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Indoor Cycling: What to Expect

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Indoor cycling class is a high-energy workout on a stationary bike, set to music and sometimes combined with strength training, yoga, or Pilates.

“We have taken the basic format and made it more of an all-encompassing experience,” says Kevin Burns, a spokesman for the American Council on Exercise and a group fitness instructor in Mankato, Minn. “There is louder music, special lighting, and weights, so we are keeping people engaged and motivated.” 

You probably have heard of runner’s high -- that rush of your body's feel-good chemicals, called endorphins, after a workout. You can get it in your cycling classes, too.

What to Expect

Your instructor should check your bike to make sure it fits. They should also review safety information. Instructors double as motivational speakers or drill sergeants, helping you power through. There is a learning curve, so give yourself time to get the hang of it.

As with any form of exercise, listen to your body. Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the class.

Music is part of the experience and it can be pretty loud, especially if your bike is parked next to the speakers. Some studios offer earplugs to cyclers who want to turn down or tune out the music.

Is it bad for your hearing? According to Brian Fligor, ScD, the director of diagnostic audiology at Children's Hospital Boston, this depends on how loud the music is and how often you are exposed. “I am a little more concerned for instructors who teach a couple of classes a day, five days a week, than someone who takes a class or two."

“If the sound is under 100 decibels, it likely not causing damage. If it falls below 115 decibels, it may cause temporary, but not permanent damage,” he says. “Once you go over 115, all bets are off and there may be permanent changes in how your ear deals with sound.” If you are concerned, Fligor suggests asking the instructor about the volume or wearing earplugs.

Being part of a pack with your classmates is part of the experience. “We know that people have strong motivation to be part of a group,” says Joshua Ian Davis, PhD, a term assistant professor in Barnard College's psychology department. “The more you are part of the group, the more you can be open to take on group identity. ... I can imagine this being a very compelling experience that you would want to have again and again."

Reviewed on February 28, 2013

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