Everywhere you turn you see yet another online article with a LIST of what to expect in an indoor cycling class. Chris Jordan, indoor cycling instructor and blogger at Spinningfreak, has taken the latest silly online list and fixed it with "beefier" and more legitimate responses that make more sense, while also adding a touch of humor.
The original article tried to be clever and answer all 32 (well, they claimed there were 33) questions in five words or less.
Below is Chris' blog in full, reprinted with permission (edited for clarity). You can see his original post and follow his blog here. He begins with a clever correlation to the Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" advertising campaign back in the 1980s, which highlighted competing brands' lack of quality.
33 Indoor Cycling Questions Answered—REAL Answers!
By Chris Jordan
I remember when the now iconic Wendy's commercial "Where's the Beef?" first was aired. These three simple words made my father chuckle so hard. I loved the commercial—not because I thought it was particularly funny or clever—but for the automatic reaction my dad had from it. The marketing concept was brilliant in its simplicity—point out that your competition sucks because they're not really delivering on what is ordered.
Which brings me to an "article" that has recently been floating around the social media sites titled, "33 Indoor Cycling Class Questions—Answered in 5 Words or Less." They did answer their 32 (yes, I said 32, not 33) questions in five words, but the result may leave you hungry for more information.
Yes, I understand that they thought they were being clever with the "five words or less" answers, but sometimes a little information is more dangerous than none at all. Let's dig into their questions and provide you some "beefy" answers, and while I'll be brief, I won't hold myself to that five-useless-words-or-less standard.
- What is "Spinning®"
Spinning is the original indoor cycling program, and yes it's trademarked by Mad Dogg Athletics. To be a Spinning facility all the bikes have to be Spinner brands and all the instructors have to get and maintain the appropriate certification.
- What's the difference between Spinning and indoor cycling?
Spinning is a brand of indoor cycling. There are also many other reputable brands that certify instructors and provide auxiliary support with education and marketing materials.
Likewise, there are several indoor cycling programs that have none of this backing. Think of the brands like a Wendy's or McDonald's, big multi-location access to the same program, while all the unbranded stuff is like a one-off burger joint, we'll call Bob's Burgers or Jim's Burgers. Bob may make a damn good burger while Jim's Burgers might make you wonder if it's actually meat. The program, the education, the certification assures you a certain level of consistency.
- Is it hard?
It's exercise and it's meant to make you more fit. You could go to class and not put on any resistance and when you leave you'll say, "Heck that was an easy class," and while you'd be right, you're also going to get the results that you've earned.
- What makes it such a good workout?
It's a low-impact (not hard on your joints) cardio workout. The group environment can present a fun and challenging workout. Additionally, you have control of your resistance so you can establish how hard you work, independent of everyone else.
- What makes indoor cycling fun?
The music helps, but your attitude is the single most important factor. Come to class with a crappy attitude and you'll have a crappy workout. If you can bring the positive attitude you'll soon be flushed with the endorphins of a great cardio workout. Presto! Fun!
- How long is a class?
Anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes generally.
- Will I lose weight?
You should, but you can't outwork your diet. Often, people think they've burned way more calories than they actually do and then overeat. Women generally burn 400–650 calories, and men usually 500–850 calories per 60-minute class. So, if you justify your nightly pint of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food because you took a Spinning class, you're gonna be disappointed (there are four servings in that pint).
- What should I eat or drink after class?
Water. You're most certainly dehydrated. Many will swear by chocolate milk but remember you're drinking in the calories. As far as eating, if you want to lose weight make sure you don't increase your calorie intake simply as the result of taking a class.
- How many calories will I burn in a typical indoor cycling class?
Look at answer #7
- Will I gain muscle?
You'll have the exact same number of muscles as when you started, but with consistency and a good diet, those muscles will change to leaner, stronger muscles, especially in the legs. IT WILL NOT MAKE YOUR LEGS BIG. This is not a body-building type of exercise where you'll get bulging quads, but instead, everything will tone and shape. And no, it's not total-body, you'll need to find other classes, routines or exercises to work on your core and upper body.
- Will I be sore?
