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first indoor cycling class

The Ultimate Guide to Your First Indoor Cycling Class

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You’ve signed up for your first indoor cycling class – HOORAY!

Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal to feel a little anxious before trying something new. Which is why I’ve written this beginner’s guide to your first indoor cycling class just for you.

Indoor cycling is my favorite workout – by far! There is just nothing like losing yourself in the music and sweating all your worries and stress away. I teach an indoor cycling class twice a week at our local gym, and have for quite some time, so I know first-hand some of the things that might have you feeling a little nervous with anticipation.

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indoor cycling tips for beginners

What To Expect In Your First Indoor Cycling Class

Before you walk in the door for your first indoor cycling class, plan to be at least 15 minutes early. This will allow the instructor sufficient time to help you get situated and find your personalized bike settings (seat height, distance away from handlebars, etc). Your instructor will be able to show you basic bike operation and answer any questions you may have.

Many people will start pedaling as soon as they arrive for class. If it is your first time, you can join in, but you may want to consider standing beside your bike (or close to it) so that you save your booty from excess time in the saddle (more on that later).

Depending on your facility, the instructor may choose to dim the lights and/or turn on “party lights,” as I like to call them. In my experience, having a disco-type lamp and black light helps my class to feel the music and enjoy their workout. It’s easier to focus on yourself and what you’re doing if you can’t see your neighbor as well.

Check your gym’s group fitness schedule to find a class time that works best for you. Most indoor cycling classes last between 45-60 minutes, including a warm-up and cool down. Feel free to take breaks as needed, even dismounting your bike, especially if this is your first indoor cycling class. In time, you’ll build up the stamina and endurance to enjoy the full amount of class time.

For a more detailed guide (especially for beginners) on how to safely set up your bike, frequently used terms and phrases, and what to expect in an in-person or virtual cycling class, download a copy of my eBook.

Indoor Cycling Benefits

According to WebMD, indoor cycling classes help you shed fat, improve your heart health, and boost your muscle endurance. Even though cycling is considered a low impact exercise, your legs will get a serious workout.

If you’ve already established an interest in indoor cycling, you probably already know most of these benefits, but I’ll go ahead and give them to you anyways.

  • Burn calories (typically 400-600 per class)
  • Improve cardiovascular fitness
  • Gain muscle strength
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Build stamina and endurance
  • Intense exercise, but easy on the joints

Full Body Workout

Indoor cycling is a full-body workout designed to make you sweat and burn calories unlike any other workout. According to Healthline, below are how all of the muscle groups are worked in an indoor cycling class

  • Core. Use your core to stabilize your body throughout the class, which helps to achieve overall balance, especially when you’re standing.
  • Upper body. Use your upper body to support yourself on the bike. Some classes incorporate upper-body exercises using dumbbells or resistance bands.
  • Back. Maintain a strong, stable spine throughout the class, which will help to strengthen and tone your back muscles.
  • Glutes. Feel your glutes working with each pedal stroke, especially when you stand up from your seat, do an incline, or increase the resistance.
  • Quadriceps. Your quadriceps will be the main muscles used as you pedal and climb hills, leading to strong, toned legs.
  • Hamstrings. Cycling helps to strengthen and loosen your hamstrings, which lift the pedal up with each cycle and stabilize your joints.
  • Lower legs. You’ll work your calves with each cycle, which helps to protect your ankles and feet while cycling and during everyday activities.

Tips For Your First Indoor Cycling Class

Ok, so now we know generally what to expect and the benefits of cycling, so let’s get to some tips for your first indoor cycling class.

1. Hydrate

It’s extremely important that you hydrate well prior to your first indoor cycling class – and bring water with you to class! Seriously. I’m always surprised when someone doesn’t bring water with them. Indoor cycling is an intense workout. You’ll need to take easy sips of water throughout to stay hydrated.

On days that I teach, I typically drink 90oz (or more) of water before class (it’s in the evening, so I don’t have to chug first thing in the morning or anything) and then another 24oz during.

