Guide To Indoor Cycling

Ultimate Guide To Indoor Cycling Like A Pro

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Billy Hughes
August 25, 2021
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When the weather’s bad or there’s tons of traffic out on the road, you’ll rejoice at the thought of being able to cycle indoors.

All you need is a stationary bike or a bike trainer that conveniently helps you turn your mountain or road bike into a stationary bike to get started.

Does cycling indoors give you a better workout?

While the calorie burn is similar to outdoor cycling, there are many benefits associated with cycling on a stationary bike.

Before you begin, here’s what to know about indoor cycling. Let’s start with its advantages as well as some potential drawbacks you should know to help you make the most of your bike workouts.  

Indoor Cycling Pros And Cons

indoor cycling pros and cons

Pros

  • You have a variety of stationary bikes to make use of if you want to get fit and lose weight by cycling. These include recumbent, upright, and spin bikes.
  • Indoor cycling is low-impact exercise. It’s gentle on your joints and anyone can do it even if they’re cycling beginners.
  • You can do it whenever you like. You can’t always go cycling outdoors, such as if it’s late at night or cold. With indoor cycling, you can sneak in a cycling session whenever you feel like it.
  • You can make use of live fitness classes. You can stream these to your device and use them to make your indoor cycling more interesting and fun to do. Who said indoor cycling had to be boring?
  • Indoor cycling has a lower risk of injury as compared to cycling outdoors. This is as a result of how you don’t have to deal with unruly car drivers, uneven terrain, or unpredictable weather conditions.
  • You need fewer cycling accessories in order to enjoy an indoor cycling session than if you had to cycle outdoors. You won’t need to wear a helmet, sunscreen, or sunglasses.
  • Cycling indoors gives you the opportunity to control your ride much more. Nothing will get in the way of your route and how fast you want to ride it. By comparison, you have to be aware of your surroundings when cycling outdoors and often you have to adjust your speed.
  • Cycling indoors can increase the lifespan of your cycling gear. From your bike to your shoes and your gloves, by not exposing your cycling equipment and gear to the harsh elements, you can keep them in good condition and prevent them from having a shorter lifespan.
  • Indoor cycling offers many health benefits. These include how it boosts your cardiovascular health as a result of it being excellent cardio, much like running or swimming. It’s just more convenient because you can do it in your living room!
  • You can burn a lot of calories on your stationary bike. Just one hour on your bike can torch between 400 and 600 calories per hour! You’ll also engage various muscles in the body, such as the glutes, back, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
  • Indoor cycling improves your muscle endurance. This is, again, as a result of how it’s a type of cardio that keeps your heart rate increased and activates many muscles in the body. It has an edge over outdoor cycling in this regard, though. On an outdoor bike you can coast at times, but on an indoor bike you can’t. This means you’ll be working harder on your stationary bike.

Cons

  • You might not have enough space at home. Setting up your stationary bike at home might not always be practical. You need to ensure you have enough space, not just for your bike but also for various cycling accessories you’ll need during your workout session, such as your smartphone or other device if you’re streaming fitness classes, your water bottle, and a bike mat to prevent the bike from moving around.
  • You might disturb other members of your household. Indoor cycling will always produce a bit of noise. It’s said to be similar to the sound of a tower fan or washing machine. While it’s minimal, especially if you choose a bike that’s designed to be low on noise, it can still disturb other people in the home, especially if you live in a small home or apartment.
  • You miss out on Vitamin D. The sun’s rays are healthy in small doses as they give your body valuable Vitamin D, which you’ll totally miss out on if you cycle indoors. In addition, getting out into nature is good for you in other ways, such as by helping you lower your stress levels.
  • You miss out on valuable skills gained by cycling outdoors. When you cycle outdoors, you have more opportunities to improve your balance, coordination, sense of direction, and quick thinking. When you’re cycling in the safety of your home, on the other hand, you won’t get a chance to work on and improve those skills.
  • You might get into an indoor cycling rut. It’s not always easy to get through indoor cycling sessions, especially since you don’t have beautiful scenery to cycle through. You won’t be able to enjoy changing your cycling route on the fly to explore new surroundings, which can help to keep you motivated. Even with live streaming fitness classes at your disposal, you might feel that it’s never going to be exactly the same as getting out there with your bike or heading to a local spin class. 

Types Of Indoor Bikes 

There are many types of stationary exercise bikes available to help you get fit.

Knowing which one you should buy is not the easiest thing, so let’s explore the different types and see what they have to offer.

Spin Bike

Spin bike

A spin bike is a stationary bike that enables you to cycle while sitting down or standing up. This adds variety to your workouts.

You can adjust the spin bike in various ways to get the most comfortable workout, such as by adjusting the resistance level, the seat, and the handlebars.

