For an energetic cross-training activity this winter, consider an indoor cycling class at a local Spinning® studio or athletic club.
Indoor cycling is one of the best forms of cross training for runners because it consistently trains your aerobic base, works your muscles in different ways and increases your range of motion.
"For runners, indoor cycling increases leg strength and perfects your turnover, which is great for taking time off your run," says Cindy Bell, owner, partner and instructor at Pedal Spin® Studio in Montrose, California. "It is a great alternative for runners, especially in the winter when it is too cold to run outside."
Another bonus? Indoor cycling burns an average of 500-700 calories per hour. Unlike a generic exercise bike workout, indoor cycling features a lively atmosphere, motivational support and an ability to visualize the journey.
Indoor Cycling Basics
There are three key indoor cycling workouts. An endurance class is great for beginners because it helps to build an aerobic base and keep your heart rate within the 60-65 percent zone. While not as challenging as other levels, many instructors will switch up the endurance workout to include some slight inclines.
A strength class features many hills, shorter recovery times and frequent climbs with tension to build leg strength. If you want to increase speed, power and build your heart strength, an interval class is the ticket.
An interval class will start with a low-intensity pace and then ramp up to a high intensity pace to raise your heart rate. "Often, an instructor will integrate all three workouts in one class: they will start with endurance, then intervals and finish with strength," Bell says.
An indoor cycling class is approximately one hour, including a five-minute warm-up, 45 minutes of intense cardio and a 10-minute cooldown. According to Bell, the cooldown is essential to bring your heart rate and breathing back to normal and stretch out leg muscles.
Perhaps the best aspect of indoor cycling is the ability to change the resistance based on your fitness level and goals. Since no one in class can tell your resistance level, you don't have to worry about competition. "If you're climbing a hill and struggling, you can back off from it," Bell says. "You're still getting a quality workout, but you control the intensity." The workout is within your control, which is what makes indoor cycling a consummate companion to running.