Part 1: The REAL skinny on burning Calories in your indoor cycling classes!

As indoor cycling coaches in the fitness field, we have a responsibility to our students to give them the TRUTH, don’t you agree? Unfortunately, it’s not as common as it should be. The biggest culprit? Claims of calories burned in indoor cycling (or many other) classes. Listen as I interview Danielle Foster, Master Trainer for CycleOps and expert on teaching with power. Danielle and I discuss where caloric expenditure actually comes from and what numbers are really the truth when it comes to how many calories are possible to burn in your classes. This is part 1 of our discussion; Part 2 will be for ICA members only.

Just because you choose to ignore the facts, doesn’t mean they cease to exist.

This should be emblazoned on every instructors brain. It should be a part an oath that instructors and personal trainers take, similar to the Hippocratic Oath that doctors promise to adhere to when they become medical doctors.

Truth in the fitness industry has taken some serious hits in the past decade, and it’s getting worse and worse. Promises for how many calories you might burn in is probably the biggest culprit. Claims for numbers for calories burned in all sorts of fitness classes, especially Spinning/Indoor Cycling, seems to be growing and growing. Do you actually think THIS instructor can make you burn more calories than THAT instructor, or that THIS program will burn more than THAT program? Remember the claim that The Biggest Loser made, or that was recently made on Good Morning America about “Spinning” classes.

Where do they get their figures from? Just today in checkout at the grocery store I saw no less than three magazines (“fitness” and women’s magazines) had headlines that screamed about “Zapping 700 calories in one hour” or “Torch more calories” by doing this one trick. And a cursory glance through these magazines showed no supercharged workout that could possibly burn as many as they claim…that is, IF you knew the truth about how many calories are even possible to burn doing what they claim

The public is getting fleeced. They now have such unrealistic expectations of how many calories that they can potentially “torch” in one hour, that they are most likely way overcompensating afterwards at their local Starbucks with a Venti Machiato at 800+ calories, way overtaking the number they “truly” burned in their supposedly supercharged workout. Their caloric balance is so out of whack, there’s no way they can burn off what they’ve consumed.

No wonder so few people actually see results. They’ve been lied to for so long!

I decided to bring in the purveyors of Fitness Truth. CycleOps has power meters on their bikes that measure the actual (as in “real”) kilojoules that you produce while pedaling. Kjoules is a measure of WORK. Danielle Foster is one of the Master Trainers for the CycleOps program and is an expert of teaching with power. She was also a teammate of mine on the Master Instructor team with the Spinning program for 10 years, before she left to work with CycleOps in 2007.

Listen as Danielle and I discuss where actual kcals come from, and how many kjoules you might TRULY burn in a challenging indoor cycling class. It’s a lot less than is being promised in the media and by many instructors. I hate to be the bearer of what you might consider to be bad news… but my suggestion is not to look at it as “bad news”; rather, look at it at good news. It is being hones with yourself and with your students!

When you know the truth, you can structure your workouts accordingly, and use better discretion when consuming that post workout “celebratory” meal or Starbucks drink!

Part 2 is the continuation of our discussion accessible by ICA Members and is available here:
Click here to continue to listen to the rest of the discussion…


  1. I need to post this for my class to listen to. great new tips and tricks for me in my cueing and explanation. great segway to encouraging and explaining the use of, value in and body effect from recognizing and working in/with power. I like the threshold test explanation for our general group fitness participants. very informative
    Here’s a question….how the heck do you find these quality fitness clubs where instructors like you are directing and teaching quality programs?
    thank you jennifer and danielle. I’m a better instructor for this.

  2. Hey great start to the interview – looking forward to part 2.. I have to educate members all the time about unrealistic calorie burn expectations. One club I teach at promotes 1000 calories in 1 hour, and even a company I work for advertise 550 in 30 mins. Different bike and concept, but I tried to explain to the marketing team do you know how hard you have to work to burn 550 calories in 30 mins, but the ladies who’s massacre never runs see’s the poster and believes so she comes into the class and pedals away and as Danielle rightly says probably burning 200kcal – 300kcal – (massacre not running below 200kcal) and walks out with the knowledge she has burnt 350kcal more – boom room for some cake with her skinny latte. Well done for focusing on power and what a great idea and concept for measuring power threshold every month so members can visually see results being achieved on the bike. The last point Jennifer is so true so many programs compare what pro athletes are doing and then base their programs or marketing around that, Pro RPM, Pro Wattage output, Pro calorie burn, but Mrs Smith is no Pro so if you are trying to compare her to a Pro you are just constantly setting her up to fail rather than rewarding her victories. Thanks Part II here I come….

  3. Jennifer, I would like your listeners to know they can easily access much of what we discussed by going to Once there, check out the Training Resources, Power Glossary, Power Tests… I send my students to FAQ page when they have questions about Joule. All product manuals, as well as instructional videos are on the site. FREE.
    Danielle Foster

  4. Great lyrics & beat – ready for a push!

  5. Thank you, Jennifer and Danielle. This was SO great–can’t wait for Part 2. The more I understand, the better I can explain it to my students and dispel the myths. Knowledge is power!

    Jennifer, here’s another example of how to pronounce Cuyahoga (I grew up near where Danielle is based!).

    He doesn’t sing the word until almost 2 minutes in, so you might want to skip ahead. Love this song.

    Thanks again!

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