On a spin bike, your cycling will be similar to riding on a road bike as a result of how you’re in a slightly hunched position. This makes it easier to get used to spinning after having some experience with cycling on a road bike.

Pros

  • You can enjoy a vigorous cycling workout on a spin bike without putting pressure on your joints because spinning is considered to be low-impact exercise. 
  • Your cycling shoes will clip into the pedals, securing your feet and ensuring that they don’t slip. This means you can concentrate on your cycling without worrying about your feet.  
  • You will get more of a workout as a result of this bike’s flywheel. Since it’s heavy, you’ll have to put in more effort to move the pedals. 

Cons

  • A spin bike is not a piece of equipment you can use daily because its workouts are strenuous on the body. 
  • A spin bike’s seat is narrower and more uncomfortable than what you’ll find on other types of stationary bikes.

Upright Bike 

upright bike features

An upright bike allows you to sit in an upright position while cycling, hence its name.

Therefore, its handlebars will be positioned higher than those on a spin bike. This type of bike has a lighter flywheel so that you don’t have to put in as much effort to pedal.

Pros

  • An upright bike enables you to have good posture while cycling. 
  • It’s built to be comfortable, thanks to its larger seat. 
  • You can sit or stand on the bike while cycling.

Cons

  • When you stop pedaling on an upright bike, the bike will stop immediately. This means you will not get the same feeling as when cycling on a road bike.

Recumbent Bike 

recumbent exercise bike

A recumbent bike is a different beast altogether. It’s larger and allows you to recline while you cycle. It’s also got a headrest and wider seat in its design. 

Pros

  • A recumbent bike is great for you if you’re easing into exercise or recovering from an injury because of its reclined position. 
  • You will free up your arms when cycling on a recumbent bike, which means it’s the best bike for you if you want to do other things while cycling, such as using your smartphone or tablet. 

Cons

  • You can’t stand up while cycling on a recumbent bike. 
  • This type of bike doesn’t offer you as much of an intensive exercise session as what you’ll be able to experience on an upright or spin bike.

Air Bike

air bike

An air bike gives you an intense workout as a result of how it makes use of a fan that increases the resistance. Basically, the more you pedal, the harder it will be to pedal! 

Pros

  • An air bike helps to keep you cool during strenuous workouts, thanks to its large fan that circulates air. 
  • You can torch a lot of calories on an air bike in a shorter amount of time. You can burn approximately 300 calories in 20 minutes.
  • Since you move the handlebars of an air bike while you cycle, this bike works out your upper and lower body, giving you a more comprehensive workout.

Cons

  • An air bike can be heavy and expensive as compared to other types of stationary bikes. 

What To Wear During Your Indoor Cycling Workouts 

cycling padded shorts

Now that you have a better idea of the different types of exercise bikes that are available, you’re probably raring to buy one and start indoor cycling.

But, before you do, make sure you’re dressed in the right clothes as this will enhance your workout.

Choose breathable clothing. Your clothing needs to be light and breathable so that it will keep you cool. Moisture-wicking fabric is also important to keep sweat off your skin so that you stay dry instead of uncomfortable, especially since you’ll be working up quite a sweat.

Wear form-fitting clothing. The clothes you wear for cycling should be snug. This is to prevent them from getting in the way of your cycling, such as by restricting your movements, and to reduce air resistance.

Buy padded shorts. These might not always be necessary when you use your exercise bike, such as if your bike seat is comfortable and you’re completing a shorter cycling session, but padded shorts are essential to have handy. They make you feel so much more comfortable, preventing aches and pains from getting in the way of your workout.

Invest in cycling shoes. You might think you can just cycle in your regular sneakers, but cycling shoes are worth purchasing. These clip into the pedals so that you can secure your feet. Clip-in shoes make pedaling feel easier because your quads won’t have to put in so much effort on the upstroke. By ensuring that your feet remain flat, clip-in cycling shoes also help to prevent injuries. 

Don’t forget about gloves! Using the handlebars of your bike can result in painful or numb hands. Prevent this from happening by purchasing cycling gloves. These will give your hands enough padding to protect them. 

What To Eat For Indoor Cycling 

You might have your bike and the proper cycling gear, but what about the food you’re supposed to eat?

There are important nutrition tips you should follow before, during, and after your indoor cycling workout.

This will ensure you have enough energy to get through your workout while also giving your body’s muscles what they need to recover afterwards so you’ll be good to go back to your bike and achieve your fitness goals.

What to eat before an indoor cycling session

What To Eat For Indoor Cycling

You want to avoid eating too close to the start of your indoor cycling session. This is especially important to follow if you’re taking part in a virtual race or you’re live streaming a spin class.

