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19 Things You Should Know Before Trying An Indoor Cycling Class

Get the most out of your ride with tips from the experts.

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1. You actually don't have to be that athletic to ~ride like the wind~.

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"It doesn't require that much coordination," says Patrick McCrann, professional triathlon coach with Endurance Nation. If you can sit on a bike and pedal, you can totally kick butt in an indoor cycling class.

Of course, you should definitely check with your doctor and make sure you're A-OK to start any new form of exercise. But if you're always tripping over yourself in dance workouts or find yourself dreading burpees, a cycling class might be just the thing.

2. Make sure the gym or studio you pick has a type of cycling that you think you're going to enjoy.

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Some classes are all about the choreography on the bike, some classes use numbers to help you measure how hard you're working (like your distance, rotations per minute, resistance, and the wattage you produce as you ride), and some classes might even put those numbers up on a board in front of the class.

So if you're competitive and know that can help you perform better (and you like being competitive), opt for a class with the numbers on the board. But if you hate the idea of everyone else knowing how you're doing, find a studio that just has mirrors. It's totally up to you and what you like best.

3. Classes with choreography can be super motivational and awesome, but they're not for everyone.

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In the past few years, more indoor cycling classes have popped up where riders do "choreography" — things like push-ups on the bike, light weightlifting, clapping, or other moves while pedaling. In any workout it's way better (for both results and injury prevention) to be able to do some of the moves with perfect form than all of the moves with iffy form. Because choreography in group classes can move pretty quickly or be super involved, it can get in the way (for some people) of maintaining proper form.

If you can't imagine doing a cycling class without choreo, give yourself some time to learn and keep up with all the moves. In your first classes, aim to do, say, half the moves. And then a little more than that the next time, and so on. And a good instructor can help with this; whoever is leading the class should be able to keep an eye on all riders (so choosing a class with a low cap on riders is a good idea, at least until you really learn proper form) and correct form as you go.

If you are going to try a choreography-based class, then you should make sure you check in with the instructor before class so you know the right form for all of the different moves. Some studios with choreography in their rides offer "101" classes on occasion to help riders nail their form.

4. Take classes from a few different instructors to find your favorites.

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The instructor can make or break a class — and some instructors are going to be a better fit for you than others, even within one studio. "Find an instructor that you would be friends with," says Randi Eisenshtat, a studio manager and cycling instructor for Life Time Athletic at Sky. "What everybody else likes may not be what you like."

You can do a little bit of research on your instructors on sites like Rate Your Burn. Some studios will have bios of their instructors on their websites, too. But here are a few things you might want to look for in an instructor:

* They should be available before and after class to go over form, injuries, and modifications (most instructors at studios and gyms are very good about this).

* Their style of teaching actually motivates you.

* They have basically your same taste in workout music.

* You like how they run the class — which you'll really only know once you take it with them.

5. Nom on some carbs (like fruit) about half an hour before getting on the bike.

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Cycling classes are major cardio. If you're exercising at the end of the day and have already had a couple meals and a few snacks, chances are eating a piece of fruit about half an hour before class will be all you need to make it through feeling strong, says Erica Giovinazzo, MS, RD, and a manager of Brick Los Angeles.

On the other hand, if you're exercising first thing in the morning or for whatever reason you haven't had a bite to eat in hours, you might want to consider having a heartier snack; maybe add some protein (like turkey slices) to your carb source. Or, about an hour or so before the workout, you could have some fat with your carb instead (like avocado or nut butter).

If your energy flags mid-workout or you're totally crushed after it's over, you might need to eat more before class. And, of course, if you ever feel light-headed or actually sick you should check with your doctor.

6. Drink water all day long, and bring a full bottle to sip on during recovery periods in your ride.

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Giovinazzo says that you should be drinking water all day long, as well as during class. "You don’t want to just have it right before you go into the class, you want to make sure you hydrate enough well before the class," she says. "The goal is for your pee to always be almost clear throughout the day. If you are about to go to a class, and your pee is yellow, then you’re too dehydrated and you’re not going to have as much energy as you like."

Then during class, there will usually be short recovery periods in the class where the instructor says you should take a sip of water. And of course you can break for a glug whenever you need one.

Get this water bottle here for $14.99.

7. Get the instructor to help you adjust your bike before class starts.

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This means that you need to get to class early enough so the instructor can help you out. "You wouldn't go buy a bicycle and not have it fitted properly for you," says Eisenshtat. "Come early, introduce yourself to the instructor, and ask them to set you up properly."

Cody Rigsby, a cycling coach at Peloton, agrees: "The most common problem I see is that people don't take the time to set up properly. It's good to get there, especially if it's your first or second time, 10 minutes beforehand."

The bike above is this one, which is similar to ones found in lots of studios. Different studios have different bikes (and some, like Peloton and SoulCycle, have bikes specific to their brand), but all kinds of different bikes have similar types of adjustments.

Here's what to know about setting up your bike:

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If it's your first few times on the bike, you should confirm with your instructor that you're properly set up. If your joints or back hurt after class, check with your instructor before your next class to make sure the bike setup isn't to blame.

8. Wear clothes that are fitted but let you move easily — and aren't a nightmare when you sweat.

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You're gonna sweat like a mofo. Go for a moisture-wicking fabric to keep that sweat under control — cycling classes can be intense workouts, so the more you can do to eliminate things like uncomfortable clothes, or clothes that ride up or get in the way of ~pedaling~, the happier you're going to be 25 minutes in.

McCrann recommends you wear proper athletic shorts, maybe even cycling shorts. "You want something that's not going to get all bunched up on the bike," he says.

