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The Top 10 Reasons Why Cyclists Should Start Indoor Cycling

Iron Man Jack Nunn explains why road cyclists should use indoor cycling to enhance their training.

Indoor Cycling classes are an ideal place to work on proper cycling technique and provide a traffic-free environment that can go a long way toward replacing the on-the-road experience. It’s a great place for cycling novices to improve ten aspects of cycling that will quickly make them a better rider. It’s a great place for the veteran cyclists to refresh their technique as long as they remember not to ride an indoor bike the same way they do their outdoor bikes.

1. Safety

Let's face it. Indoor workouts are extremely safe and effective! Cross training with indoor cycling is only valuable to a competitor in a sport if the cross training improves performance. Unfortunately, cycling on the roads can be dangerous. There is a saying among outdoor cyclists:

Every cyclist has one major crash. It's just a matter of time when it will happen and how bad it will be.

Subsequently, indoor cycling bikes offer the perfect Cross Training solution with all the training benefits of road cycling without the risks of crash injuries.

2. Climbing

There is no greater confidence in muscle endurance strength building than good climbing. That’s why it is crucial to learn how to use all the muscles of the leg and not just the quadracips. Hamstrings and glutes are used on the recoil of the footpedal stroke. There’s no better place to focus on this full rotation and pull up of the footpedal on the upstroke than on indoor cycling bikes.

Seated Climbing: Most outdoor cyclists know that they should pull up on the pedals on the upstroke, which activates your calves, hamstrings, and glutes while reducing the load on the quadriceps. In reality, outdoor cyclists rarely have the opportunity to do it for long periods of time on the typical outdoor ride as they rely on the environment of the ride. Here’s the technique for indoors: Engage your lower abdominal to help push your butt towards the back of the seat, then drive the pedals down with your heels lower than the toes. Keep the heels low when you pull up and as soon as you lift the heel above the ball of the foot, you turn off the calf muscle. Most outdoor cyclists sit too high on an indoor bike and don’t hinge their torsos forward enough while keeping their heels up and pulling up with their shins and quads, not calves.

Standing Climbing: In order to utilize the hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles as you would outdoors you must adjust your posture for the lack of angle. On an outdoor climb, the front end of the bike is tipped up. To replicate the position on an indoor bike, hinge at the hips, keep you back straight and parallel to the ground, and push your nose down to within a few inches of your handlebar. This maneuver is commonly known as 'hovering' over the seat of the bike in the typical indoor cycling class.

In addition, since a typical stationary bike cannot be rocked beneath you, simulate the effect by moving your body side to side. However if you are using the New EVO Indoor Cycling Bike the natural 'swaying' motion is already replicated and added to the real-time feel of an outdoor bike.

3. Speedwork

Road cyclists are generally locked into a 90 rpm mentality. While the indoor cycling bike’s typical weighted flywheel will push any rider’s cadence higher, huge gains can be had with specific techniques.

Standing Speedwork: To build explosive power and raise your lactate threshold as well as rapid turnover, stand straight up and "run" on the pedals. The key to is put the entire weight of the body on the quads and push the watts much higher in order to gain muscle endurance strength. The technique: Stand tall, with the head, hips, and bottom bracket in a straight line. The upper body stabilized by engaged abdominals with light hand pressure on the bars as you blast your cadence up to around 120-130 rpms which blows away the 110 rpm most top cyclists can manage outdoors while running out of the seat on your bike.

Sitting Speedwork: Ideal for building rapid turnover, this technique is typically easy. The technique: Use little to moderate resistance as you get set in the forward position on the saddle while engaging the abdominal to stabilize hips and upper body, and then go as fast as you can. Try and hit around 130-140 rpms for maximum efficiency in your seated sprint workouts.