If your body hasn’t had enough time to process what you’ve eaten, this could cause you to feel sick. That said, it’s important to ensure that you’re not getting on the bike when you’re hungry.

Aim to eat a substantial meal two hours before you start your cycling session. It should be a healthy meal containing protein, fats, and carbs to give you the fuel you need.

You can also sneak in a small snack about half an hour before you get on the bike. This will keep you mentally strong for the whole session.

What to eat during an indoor cycling session

You might wonder if you have to eat during your cycling session. It really depends on its duration. If it’s longer than 60 minutes, your body will require nutrients.

This is because the exercise will be putting more stress on your body’s glycogen stores and blood sugar. During an intense cycling session, make sure you have carbs handy. These will give you immediate nourishment and oxygen-efficient energy.  

It’s easy to think that you don’t need to worry too much about nutrition when you’re cycling indoors instead of outdoors, but this is incorrect. Your body is exerting itself and will therefore need to be nourished.

A study found that people performed better during a cycling time trial lasting six miles after doing a 105-minute steady-state workout when they ate simple carbs every 15 minutes, and this was true whether or not they ate breakfast before their workout. 

Don’t forget about hydration! Whether your cycling session is long or short, always remember to drink water during it to keep dehydration at bay.

What to eat after an indoor cycling session

When it comes to the end of your indoor bike workout, you’ll have to ensure you give your body what it needs to repair itself.

Within 30 minutes of your workout, you should eat a quick snack that contains a blend of protein and carbohydrates. For example, beans on toast or a bowl of cereal with milk and half a protein bar all work well.

Then, two hours after your cycling session it’s important to eat a substantial meal. This should contain protein and carbs to help your body restore its carbohydrate stores and give your muscles amino acids and fats to help them repair and build their strength. A good idea for a meal includes chicken or tuna with whole-grain pasta or rice.

There is something else to consider, though. Experts say that to increase the speed of your body’s recovery it’s been said you should eat smaller amounts of food regularly. This is something athletes will do every two or three hours after they’ve trained, for up to six hours. 

Can You Cycle Indoors Every Day?

can you cycling everyday

If you really want to get fit or lose weight, or you simply love cycling, you might wonder if it’s safe to jump on your bike every day. Here’s what you need to know.

You can exercise daily on your stationary bike, and this has many benefits. It can help you to relax after a stressful day, it prevents high blood pressure, and it can help you to boost your immune system.

But, you shouldn’t exercise for too long on the bike every day. In fact, you don’t need to – if you do long aerobic exercise sessions a few times per week, it will be overkill. Your sessions can be around 10 minutes and that’s enough time to boost your fitness. In this way your stationary bike can become an essential component in your fitness program.  

Since exercise bikes are low-impact exercise, you can safely use them regularly if you have joint problems as a result of how they’re gentle on your body. This is also useful if you have a health condition such as arthritis. But, if you’re using your bike daily, try not to do so for long, intense periods of time.

If you’re using an air or spin bike, it’s even more crucial to ensure you avoid doing vigorous workouts on a daily basis. This can be harmful to your body by risking injury and burnout, as well as putting too much stress on your muscles.

The great thing about indoor cycling workouts is that you can take advantage of using them for short periods of time every day by engaging in HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training).

These are 10 to 30-minute short bursts of exercise followed by longer recovery periods that help you to burn lots of calories and gain fitness benefits within a shorter amount of time than if you had to engage in traditional exercise.

Even though you love cycling, you should remember that you will have to add other workouts to your fitness routine so that you give your body a comprehensive workout.

On some bikes, such as air bikes, you will engage muscles in your upper and lower body, but you won’t get much strength training. This is why you’ll have to add strength training to your weekly fitness schedule. 

Related Questions 

Can cycling help you lose belly fat?

Cycling can help you to reduce your belly fat as it contributes to overall fat loss. Aim for moderate-intensity cycling sessions to increase how much fat you lose. 

Does cycling work out your core?

While you won’t achieve sculpted abs from cycling, it does increase your core strength. This is because when you cycle you use your abdominal muscles for stability. 

Conclusion 

Ready to get started with some exciting indoor cycling workouts?

You’ll need to consider some important things. In this article, we’ve looked at why you should cycle indoors, how to choose the best stationary bike, and what clothing and nutrition tips you should follow to enhance your performance. 

Sources:

Billy Hughes

Billy Hughes is a fitness trainer based out of New York. She has registered success in training clients at multiple fitness centers and thus aims to establish her module relevant to the post-pandemic era. Her space, Cerevellum.com, is an attempt towards encouraging and educating more people on the scope of indoor fitness. She believes the power of fitness can transform attitude, personality, and way of living. She also finds it rewarding to help people achieve their goals and make their lives better.