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— January 6, 2020

Digital Rides

By Christine Yu
  • Today’s stationary bikes offer connections to a broader cycling world.

Modern indoor cycling classes are nothing like spinning your legs on an old Schwinn in a dank corner of the basement.

Once upon a time, you’d turn up your tunes, get on a bike “and ride for one song, focused on climbing hills, and then ride for another song, focused on sprints, and so on for 45 minutes to an hour,” says Amelia Pavlik, cycling instructor at the Atlanta location of Exhale, a national boutique fitness studio and spa.

But now, digitally enhanced indoor cycling makes the ultimate cardio tune-up one of the best ways to sweat. Not only is it more lively than the old stare-at-the-wall rut, it’s also a great option when you can’t hit the road or want to shake up your fitness routine.

“It’s a lot easier to enjoy yourself when you’re not dodging traffic and potholes. Plus, having a killer playlist to guide your workout makes the time fly by,” says Hannah Marie Corbin, a cycling instructor for Peloton.

A World of Options

Digital cycling experiences range from endurance rides to high-intensity interval workouts, which sprinkle in shorter, intense sprints. Some classes incorporate upper body strength training too, making it a full-body workout.

Other possibilities include classes that create friendly competition between cyclists and riding virtually in far-off destinations like Olympic National Park or New Zealand with iFit, a streaming, interactive fitness platform. 

While it may sound intimidating, indoor cycling classes, either in person or delivered digitally, are especially helpful for beginners.

“One of my favorite things about indoor cycling is how approachable it is,” says Corbin. Between age (young to the young at heart), personalities (mellow to hardcore) and experience (absolute beginner to professional athlete), there is something for everyone, she adds.

Another advantage? “You control the resistance and how hard you work,” says iFit instructor Ana Garcia. She adds that, unlike running or bootcamp classes, cycling is easy on your joints, making it a good choice if you’re easing back into exercise after a layoff or coming back from injury.

Going to a live class also provides camaraderie and accountability.

With a room full of people who are exercising together, “it makes me think, ‘if they can keep going, I can do five more minutes or one more rep,’” says Garcia. “I don’t feel so alone.”

At-Home Convenience

A new generation of digital streaming options have made it even easier to hit the bike.

Companies like Peloton and iFit offer on-demand workouts, giving you the feel (and benefit) of a group fitness effort without the hassle of leaving your home. Both offer a full range of classes, from beginner to advanced, at varying time increments, from 15 minutes to an hour.

Peloton provides access to both live classes and thousands of preprogrammed sessions streamed directly to the bike’s console. NordicTrack’s S22i includes direct access to iFit’s library of on-demand workouts, also streamed to the bike.

What’s more, the S22i has a feature that mimics the real experience of riding up and down hills. With iFit-coached workouts, the instructor controls the incline and resistance of your bike.

“If you’ve never cycled before, I’ve got you. All you have to do is start pedaling,” says Garcia.

The convenience of working out at home is one the biggest reasons Christine Koidin, 43, has stuck with a regular exercise routine.

Most mornings, the San Franciscan hops on her bike for a quick ride before her kids wake up. She started with a 30-day challenge, but ended up maintaining a workout streak going for over a year, incorporating cycling and other Peloton classes like yoga and stretching.

“It took all the effort out of working out because it was right there. You could ride any time of day to any type of music,” Koidin says. “I made it something that really works for me.” 

Before Your First Class

Ready to give spin a spin? The experts have a few tips to get you started.

Set up your bike properly: There’s nothing worse than riding a bike that’s too tall or too short for you. Get to class 10 to 15 minutes early so your instructor can help adjust your seat height. According to Pavlik, the seat should be level with your hipbone when you stand next to the bike. 

Shop around for the perfect fit: Each instructor brings his or her own personality to class, so be sure to try a few different options—doing so will allow you to find the one that best suits your specific needs. There’s something for everyone.

Mind your form: Biking with proper form will ensure that you’re engaging the correct muscles and help you steer clear of injury. Pavlik says to keep your shoulders relaxed and chest out, and draw your abs in toward your spine. Grip the handlebars lightly. 

Listen to your body: “Don’t push at the level your body pushed at five years ago, or how you want it to push six months from now,” says Corbin. Pay attention to how your body feels in the moment. 

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