Indoor cycling programs were originally designed to prepare participants for the outdoor season. Over the past 25 years, group indoor cycling classes have risen in popularity and in many cases are the only exposure to the sport of cycling.
Indoor cycling has become synonymous with the trademarked term “spinning.” The stationary bicycles used are fully adjustable and have a weighted flywheel that provides increasing momentum with each rotation. A key element to each workout is the ability to rapidly change the resistance necessary to drive the flywheel.
Different muscles are exercised based on whether the rider is sitting or standing and the position of the hands. Varying the pedaling cadence will also alter the work out.
Classes generally last one hour and the person leading the group will design a workout that is accompanied by high-energy music. A grimacing facial expression is typical of participants, based on the grueling nature of these workouts.
“Indoor cycling workouts are more difficult because the rider must use different muscles to control the momentum of the flywheel. As opposed to traditional cycling, there is no way to coast,” said Marc Nee, a personal trainer and owner of “Training with Heart.”
Lisa Weir, a spinning instructor at World Gym in Norwich, has been teaching spinning for two years. She previously taught aerobics and step classes. “The biggest advantage to spinning is the outstanding cardiovascular workout along with strengthening core muscles,” said Weir.
After researching this column, the temptation of personally experiencing one of these sessions was too great. I invited my friend, former professional baseball player and talk show host, Lee Elci, to join me in this challenge. We decided to attend a class at the Fitness Club in Old Saybrook.
At the end of the one-hour session both Lee and I, who work out regularly, clearly understood why these classes are so challenging. “I was most impressed by the rapid pace, allowing my heart rate to remain elevated throughout the class,” said Elci.
Overall, indoor cycling classes are a great way to get in shape for summer cycling or simply to improve aerobic fitness. The camaraderie of a class lead by a good instructor makes the experience worthwhile and enjoyable.