the instructor and try to match their feet.

  • Hills: Spoiler alert, you are not really going uphill. The instructor means the work you are doing should feel steeper than if you were on a flat road. The cadence is usually slower (that means more gear).

  • Sprint: Exactly what it sounds like! Remember, if your legs start flying in circles like a cartoon character, you had better have a respectable amount of gear on. Moving your legs quickly does absolutely nothing and hurts the heck our of your groin. Add enough gear so that the work feels hard and you lose your breath after 20-40 seconds.

  • Standing - Out of the Saddle: Standing up up out of the seat. If you are relying on your hands to support you, you need more gear. You should be able to balance without your hands for a second or two.

  • Jumps: Standing and sitting repeatedly.

  • Choreography - Push Ups: Some sort of movement pattern with the upper body.

If you're new to class, only do what you are comfortable doing. Pushing yourself into an unfamiliar movement pattern could lead to injury. Start small and build up. Ask the instructor if you have any questions after class.

To Shoe or Not to Shoe?

A good pair of cycling shoes costs about the same as a pair of tennis shoes. If you are considering taking classes regularly, I highly recommend this investment. The magic of the shoe isn't the clip (or the attitude that comes with having the shoes), it's the fact that the surface of the shoes is hard and doesn't bend. When you're shoes bend, you are only using half of your foot to turn the pedal (imagine pushing a box across the floor with only your finger vs your whole hand). It helps to have more surface area to push. Here is some shoe lingo you may hear:

  • Cleats: This is the hook on the bottom of the shoe that attaches to the bike. There are 2 types or cleats, or "clips", Delta Look cleats and SPD cleats. Call your studio ahead of time to see which ones their bikes accommodate. I would recommend going to a bike shop to have them place the cleats the first time. They are easily adjusted with an allen wrench.

  • Float: When you clip into the bike, you may think that your foot will be permanently stuck. In fact, you're foot is able to wiggle around on the pedals just a little. This is called float; it allows the ball of your foot to move and rotate with pedal turn. Don't worry, you won't fall out of the clip without serious force.

  • Recessed Shoes: This means the cleat is recessed inside of the shoe. If it's exposed, you kind of have to walk on your heels and tap dance around.

If you don't buy cycling shoes, no problem at all. Call the studio to make sure they has cages (to slide your shoe into) or some studios require you to rent shoes if you do not have your own. If you can wear tennis shoes, choose a shoe that has a more sturdy sole. Minimalist shoes are not your friend here.

One of the most challenging part of new cycling shoes is clipping into your pedals. Do this at least a dozen times, in and out, to get the hang of it. To clip in, I recommend hooking your toe in and then wiggle-jamming your foot down. To clip out, make sure the bike is at a stop, and gently turn your foot inward to until the clip twists out.

Indoor cycling is an amazing way to get your glow on! Will I see you in class?

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