Whether you prefer the winding roads of the Texas Hill Country, or the intimate setting of a dark studio, indoor and outdoor cycling have one thing in common: they both challenge and train your body to be more efficient on two wheels. Sure, I know there are those who think that riding on a stationary bike is no substitute for the real thing. But as both an outdoor cycling enthusiast, and an indoor cycling instructor, I think that these two forms of exercise can complement one another. In fact, indoor cycling can even enhance your outdoor performance.
Some outdoor riders feel that indoor cycling classes are full of gimmicks, can be boring, and focus more on the branding than the safety of the riders and the effectiveness of the workouts.
They also argue that there are things you experience when riding outdoors that simply can’t be duplicated in a studio. But before you close yourself off to the idea of indoor cycling based on these opinions, I challenge you to take a class and see what the craze is all about.
Since its introduction in the early 90s, indoor cycling has evolved from big box gyms to boutique style fitness studios. These niche studios have customized formats that are suitable for every rider--- from the novice who has never stepped on a bike to the athlete who rides 30+ miles in one weekend.
Another advantage to boutique studios is that they each put their own spin on cycling, incorporating drills such as sprints, resistance climbs, or interval/endurance training. Some studios take it one step further and include Pilates inspired movements, which focus on core and stability.
Just as programs vary from studio to studio, so do instructors. Each studio has a group of unique individuals trained to lead students through challenging, motivating and exciting rides. Finding the right instructor, one that speaks your language through the music selections or riding techniques, can make all the difference when it comes to your performance. It may take some time to find the right fit, but once you do, it will make every drop of sweat worth it!
The sense of community and camaraderie that comes along with being part of an indoor cycling studio is also valuable. Not only will you build a relationship with your fellow riders who are sweating it out beside you, but you will also develop a relationship with your instructor. Those relationships can help keep you accountable and inspired. As an instructor, the bond I have with my riders is my greatest driving force. Watching them develop and overcome challenges both on and off the bike motivates me and helps me to find new ways to motivate them.
Finally, indoor cycling allows you to relax and focus on your own form, power and strength without the distraction of outdoor elements like weather or traffic. You can completely zone out and zero in on your workout. And while you may not feel the surface changes of the road, or the headwinds blowing in your face, you CAN design your own personal ride. How? By using the resistance knob to create the road profile you want to experience. A couple of turns to the right can take you from a flat road to a steep incline in just a few seconds.
Since the spring of 2010, I have used a combination of indoor/outdoor cycling to prepare for outdoor rides and races. Most recently, in the spring of 2015, 85% of my training for the MS 150 was done in a cycle studio. Through a combination of speed and resistance classes, along with two organized outdoor rides, I was fully prepared to tackle the two-day, 150-mile course---and It was my fastest and most enjoyable ride by far!
If you are one of my fellow outdoor cyclists who is still skeptical about taking your ride inside, I encourage you to give it a shot. Best case scenario-you improve your road performance. Worst case? You get a great workout in a fun environment. What have you got to lose?
Words of Wisdon:
“To be a better cyclist than you’ve ever been, you have to do something you’ve never done.”
- Felicity Luckey