Don’t forget to rehydrate afterwards with water or other electrolyte beverage. Propel is my favorite! And if you buy it in these powdered stick packs, it’s way less expensive than buying bottled.

2. Eat A Snack Beforehand

Don’t go to your first indoor cycling class on an empty stomach. I mean, don’t go right after inhaling a cheeseburger, but definitely eat before you go. Choose a healthy snack that will give you the fuel you need, like fruit and peanut butter, whole wheat crackers, or a protein bar.

If you do opt for a protein bar, choose something that is high in protein and low in sugar so you don’t undo the calories burned in your workout.

8 tips for first indoor cycling class

3. Dress Appropriately

Even though bike shorts are a real thing, all you really need is to wear something semi-fitted that you are comfortable in. I say semi-fitted so that baggy clothes don’t get hung up on the bike or get in your way. I opt for leggings instead of shorts for modesty reasons, but also to save my inner thighs from accidental rubbing against the seat.

Now about shoes – I highly recommend you invest in a cycling shoe once you commit to regular classes. However, regular athletic/tennis shoes are totally fine. If wearing street shoes, you’ll use the “cage” on the pedal to keep your feet attached and in place. When you do upgrade to cycling shoe, you’ll be able to “clip” your shoes into the pedals. The clips allow you to “pull” your pedal up more effectively and give you a stronger platform when standing. Your instructor will be able to show you how to clip in and out safely.

4. Bring A Sweat Towel

Yes, you’re going to sweat – a lot. You may even sweat from areas you wouldn’t expect! I always know I’m working hard when my forearms and chin start to sweat, haha. You’re going to want a towel.

5. Use A Seat Cushion Or Towel

Ok, there’s no nice way to say this…your booty is going to hurt for awhile. There’s just no way around that. It will typically take 2-3 weeks of regular classes before you build up that booty resistance. But I promise, it will happen.

Don’t let this scare you off. For extra seat padding, you can use a removable seat cushion or towel. I highly recommend a seat cushion for safety reasons. A gel seat cushion (like this) is designed to be easily installed and removed, and will stay in place during class.

6. Set Up Your Spin Bike Properly

It is extremely important that you adjust your bike for safety and ergonomic reasons. Your indoor cycling instructor will be able to walk you through proper bike setup in person, but here’s a short video to give you an idea.

7. Don’t Stop Pedaling

Even during the recovery portions of your first indoor cycling class, don’t stop pedaling. If you stop, unless the brake is engaged, the pedals will continue to rotate which could cause an injury. It’s also important to keep your momentum (in a motivational sense) going. Once you stop, it may be harder to get back into it.

Be like Dory from Finding Nemo – “just keep swimming…just keep swimming…” but of course, “pedaling” in our case. I have heard of aqua cycling, but we’re not getting that fancy today, haha.

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8. Work At Your Own Level and Don’t Compare Yourself

A great thing about indoor cycling is that you can truly work at your own level. By changing the resistance (or how heavy the pedals feel) and increasing/decreasing your pace, it’s possible to drastically alter the intensity of your workout. If this is your first indoor cycling class (or you’re still relatively new), don’t compare yourself to “Jane” who sits next to you, but especially not “John” who has been cycling for years.

Think of your classmates as teammates, not competitors. These people may soon be the ones you look forward to seeing at the end of the hard day. Get to know them. Help encourage and motivate each other.

In time, you’ll feel much more relaxed and comfortable in an indoor cycling class, but for now, work at your own level and enjoy yourself.

You do you.

what to expect at your first indoor cycling class

Indoor Cycling Class: From My Members

I always feel my absolute best immediately following an indoor cycling class. That’s because of the “feel good” chemicals, called endorphins, that are released when you exercise, not to mention the stress and tension relief felt with an intense sweat session. There is definitely such a thing as a “cycling high.”

But don’t take my word for it, here are just a few things my students have to say about their first indoor cycling class experience.

If you want even more cycling fun, check out my indoor cycling workout series on our sister site, Okie Sunshine.

So hydrate, eat a snack, and have a great time at your first indoor cycling class!

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