And if you take a few classes and decide you want to go a couple times every week, Eisenshtat recommends a pair of cycling shoes that clip into the bike. "They really make the ride feel more like a ride," she says. Some studios will have shoes available to rent or as part of their class package

9. Know that you can totally go at your own pace at any time during the class.

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You're not inadequate if the person on the bike next to you is a cycling goddess! "This time is for you, to have fun," says Rigsby. So don't worry about adjusting the resistance if you can't keep up. "It's your ride and you need to own it."

McCrann agrees. "If you're tired or you're only at 80%, you don't have to keep cranking the resistance," he says.

(PS: In case you don't know, your resistance knob is what makes it feel like you're pedaling uphill even though you're on a stationary bike.)

10. If you don't like loud music, pack some earplugs and book your bike strategically.

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Some studios will provide earplugs for free, and you can call 'em about it ahead of time if you're not sure. Part of the fun of cycling classes is that they're often like nightclubs, except you're on a bike dripping your own sweat and chugging water, instead of rubbing up against slick randos and sipping overpriced cocktails. Which means the music can sometimes make the walls vibrate.

"If you are sensitive to sound, pick a bike that's not near a speaker and make sure you're strategic about where you're sitting in the room," says Eisenshtat. "There are probably places in the room that are less noisy than others."

11. Keep your eye on your posture whether you're seated or standing.

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Different studios have different names for the various positions on the bike (like "position one," which can mean different hand placement depending on the studio — your instructor will be able to give you the lowdown on what their lingo means). And your body might work differently than your friend's body. But these are general starting guidelines.

McCrann says you should be "looking forward, breathing easily, and can rest the weight of your torso on the heels of your hands." Definitely ask your instructor before class to make sure your form is on point, if you're not sure.

When you're seated on the bike:

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* Engage your abs and core so you can give yourself what Eisenshtat calls "a long, neutral spine."

* "Make sure your chest is lifted and upright," says Rigsby.

* "Relax your shoulders down and back away from your ears," says Eisenshtat.

* Square your hips and "maintain that squareness in your hips in and out of the saddle," says Rigsby.

* Keep your grip on the handlebars firm, but not clenched. "If you don't, you're spending 45 minutes gripping something tightly, without letting go," says Eisenshtat.

* Make sure your elbows stay slightly bent. "If they're super straight, you're probably putting too much weight into your shoulders," says Rigsby. "You want that slight bend to be a moment of balance, not putting your weight completely into the handlebars."

* Scoot your butt just past the back of the saddle, with most of your weight on the widest part of the saddle. "If you push forward, you go into the more narrow tip of the saddle," says Rigsby. And that can make your crotch ache after class.

When you're standing on the bike your form will be mostly the same, except:

"Your weight should shift forward so that your shoulders are over the center of the front wheel," says McCrann, "and your butt is just in front of the 'nose' of your bike seat."

But you don't want your butt to be too far forward (and trust me, when you're in the middle of a badass hill climb, it's hard to keep that form). "Stay right over the pedal strokes," says Eisenshtat.

12. Do. Not. Bounce. If you feel yourself bouncing, turn up your resistance a little and maybe lower your seat.

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You'll probably hear your instructor say this at least once during the class, but it's true: If you're pedaling pretty quickly and you feel yourself bouncing like a rubber ball in or out of the saddle, you either don't have enough resistance on your bike or your seat is too high.

13. Protect your crotch: ~Be gentle~ when you sit back down in the saddle.

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There's just no way around it: Your crotch is probably going to be a little sore after your first few classes. That achy feeling generally goes away as you go to more classes. But if you try not to just collapse back into the saddle after a few minutes of standing work, it'll help with the soreness, at least a little bit. (And if it's really killing you, think about picking up a pair of bike shorts or a padded seat cover.)

14. Bring at least one towel with you on the bike.

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Good for wiping away forehead and between-the-boobs sweat. "You're going to sweat it out, and a few well-placed towels can mean the difference between looking like you went for a bike ride or you fell into the pool," says McCrann.

Most studios have plenty of towels available for this very purpose. I also like to put a towel over each handlebar partway through the class when I get tired — for whatever reason, the change in texture gives me a boost of motivation. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (Get this workout towel here for $16.06.)

15. If the instructor's encouraging participation, join in the fun!

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"It's a group atmosphere, and it's enjoyable, and it's fun, and when you get involved like that — how many times a day do you get to scream for fun?" says Eisenshtat.

It might feel a little silly at first, but whooping and hollering really can help you feel more motivated! And/or distract you briefly from how hard you're working. Of course, as Rigsby says, "it depends on who's teaching, what the class is, what the vibe is. It's not necessary, but it's never frowned upon."

16. Stay for the cooldown and the stretches.

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And if you want even more stretches than the instructor gives the class, don't hesitate to stick around for a few more minutes and do 'em (as long as there's not another class waiting to pounce on the studio). Learn how to do five post-cycling stretches here, and a sun salutation here.

17. Don't feel pressure to socialize with others before or after class if that's just not your thing — or do.

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For some people, making friends makes the class even better! Which is great. "Cycling with a group of people is really fun. You can talk and interact with people," says McCrann, "and you can't always have a conversation with other types of workouts."

But there's no shame in ditching the chatty group for a hot shower, because you freaking earned it.

18. Speaking of showers: If your studio doesn't have one, consider packing a few baby wipes to rub yourself down with after class.

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Getting back in your car/on the train/on a bus in your post-cycling-class sweatiness can be a gross experience. Unless you're down with that, in which case...go for it? (Your studio or gym may have some cool damp towels you can use instead.)

19. If your goals include total-body strength, cycling will probably just be one part of your workout routine.

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Even though lots of cycling classes involve a little bit of work with light weights, indoor cycling is primarily a cardio workout. If you really love indoor cycling and it's all you want to do for fitness — go for it! But if you have other goals around strength or body composition, indoor cycling is just one of the many, many awesome ways to work out.

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