Recently I had a chance to check out a brand-new cycling studio in my neighborhood, BYKLYN Cycle, and I used the opportunity to chat up a first-time group cycling participant named Cherish. Cherish confided to me that she was a little apprehensive about taking her first class as it might aggravate her exercise-induced asthma: “I hear it (group cycling) is very intense so hopefully I can keep up!”
After years of folks posting on Twitter and Facebook about the butt-kicking Soul Cycle and cyle-fusion classes that leave them dripping in sweat and with legs feeling totally like jelly, it’s no wonder that indoor cycling has a pretty intimidating reputation.
When I tell people that I teach anywhere between six and eight indoor classes per week, many say, “Oh my! I hear cycling is the most difficult class to take!” I make a point of reassuring them that not only is it a manageable class for just about every level of fitness but it’s also a ton of fun — pinky swear!
My best advice for a newbie is to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early and let the instructor and classmates know this is your first class. Group cycling is a convivial environment, so don’t feel as if you will be alone on the room. You’ll be surrounded by a bunch of sweaty new friends!
Here are some additional tips from top experts in the field to ensure your first ride is both safe and gets a good, healthy sweat going.
Kat Piola, Instructor at BYKLYN
Your instructor should make sure to introduce themselves and ask if anyone in the class is new to cycling, but just in case yours doesn’t, speak up! Let them know you need help with the bike set-up and ask how the class will proceed to ensure you start off on the right foot. The height of the seat and the distance between the seat and handlebar is so important (and different for everyone) that you shouldn’t try to attempt your own set-up the first time you try the class.
Krista Popowych, Indoor Cycling Master Instructor at Keiser Cycling
I noticed that women ride differently than men in the saddle so I tell them they need to make sure their sit bones are on top of the widest part of the seat. In short — sit with your hips back along with a neutral spine and pelvis to maintain a “bounce-free” ride. The less you bounce in your seat the less pain you will feel pain in your seat later.
Andrew Kalley, Level 2 Triathlon Coach and Master Trainer at The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers
Remember to bring a bottle of water with you (just in case they do not offer them at the studio) and sip frequently throughout the class. It’s also a good idea (if you have one) to bring your heart rate monitor as well to be sure you are working at an intensity that is appropriate for your fitness level.
Julz Arney, Schwinn Cycling Program Director
Unlike other classes where everyone sees the weight you pick up or what level of the exercise you are doing, indoor cycling is more personal. You have full control over how much resistance you apply to the ride and no one else can see! It’s perfectly fine to be more conservative with your effort if you are not ready to work at the higher intensities you may hear the instructor ask for. But, you do need to apply enough resistance to pedal smoothly. The minimum amount of resistance you use should feel like you are pushing down against the pedal at the front of the pedal stroke. For the most effective workout, make sure you are controlling the pedals and not the other way around!
Have you ever tried group cycling classes? What advice would you give a beginner? —Margo