4. Gradual Warm-Up

Throughout the typical indoor cycling class there is only minimal time for a 'Warm-up' and 'Cool-down' due to the time crunch of most cycling programs at your local gym. Consequently many classes go very hard right away from start to finish. Your heart-rate shoots up high and once it’s up, it’ll never come down for the rest of the session. As a result you might not ever train for recovery, allowing your heart-rate to drop, a key to cycling endurance. What that means is that a truly fit person will see his heart-rate drop by as much as 50 beats on a 30 second downhill. That is important because it allows the body to rest during that period. The problem with going out hard and fast from the beginning of a cycling class is that your heartrate is too high for too long and you risk burning out and leaving the class all together. Cycling and training at a constant high level is not realistic especially for novice riders and more importantly you never really train your heart to rest.

Warm-up goal: Warm muscles in conjunction with a gradually rising heart-rate. Try to avoid doing any sort of speed-work until 12 to 15 minutes into class. Regardless of what your class is doing, unless you've done your own personal warm-up before class began, ride the first two songs seated and standing with light to moderate resistance, followed by a seated and standing climb for one song each.

5. Turn up the music and have fun!

Indoor cycling gives you the chance to train with everyone from the regular road extreme cyclist to the novice rider. Indoor cycling programs create a great opportunity to socialize with other people in class and create camaraderie. Don’t underestimate the value of having a small talk with people who are a lot stronger or weaker than you. Turn up the music and have fun with your indoor cycling.

Music can provide an amazing beat to follow in class as the instructor guides you through and works you out through the music. As a consequence you can almost get lost in the beats of the music as you follow the rhythm of the beats. The standard hour cycling class time should fly by with the utilization of upbeat popular music. Try to maximize your own indoor cycling experience by listening to upbeat music and follow the beats as you come down on the pedal stroke hit the beat of the music. Listen for the beats and let the music guide you throughout the workout. Before you know it you will have designed a heart pounding calorie-burning workout that moves along fast while getting the best cardio workout ever.

Music is a huge advantage to utilize for indoor cycling classes or at home because it is safe and effective. Using music outdoors can be very dangerous and is not recommended due to the obstacles and distractions of outdoor riding. You must be able to hear what's going on around you with cars, pedestrians, and emergency vehicles that you are sharing the road with. You must be responsible and aware on an outdoor bike. Ironman triathlon rules and regulations prohibit any use of listening devices while you cycle or run in order to prevent injury and/or collisions. You could be ejected out of any sanctioned outdoor cycling or triathlon event by simply listening to music on the course.

6. Extreme Calorie Burn

Indoor cycling can manage to burn about 500 to 700 calories during the average 60-minute class and the distance covered is about 15 to 20 miles on average. Results may vary with calories burned from individuals due to different weight, gender, and intensity levels. The distance of the typical indoor cycling experience depends upon how fast you pedal along with moderate resistance. The main difference between indoor cycle bikes and stationary bikes is that indoor cycle bikes operate on a flywheel mechanism that doesn't allow you to coast. So as long as the wheels are moving, you must continue pedaling.

The braking mechanism utilizes a leather brake pad or a special alignment of magnets on the flywheel in order to increase and/or decrease resistance. This is one of the reasons indoor cycling burns more calories than riding a bike outside. Another reason is because you'll use a variety of speeds and resistance levels that may not be possible on the road to to traffic conditions and landscape. Using the typical '1-10 rule of intensity' (1 being no resistance on the bike to 10 being the most resistance added to the bike) the instructor can guide you to a long effective resistance training workout that is sure to make you sweat and burn off tons of calories. Due to the heavy amount of sweat in a closed room at home or at the gym make sure to drink lots and lots of water to avoid dehydration and loss of performance during the ride.

7. A Cycling High

You probably have heard of runner’s high with that rush of feel-good chemicals, called endorphins, that occurs after a run. Individuals in an indoor cycling can get it as well. You can experience a 'high' after leaving an indoor cycling class with an incredible high or endorphin rush which sets you in a great mood for the rest of the day. The rush of endorphins leads to mental benefits such as improved sleep, increased relaxation, and reduced stress. One of the fundamental concepts of an indoor cycling program is visualization, guided imagery, and mental distraction making a mind-body connection to a real-time outdoor riding experience that will produce a powerful workout. It encourages students to focus on breathing, relaxation, and body movements or form. This connection most likely taps into the reward centers of the brain as participants achieve higher levels of physical performance during the rides.