Any new exercise routine will make you a little sore. I always encourage new participants to take a cold shower on their lower half to help alleviate the microtrauma to your muscles that will show up the next day as muscle soreness.
- Do you get breaks?
It depends on the ride profile, there might be active recovery portions, but other than that you get one AFTER class.
- What if I'm hitting a wall?
Move to a different bike or move your bike away from the wall. If you're tired during class, and simply need a break, lighten up the resistance and pedal lightly around 80 rpm until you're ready to rejoin the class. Don't simply stop; it makes it hard to restart, and causes a negative cardio reaction of cooling down.
- Is it endurance or muscle training?
I don't know who would ask this question. It's cardio exercise that can take you from a low Zone 2 to a high Zone 5 intensity. And yes, you'll be using your muscles during class.
- Wait...so you use weights on the bike?
Do you remember question #2 where I explained the differences between branded and non-branded programs? None of the credible indoor cycling programs use weights. There are some "franchised groups" that do, but they are self-certified and not recognized by their peers in the industry. Save the weights for off the bike so you don't get hurt.
- What does "in the saddle" mean?
The saddle refers to the bike seat; "in the saddle" means while you're seated.
- And "out of the saddle"?
As you can probably figure out, it means in a standing position.
- What should I wear?
Whatever makes you feel comfortable. I have two suggestions: avoid long pant legs so as to avoid getting wrapped up in the pedal. The second is to wear good workout shoes; when you're standing on the bike pedals you'll want extra support for your foot.
- What if I don't know how to set up my bike?
Ask the instructor to set you up the first time making sure that they confirm that you maintain the proper leg angles so you don't damage your knee. If the instructor can't or won't show you how to set your bike, LEAVE. Notify the gym manager, and if they don't respond properly, move to a better gym.
- How do you do push-ups and squats on the bike?
You don't, or at least you shouldn't. That's like asking how do you take a bath in your washing machine. It's not the right place or tool for those exercises.
- How long does it take to get the hang of it?
I generally tell participants you can love it the first time, but give it three tries before you decide it's not the exercise for you. It's not for everyone, that's why we offer other classes.
- What's with all the shouting?
That means the microphone isn't working. Trust me, I don't like yelling—it makes me have to work too hard to pedal and yell at the same time.
- How do you ride as a class?
Follow what the instructor is leading you with. If it hurts, don't do it and advise the instructor. If you need a break, take one and rejoin the class when you're ready. Just stay on the bike pedaling with a light resistance.
- But isn't indoor cycling more of an individual workout?
It's an individualized effort in a group setting.
- How do I know which instructor is right for me?
Talk with them and you'll learn what their level of knowledge and experience is. Then it's down to personality style and music preference.
- How can I track my workouts?
Get yourself a heart rate monitor or a fitness tracker. I recommend heart rate monitors with a chest strap as they're the most accurate, but even a high-end Fitbit will give you some information.
- Do I need special shoes?
Nope. Running shoes or cross-trainers work fine, but if you decide you're going to stay with it I'd encourage you to get a pair of cycling shoes unless your studio has them to borrow/rent. You'll get a better work out with the cycling shoes as they'll let you use more of the pedal stroke. You're not just pushing the pedal down, now you're pulling it up as well.
- What muscles are you training?
Legs and glutes specifically. You'll utilize your core and lower back for support and stabilization but you're not targeting these during a cycling workout.
- What's question #29?
The original article actually skipped #29 in their list; I didn't.
- Is injury common?
Cycling is a low impact activity, so it shouldn't be abusing your joints. However, there are some intervals that are harder efforts (sprints, Tabata, etc.) that can push your cardiovascular limits. There are also some bike positions and techniques that are more prone to injury and should be avoided (e.g., contraindicated techniques like tap-backs, hovers, push-ups, squats, out-of-control high-cadences, etc).
- Should I stretch afterward?
Absolutely. It will help prevent soreness.
- Aren't there cheaper forms of effective exercise?
Sure, you can do push-ups, planks, running, etc. at home without paying for a monthly gym membership. Doesn't get any cheaper than that; but if the group setting motivates you to keep going, then invest in yourself and reap the rewards.
- Is indoor cycling worth the splurge?
That question is up to you to answer.