How Indoor Cycling Changed My (Fitness) Life
This is an in-depth analysis on how and why I enjoy cycling, and benefits it has on the body.
My whole life I have always been a rollerblader. After my youth I never really "rode" a bike regularly. I knew how, but I almost never did. So when I thought about the possibility of trying indoor cycling as a new approach to fitness, I was pretty nervous to say the least. Before this I started taking barre classes, which helped with toning and building some much-needed muscle, but the particular classes I was in usually didn't offer me a whole lot of cardio and running. After making the decision to go for it, I tried out some free classes my local indoor cycling studio offered me. But leading up to my walking in the studio door, I couldn't help but consider. Was I going to make it? Was I going to pass out? What if I just get stuck and toppled over? Is it too intense for me as a beginner?
To not hold you in suspense for too long: yes, I did make it.
No, I did not pass out.
No, it was not too intense.
Okay. So it was a little intense, but the kind of intense where you are pushing yourself to do well, and at the same time checking with yourself to see how many miles/RPMs/power digits you are capable of doing in that moment. The instructor was encouraging, I was encouraged by just my showing up and being there, and I signed up for a membership immediately after my first class. So what happened?
I wanted to take the time to write about how and why I do cycling, relay some facts, some personal points, and just express how much I enjoy doing it. Maybe some of you are thinking about it (and usually along with those thoughts come the "eh, I don't know" thoughts), or you've never even thought about it before. Either way, this is my little testimonial. Let's talk about cycling.
I was advised to exercise more than I currently was, due to health reasons, and through one of my workout friends I heard about one particular place and thought to try cycling there. I'm so glad I did, and now I enjoy incorporating it into my weekly routine. Some personal points:
- I appreciate how I feel after.
- I get my heart rate up higher than if I just was by myself at the gym. This is great because it means you're burning more calories (and for longer), and leave feeling like you actually "worked out."
- I've made friends who cycle!
- I got my husband into it!
- The instructors are really motivating and encouraging, and it's totally okay to not push yourself to the level they're requesting. Knowing that, you feel more empowered when you do choose to push harder—because it's you making the choice to do it.
Before I started, even my husband can tell you on the day of I was so nervous. Happy to try it, but, nervous. I was concerned it would be "too much" cardio in one go, and I hadn't worked out that hard in a long time. It was like I had imagined cycling as this crazy, intense, and albeit stationary peddling machine that I was going to either pass out on, or throw up during. All those notions became dissolved when I got into the studio, had help from the instructor to attach to the bike peddles (the shoes are special and you literally "snap onto" the peddle, for obvious reasons), and just went for it. It was exhilarating.
A couple practical points: the studio I joined is not too far from home, and so getting there is easy. Which is a huge help for me. It's actually possible for me to think about going every day because it's not very far away. And if I'm running a few minutes late (which I unfortunately do unintentionally most days) it's not as bad if I lived further away. Afterwards, I generally feel energized, fit and ready to take on whatever I need to do that day. I feel "properly hungry" after, and most often specifically like eating protein or something healthy or at least filling. Cycling helps burn calories fast, tone, but also it helps me want to eat better and I drink so much more water now than I did before to rehydrate. It's almost like a cleanse.
I usually cycle for about 45-50 minutes, 2-3 times a week. Like I mentioned above, I would do it more if I could (hoping to get that unlimited membership really soon!). During the workout, in the beginning I'm usually doing well and following the goals for the set amount of time that the instructor encourages us to reach. However, towards the middle of the workout, and nearing the end I am tired and often have to ease back off the gear that you turn periodically when the instructor tells you to. But often at the very end I am willing to go all out again. There are a lot of turns on the gear during the workout and I like to use that, but mostly if I'm off the seat and stomping with the peddles to the music. Otherwise, being up there and isolating the legs and such is tough work. You feel great after, but I'm also collapsing in my seat and toweling off my forehead that won't seem to stop producing sweat. Drinking water periodically is necessary for me. I don't know how I'd make it through without it.
After hopping off the bike, I am ready to stretch, eat (as mentioned above), and also drink more water. Being with a bunch of people who just did the exact same workout you did is very inspiring and fun. There's almost an unspoken (and of course sometimes spoken) camaraderie amongst us all.
In short, I enjoy cycling, and the positive impact it has had on my health. I know I mentioned in the title how cycling changed my fitness life, and mostly what I want to say about that is the following: aside from the above-mentioned items of drinking water more and the want to eat healthier, as well as the actual exercise itself, it is the endurance I have gained in a fairly short amount of time. Definitely, there are days where you just don't ride as well due to lack of sleep the night before, or it's just a more exhausting day. But the overall progress is honestly encouraging. Within just 20 visits, I have been able to keep up with others more and more, one time getting 3rd place in the class. There might be some that are seasoned veterans, some who are just starting and have to take frequent breaks, and some in-between, but ultimately everyone is challenged and we all start and finish together.