Indoor Cycling FAQ: A Beginners Guide on the Saddle

I'm always happy to share my fitness journey with the people around me. The last time I wrote a beginners FAQ was for pole, and now since a lot of you have been asking me about indoor cycling, here it is!

I currently teach classes my home studio, Ride Revolution. A few months back it would be unfathomable to imagine myself being on that podium playing songs by Zedd, The Chainsmokers, or Empire of the Sun (I still play a lot of rock tbh). But of course, life has many curve-balls, and you either rise up to the occasion, or surrender in defeat. How I got here was due to a series of life events, self assessment, and my search for personal growth. All of that however, is for a different story.

I write this post for the first timer. For the one who has never tried indoor cycling before. The one who is currently doing her research to see if this is the right fitness activity she should take to prep for the summer (btw, you already look good in that bikini, sexy is a state of mind. You don't need a gym for that). Or if you're just looking to try it out. If you're reading this post, then YES! This post is for you. I am here to shed some (neon) light on what happens on the first day of class. Here's what to expect, and my answers to the frequently asked questions I usually get. 

Photo by Tarish Zamora

Photo by Tarish Zamora

Q: Is the class difficult?
A: Well, that depends on you, and how hard you push yourself on the bike. It can be as difficult or as easy as you want it to be. Your instructor will always try to challenge you. That is her / his job on the podium. S/he will be giving clear instructions throughout the 50 minutes you have together. For a more challenging class, you can add more resistance, lift heavier weights, sprint faster than s/he goes OR you can take it a notch lower. Remember all of the moves you do on the bike standing up, can be done while on the saddle. No one is ever going to get mad because you sat down, or got tired. At the end of the day, it's all about listening to your body. After all, it's your workout and no one else knows how you're feeling more than you do. 

Q: I am a beginner. Is this class for me?
A: Everyone starts out as a beginner. Even the most experienced athlete once walked into a gym, not knowing what to expect, asking herself the same questions you're asking yourself right now. My advice is to just go for it. All you've got to do is to take that first step and the rest will follow. As instructors, trust that we love seeing new faces in class and we'd be more than happy to address any questions you have. Approach your instructor or anyone in the studio if you have specific concerns, we're all here to help. As for whether or not this is the right fitness activity for you, that's up to you to decide. I would personally consider the following standards when deciding on a gym or studio: (1) Is it accessible. Chose a facility that is either near your house, or near your workplace. The easier it is to get to, the higher the chance you'll come back. (2) Is it something you like. Life is too short to do something you don't enjoy. If you like dancing, cardio, and your occasional rock anthem, you are probably going to like this class. But of course you will never know until you try. So take a class and see for yourself. (3) Is it within your budget. Know your options, and then decide. But don't forget that your personal fitness is your biggest investment. What use are the things around you, if your body is unable to enjoy its benefits. Invest in yourself and in a good studio. 

Q: What should I bring to class?
A: A bottle of water, a towel (some studios provide towels for their students), an open mind and an open heart. As for shoes, that depends on the type of bike your studio has. Most indoor cycling studios have custom shoes that are specifically built for the bike. In which case, there is no need to bring your own. 

Q: I'm a middle aged wo/man with no fitness background whatsoever. Can I take the class?
A: Yes! Indoor cycling is open to everyone regardless of age or fitness background. But of course if you've suffered from a previous medical condition, or if you know of any reason that might make this type of physical activity a danger to your health, it is always better to ask your doctor first before taking your first class. If you just came from surgery, or just gave birth, it is best to seek medical clearance before working out at any gym. 

Q: I'm shy and everyone is in a sports bra. Can I wear a shirt?
A: Girl, you can wear a ball gown. Wear whatever you are comfortable moving in. My personal picks would be leggings and a sports top. Wearing the perfect fitness #ootd is sure to give you a boost in self esteem. Also, a new excuse to shop. 

Q: Is there any risk of injury?
A: Like any sport or physical activity, of course there are risks. None of which are exclusively linked to indoor cycling. Even as simple as walking on the street has its dangers, so there is no use saying that there is zero possibility of injury in any fitness facility. Conversely, it is safe to say that you are not bound to get injured after taking just one class. Listening to your body is key. Sit down if it's too much for you. Hydrate at all times, you'll be sweating a lot, make sure you have a water bottle ready to replenish lost body fluids. If anything hurts, stop. Asses the situation if there is any reason that you should discontinue the class. If you need help, call the attention of your instructor. Trust that s/he wants you to have the best experience possible, and will readily give help to anyone in the class that needs it.    

Q: How do I know if I'm over exerting myself?
A: Most beginners will not know if they're pushing their body too hard. An easy test which also applies to other sports, is to asses your ability to talk. One of the easy signs to spot if a person is overexerting during a workout is that if s/he can respond to the instructor when asked a question, or when engaged in a conversation. This is why during the class your instructor will repeatedly ask the the sweaty pumped room questions like "Are you still with me?", or "Are you guys okay?". Take this as a signal to check yourself. Shout back a resounding "YES!" it helps you asses where you are in the workout, and at the same time adds up to the building energy in the room, which is always a good thing. Other signs involve your breathing, you should still be able to breathe through your nose during a workout. If you catch yourself panting, or just breathing through your mouth, take it back a notch. I know we can all get too excited at the height of class, but there's no shame in scaling down if you feel that it's too much for your body. The most important rule of all is to NEVER compare yourself to anyone in the room. So what if the person beside you is faster than you, or lifting heavier weights, or even cheering louder. Remember this is YOUR ride. You compete with no one else except that person you see in front of you in the mirror. Ride at your own pace, after all, fun is the heart of indoor cycling. So let's keep it fun!

Q: What should I expect the day after?
A: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or more popularly known in the gym world as DOMS, is one of the common things to expect after a tough workout. This is characterized by soreness in the muscles that were used during the activity. In this case, DOMS will most likely be felt in the legs (more specifically the quads and the hamstrings), the glutes, and for some students, the arms (biceps and triceps). Some would usually feel DOMS the day after the workout, others however experience this two or three days after depending on your body. The soreness eventually goes away given proper recovery and hydration. Just in case you were wondering, my go to post workout drink is chocolate milk. :)
Lastly, remember that we are all in this fitness journey together. Let us seek to spread love and inspire each other through movement. I hope this article helped answer a few of your questions. Now what are you waiting for? Book a class and get on that bike now!