Group cycling, or indoor cycling, is one of the most popular instructor-led activities at Kelsey Kerridge. And with very good reason.
Group cycling provides a great workout for heart and lungs
The intensive activity offers all sorts of health benefits. Firstly there is the cardiovascular aspect of the group cycling class. Working in nothing less than medium intensity and usually ramped up to near maximum, your heart and lungs are getting a fantastic workout.
Then there is the toning aspect. You are driving your legs by using your major leg muscles and gluteals. A few weeks of spinning will see your thighs and calves looking toned and lean.
Funky classes, great sounds
One of the best things about our group cycling classes is the quality of the instructors. Using bang up to date music, they keep you motivated from the first minute. Our instructors know when to urge you to work harder. And when you have reached the point where you just can’t give anymore.
Socially, a group cycling class is a great place to meet people. You are in a roomful of like-minded people. There is a camaraderie and feeling of ‘all being in it together’. After a few weeks, you will find you are chatting happily before and after the class with your fellow cyclists.
There is also the fact that spinning is low impact. This means it is a good form of exercise for people recovering from many types of injury. It is also suitable for people who suffer from chronic pain brought on by years of contact sports or running.
An activity for everyone
The beauty of a group cycling class is that people of any ability can do the exercise in the same room. The fact you can choose your intensity means everyone gets an effective workout. An Olympic cyclist could be in the same room as a beginner cyclist. Both will emerge hot, sweaty and with aching quads.
This is because the bikes have resistance dials. This means a stronger cyclist can turn the dial right up to the max while a beginner can be a little more restrained. No-one gets left behind and no-one gets frustrated.
Good for the competitive cyclist
One question that is often asked is whether indoor cycling will help with cycling outdoors. The simple answer is ‘yes’. Many serious cyclists use indoor classes to complement their outdoor cycle training, particularly in the winter months when it is dark outside.
While the group cycling classes don’t replicate cycling completely, there is absolutely everything to be gained from working the leg muscles that you use when cycling outdoors.
Dr Frances Mikuriya teaches spin at a gym in Kensington and, in an interview with Cycling Weekly, she said: “I have a lot of cyclists who come to train with us here. They realise it’s very different. It’s a very intense session, in one hour you can burn 800 to 1000 calories. Also I do pretty much all the work off the saddle. That’s very different to being outdoors, but dedicated bike riders – for whom cycling is their key sport – feel the benefits.
“One guy I train rides with a team, and he used to always be the weakest on the climbs. After using these sessions, he’s found he can now catch up with the team because his core got so much stronger – by which I mean mid thigh up, the glutes, the obliques. A lot of people don’t use those muscles. If you do it’ll make you faster on the hills and protect your back from injury.”
Mix it up to keep the balance
It is worth stressing that, while indoor cycling is brilliant for cardiovascular fitness, it is important to mix things up and incorporate a range of fitness activities into your weekly routine. If the bug catches you and you find yourself doing three classes a week, then you will soon find your hip flexors start to complain. There is also the danger of neglecting the muscles of your upper body.
Add weights, a circuit and/or yoga to your weekly schedule and make sure you really stretch out through the shoulders, which can become very hunched up if you spend a lot of time in the saddle.
For competitive cyclists, indoor workouts should not be seen as a replacement for outdoor cycling but rather as a complementary session. For everyone else, it is a fun and intensive route to high levels of cardio vascular fitness.