8. Shaping Up

Cycling can change your body dramatically and give you that lean strong body you've been training for while training hard with cycling. Indoor cycling can develop long, lean, and defined bodies that have strong core muscles. The other great attributes of indoor cycling are primarily with the physical cardiovascular benefits with weight reduction, a drop in blood pressure, improvements in diabetes control, and improvements in overall strength.

9. Abdominal Workouts While You Cycle

Indoor cycling instructors never give up when it comes to talking about technique and posture. The right cycling posture is important to working the right muscle groups. In addition to the major leg muscles worked during a Spinning routine, the abdominal muscles get a workout. As you cycle, unlike racing a bike on the road, you get an upper body rhythm going that helps you keep your leg rhythm. The movement from a slightly bent position and side to side 'swaying' works both the central abdominal muscles and those along the side of your abdomens. You may not see immediate results of your abdominal work, but over time you will feel your entire body begin to tone up, including your abs. When using the EVO Indoor cyling bike the 'swaying' motion is a crucial proactive design that

10. Proper Cycling Shoes Needed

While training on an indoor cycling bike in either your home or at the gym then you need indoor cycling shoes. Indoor cycling shoes are very important as they help to increase the effectiveness of your cycling training on stationary bike.

They improve the efficiency of your pedaling. Indoor cycling shoes are special shoes that are designed to attach to your exercise bike’s pedals by way of a clip. The typical standar 'clip' used on most indoor cycling bikes are the shimano SPD 'clips.' Attaching these shimano 'clips' to the pedals improves the efficiency of your pedaling since your foot will be well attached to your bike’s pedals and hence preventing your leg from slipping from the pedals. This helps you to pedal consistently and hence improve your pedal stroke while training.

Lighter shoes and less sweat mess. Indoor cycling shoes are lighter than ordinary outdoor cycling shoes. This makes it more comfortable to pedal. The more indoor cycling classes that you attend you will need to invest in some cycling shoes due to the amount of sweat you produce in each class. Running shoes can only handle so much of a daily day to day use and will break down much faster if you use them on the indoor cycling bike.

Breathability. When training at home or in a gym, it could get really hot inside and wearing fully-closed shoes would be uncomfortable as your feet begin to sweat. With indoor cycling shoes, some of them are specifically designed in such a way that there is enough ventilation for air to flow to your feet, hence making you feel comfortable. This is also important as it will help you to prevent foot diseases caused by bacteria on your feet, resulting from the constant sweating in you feet.

Maximum impact from a workout. Indoor cycling shoes are usually designed with an extra inner padding that will help you to feel more comfortable when exerting pressure when pedalling. This will in turn help you to train more intensely without much pain on your feet resulting from cycling shoes with hard soles. You will then benefit %100 more from your cycling workouts. The 'padding' and 'stiffness' or the cycling shoe will help an individual maximize their workout while pushing force directly through the crank on the pedal and in turn will create the most watts and calories burned.

Preventing injuries. Indoor cycling shoes are usually designed with clips at the bottom so as to help you to attach your feet to the stationary bike’s pedals. This attachment to the pedals will help to prevent injury on you when your feet possibly slip off the pedals of the bike like they would while wearing conventional running shoes. When you buy your indoor cycling shoe, make sure you buy the shimano 'SPD clips.' These 'clips' will be the ones that will help you to attach your shoe to the stationary bike.

Author Information:

Jack Nunn, Powerhouse FitnessJack created Powerhouse Fitness after winning numerous medals in various events on the international stage. He was a gold medalist in 2007 at the first ever Concept 2 Team Indoor Rowing challenge, held in Essen, Germany. In 2006, he took silver at the Masters Nationals Open Single Event. As a member of the US Rowing National Team from 2001-2004 he placed second at the 2003 Pan American Trials in double sculls and had an outstanding 2002 that saw him claim a gold medal in Senior 8 and a silver medal in the Elite Double at the US Nationals. He was also a silver medalist in 2001 in the Nations Cup (now the U23 World Championships) 8 in Ottenshiem, Austria. Find out more.