Indoor Group Cycling

Insider Info

You're in a room with 20 other people. The lights are dim. You hear a whirring sound and loud music. At the front of the room, a person wearing a headset microphone barks out orders. Sweat rolls down your body and your muscles ache. This is indoor group cycling.

Indoor cycling is a group exercise taught on specially designed bikes by qualified instructors. These bikes are meant to feel like a road bike, not the normal stationary bike.

According to the American Sports Data Health Club Trend report, some 1.9 million people participated in indoor group cycling in U.S. clubs in 2002. That was up from 1.1 million in 1998.

Both elite athletes and the average gym member take classes. So what's the attraction?

"Cycling is so popular because it is easy to do," says Debra Basch. She works for a fitness center. "These classes are perfect for the dance-challenged fitness enthusiast looking for a fun, intense and safe workout."

"It's a non-competitive, energizing, fun class that anyone can do," says Erika Bruhn. She works with an indoor group cycling organization. "The challenge is individual and the program delivers incredible results."

And of course, timing was everything.

"The industry needed something new and exciting," says fitness worker Maureen Wilson. "The idea of a choreographed class was scaring some people away from the gym. Now, clubs can draw a whole new crowd."

That crowd includes serious fitness buffs as well as newcomers. While certain range-of-movement abilities are required (think of riding a bike), people of any fitness level can participate if they find a properly qualified instructor.

"A good instructor will always offer options for those less fit or not yet comfortable with the equipment," says Basch. "Modifications to equipment can be made for those with knee or lower back issues."

The benefits of this form of exercise are many. It is a very efficient aerobic activity that burns many calories. At the same time, your risk of injury should be minimal, since it is non-impact and you work at your own level or pace.

As part of an energetic group, you get to draw motivation from both your instructor and other participants. And you don't have to learn any fancy choreography.

Getting Started

Most gyms in your area probably offer some sort of indoor group cycling program. Some gyms charge extra for these classes, even if you're a member.

Beginners can go to any class, but should arrive early and tell the instructor that it's their first time. The instructor should then make sure that your bike is set up properly for you and go over safety guidelines. This includes making sure that you know how the braking system works.

Your instructor should also have alternative beginner movements. You shouldn't be doing the same thing as someone who has been at it for a year. A good instructor is one who is always available to you during your ride.

"The fundamental premise of [group cycling] is that all participants have a fun, safe and enjoyable ride," says Bruhn. "It is the primary responsibility of all instructors to ensure the safety of all participants. They do this through expert coaching and heart rate monitoring to monitor intensity."

You can also cycle at home. The specially designed bikes are available. But you should know that a lot of the benefits of this program are found in the group atmosphere and the motivation of a good leader.

Find a qualified instructor, get to know the equipment, work at your own pace and don't overdo it. And don't forget your water bottle. You'll need water before, during and after one of these sessions!

If you really like your new activity, you might consider becoming an instructor yourself. Gyms both large and small are looking for contract, part-time and full-time instructors.

Whether you take up this activity to lose some weight, enhance your fitness or find a job, there is some general advice to follow.

"Group cycling may not be for everyone, but if you're uncertain after your first ride, perhaps a second try may persuade you to join the cycling craze," says Basch. "Try different instructors and different times of the day."


The trademarked system of indoor group cycling

A Guide to Indoor Group Cycling
A beginner's guide to this popular activity

Guide to Indoor Group Cycling
Learn how to make sure the bike will work for you

Spin City
Read about some of the health benefits

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