The indoor cycling conundrum (or aka… the way indoor cycling should really be)

Let’s talk cycling for a minute.

First of all…what do you think of when you hear the word cycling? I’ll let you think about that as I begin.

Recently one of my good friends has started to take up indoor cycling and I have been venturing out with her to several different indoor cycling studios. Which is how I’ve found myself caught in a bit of cycling conundrum.

This conundrum has to do with the concept of cycling (where an individual sits on a bike and moves the pedals to get him/herself from one place to another, either for sport or leisure) vs. indoor cycling (where an individual sits on a bike and does a bunch of upper body movements in coordination with their lower body in an effort to… burn calories?)

I wouldn’t call myself an expert cyclist but I feel I know a little on the subject. I do know how to ride a bike, after all,  and I have done it in a variety of ways ranging from downhill mountain biking, to urban commuting, to a casual ride around Brooklyn on a sunny Sunday.

I also happen to be a certified indoor cycling instructor, a personal trainer… and someone with a general appreciation for bio mechanics and proper form. It is with this experience that I am sometimes quite perplexed by so many indoor cycling classes that I have taken.

First and foremost… I like classes. Of all kinds. Dance, cycling, kickboxing, even acro-yoga-pole-core fusion-trampoline, or whatever trendy thing is going on at the moment. I enjoy taking them and I encourage others to take them as well. If a group fitness class is motivating people to move, to be active and to do something good for themselves, than I am all about that! Especially if I get to listen to fun music and get a good sweat on. That being said, I am also very much about a purposeful workout. If something in a class incorporates improper form, poor methods, or is just a “time filler”, I am not about that.

So when I am in an indoor cycling class and I am being instructed to perform exercises that make me look more like the unicyclist in a circus act, where I am juggling 2 pound weights and contorting my body to all sorts of positions that don’t seem comfortable for me to be riding in, I begin to start questioning many things.  Why are we doing this?  Who is the target audience? and What is the point?

I often wonder what if a cyclist, say for example Greg Lemond, took this class, what would he think? Would he walk away from that class feeling that they insulted his sport with all of these gimmicks? Or would he even feel that it was a valuable use of his training time?

I know that professional athletes are more than likely, not going to be in class with you, but whether you yourself are an cyclist looking to use an indoor class as a way to train, or you are just a weekend warrior trying to get your fitness on, wouldn’t you like to know that you are doing it in the best way possible and getting the most optimal energy expenditure that you can?

I understand that the more dance type spin classes might seem more entertaining, with the special effect lighting and occasionally  even live DJs. And I realize it might seem appealing to multitask and get your arm workout in with your “leg” and cardio workout, because you feel like those 2 pound weights really are somehow magically “toning” your arms. But here is my two cents, if you like to dance you might consider… taking a dance class. And if you really want to see results in your arms try picking up some heavier weights and doing 3 sets of 10 reps, rather than 7 minutes straight of bicep curls and triceps kick backs. Just to give you something to think about, that song that you usually pedal slowly to ( essentially sit out)  while you are doing your arm exercises could have been an extra 100-200 calories you burn off!

Not that burning calories is everything,  but if you are taking a class for the aerobic advantages it might be good to use the whole 45 minutes of the class the best that you can. And that goes the same for form. If  when you are on the bike you feel awkward, and you don’t feel like your body should be in a certain position, it probably shouldn’t.

So if you are an avid indoor cyclist who goes everyday or even if you are a newbie who has been thinking about taking a class for the first time, I encourage you now to be a bit more mindful about the workout that you are doing the next time you get up on that saddle. I believe you can still get great results, have fun, and have a great workout all while doing something the correct way, and hopefully learning something more about the sport of cycling in the process.


And don’t just take my word for it.

Check out what Jennifer Sage, founder of the Indoor Cycling Association has to say in her blog ( ) and in her book Keep It Real In Your Indoor Cycling Class


Move Better. Live More.