Are There Beginner Indoor Cycling Classes?

What Newbies Really Need to Know About Getting Started with Indoor Cycling

Now that so many people have resolved to start working out in a more dedicated fashion and perhaps try new forms of exercise, there are lots of new faces showing up in indoor cycling studios. In recent weeks, several newcomers have walked into the cycling room after my classes, told me they’ve never done it, and asked if there are beginner indoor cycling classes. Unfortunately, I’ve had to tell them, “No.” Some health clubs and boutique studios may offer them but I’ve never seen them.

When I broached the subject with my group exercise director a few years ago, she said there isn’t enough of a demand to warrant having beginner classes. I saw her point. After all, a newcomer really only needs a couple of classes to get up to speed—and it can happen in any class by modifying it to his or her fitness level. So that’s what I now tell people who’ve never done it and want to try it: That even though it’s a form of group exercise, indoor cycling is ultimately each individual’s own ride so the intensity can be dialed down for newcomers. In other words, you can take the DIY approach to making any indoor cycling class into a beginner class. Here are the five critical things to address:

Prepare wisely for the workout. Fuel up with a light but nutritious snack at least 30 minutes before the ride. Wear fitted, padded bike shorts (or regular workout shorts or capris) and a breathable tank top or t-shirt, all made of a cool, moisture-wicking fabric.

Choose cycling-specific shoes, if you have them, or wear hard-soled athletic shoes (like running shoes, not soft-soled tennis shoes). Bring a water bottle, too, to avoid getting dehydrated during the workout.

Arrive early and seek the instructor’s advice. The most important thing is to get help in setting up your bike properly for your body.

Having your seat at the right height and the right distance from the handlebars will make your ride safer, more efficient, and more comfortable; how high or low the handlebars are is really a matter of comfort so decide what feels right to you. Also, ask the instructor how to change gears and how high they go, if it’s not immediately clear.

Learn the basic moves and body and hand positions. You don’t need the instructor’s help for this. You can learn the basic hand positions and the primary moves (such as a seated flat, seated climb, standing flat, standing climb, jumps, and more) here.

Don't try to follow the instructor’s cues exactly. Even if you’re in relatively good shape, it's a mistake to go full bore in your first class. Listen to your body, pace yourself, and adapt the instructions to suit your needs. Yes, you should heed the instructor’s cues for proper posture and correct form and for warming up and cooling down properly. And you should follow the general arc of the ride. But you may not want to make your maiden ride as intense (in terms of pace or resistance) as the instructor asks you to; if you do, you may end up feeling a bit queasy.

For maximum comfort, it's best to ease into this form of exercise gradually.

Be patient with yourself. As with many activities and skills that are new to you, there’s a learning curve with indoor cycling. The first handful of classes you take may feel painfully challenging but most people begin to feel more comfortable within a couple of weeks. As you gain strength and fitness and become more familiar with the moves, you’ll begin to push yourself harder and get into the groove of the rides. It’s a natural progression that will crank up the enjoyment and the benefits you get from indoor cycling.     

Continue Reading