It’s getting hot in herre so take off all your clothes!

We have all been there both as instructors and participants: an indoor cycling studio with an insufficient or broken air con system. Or a non-existent one. Or one that is set up to a temperature that is way too high for 45 people riding bikes.

Tony, who you learned a bit about in my last blog, recently picked up on that and asked me to write about it. We aim to please, so Tony here it is.

Anyone who has ever been to an indoor cycling class knows how warm the studio feels a few minutes into the class and how hot it gets half way through. And it generally does not matter how big the space is or whether it is full or not. Yes, it will partially depend on WHAT PROFILE people are riding and HOW HARD they are working. But the main WHY is simple: cycling is a strenuous cardiovascular exercise that by its nature raises the body temperature.

Hence even if the studio feels really cool when you walk in and you even resort to keeping your long sleeve top on or you towel over your shoulders, within the first few minutes of the warm up you notice the difference.

Now if you ask 5 random people in any indoor cycling class how they feel about their studio being not ventilated properly or getting really hot really quickly I guarantee you will have responses varying from: “that’s the nature of the class”, “it should feel really hot, shouldn’t it?”, “if the mirrors steam up that mean we are working really hard!” to “I feel like I can’t work as hard as I know I can if it’s too hot”. So which on is it?

IS IT THE CASE OF THE HOTTER THE BETTER THEN?

You know heat will raise your HR (heart rate). The important thing to understand is that that increase in HR has nothing to do with working harder. It makes your body work harder at the same power output just to deal with the heat.

Say what? Basically if you trained on a bike with a computer where you could see the power output in Watts and your HR, if the room was so hot your HR would raise as a result, you would sweat more and feel more tired (no doubt) but your Watts number would stay the same or lower.

What I mean is that your PERCEPTION may be that you worked much harder than usual! But the numbers will prove that you actually produced the same OR LESS power or if your focus is calories, you would have burnt the same number of calories (OR LESS) as in a class with air con on, lower HR and not feeling spent.

Let me say it this way: the higher HR may actually mean YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO WORK OUT HARD ENOUGH, SO IT REDUCES YOUR ABILITY TO TRAIN AT YOUR FULL POTENTIAL.

The misconception that the higher HR the better is the reason why many people love taking classes where they are encouraged to ride at crazy speeds (over 120RPM) without much resistance. It raises their HR significantly, making them sweat buckets hence the conclusion they draw is: this is a great workout. These ideas mainly thrive in places where bikes have no consoles and people don’t question their instructors.

If they had numbers in front of them they would see that higher speed makes the HR go up but all the important numbers down. Plus, let’s be honest, it’s much less comfortable to work up a sweat going at 80-90RPM with a decent resistance than 100-120RPM when it’s the bike that is riding you rather than the other way round… Yes, I have said it.

A good quality certification will cover the issue of thermo-regulation and the dangers of body overheating. That’s why I found it shocking that some boutique studios market “Hot Cycling” classes where they purposefully raise the studio temperature to seemingly make you burn more calories.

The argument for taking these hot cycling classes are that you warm up faster and sweating profusely will get rid of toxins in the body. I would say you risk mild cramps (unless you hydrate properly) and also unless you allow long cooldown and stretch, if you just run out of the studio like many people do, your muscles may just seize up which never feels nice.

I have made the joke: “Welcome to Bikram cycling!” a few times when we were faced with no air con from the start but I would not try telling my participants that this class would make them work harder due to the temperature of the studio.

Quite opposite: apart from reminding people to keep hydrated I have been known to change the class profile either half way through or from the start. I cannot expect people to do sprints or go for a HIIT class when there is simply not enough oxygen in the room to perfom these at the level required.

To quote an article from a medical professsional on from WebMD: “If the body can no longer cool itself, it starts storing heat inside. The core temperature begins to rise and you put your internal organs at risk”.

You may say: “Gee Izabela, you are exagerrating!” Well, if we are talking about a recreational rider who really is not pushing themselves that hard and not training to higher HR or power zones then maybe. But if they have high blood pressure issues or are pregnant, the risks are real.

You may say: but people cycle outside in high temperatures all the time! Yes, but if you have ever done that you know that the actual movement creates cooling airflow. Let me remind you: in indoor cycling class your bike is stationary.

MY ADVICE:

  1. Remember that higher HR does not automatically mean harder work. HR is body’s response to what you put it through and not a measure of your effort.
  2. If you are or may be pregnant or suffer from high blood pressure and the studio is too hot, please let the instructor know.
  3. Hydrate and listen to your body.