Indoor Cycling? Find the right fit and do it with class.

I recently wrote a guest feature on GymBox’s website about indoor cycling. You can read it here:

http://gymbox.com/blog/feature-indoor-cycling.

It’s about the 3 types of cycling classes GymBox offers. And that got me thinking about all the gyms across London where I have been teaching for the past 3 years.

WHAT IS OUT THERE? (LONDON)

Well, you have boutique studios with the Soulcycle-type of classes advertised as a whole body workout (weights, resistance bands etc), then you have studios which go much more into the real cycling style like Cyclebeat (https://www.cyclebeat.co.uk/) which is a cycling only facility with Keiser bikes and integrated digital display which sends you your results by e-mail after each class.

H2 (https://www.h2bikerun.co.uk/) in SoHo offers indoor and outdoor classes where you ride your own bike in the park with the instructor leading the session.

The top end of this spectrum in the city is Athlete Lab (http://athlete-lab.co.uk/) – a state of the art cycling studio using actual road bikes and a mind blowing digital display (at a mind blowing prices). It’s a training facility. Not a place to take classes.

Venturing out of central London you have Cadence in Crystal Palace which is a great facility with a bike shop & workshop and training rooms where you can test your FTP, VO2 etc but also take a WattBike class (http://www.cadenceperformance.com)

That’s all great but what about all the gyms where an average Joe goes?

WHAT ABOUT GYMS?

How do you know what’s behind that name on the timetable? “Spin”, “indoor cycling”, “V-Cycle”, “Tour de…”. How do you choose what is right for you? How do you know what to expect? Honestly? If the description is generic you can expect anything… It will all depend on the instructor. the only definitely consistent class would be Les Mills RPM.

Some gyms do the right thing and have different difficulty levels marked on the timetable: 2-3-4 stars but in real life do the instructors always know about what kind of level the class is supposed to be? Do they pay attention to it?

An average “spin” class can be very intimidating to someone who has never participated in one. And if your first one is really bad or well above your fitness level and you do not get guidance from the instructor, you may never be back.

I truly believe gyms should put on a couple of tailored classes to entice people in who would otherwise never be brave enough to try. Clearly described on the timetable and adhered to by the instructors.

INTRODUCTION TO INDOOR CYCLING CLASS

Every gym would benefit from a beginners’ class. I have had the proof of that when I decided to put on a 30min cycling clinic at one of the studios I have worked for until recently. Targeting people who have never done cycling classes it involved bike set up, riding technique, resistance & cadence introduction and a little practice in and out of the saddle. I was doing it right before an actual class so people had an option to stay for the class or not and come when they were ready. It was great! Neither I nor the participants felt the pressure that we were rushed, they had time to ask questions and as we would have 2-4 people at a time it was a non-pressure environment.

There could be a beginners’ programme that would be delivered over 4 classes. Otherwise just a normal 45min novice class would be beneficial.

SPECIAL POPULATIONS

Certain gyms have quite a few kids attending. A Virgin gym where I have a couple of regular classes, has a Kidz programme with a couple of classes for 10-15 year olds. It does not include cycling.

Through instructor forums I have come across family indoor cycling classes or classes purely run for kids. I love the idea but I haven’t seen that in any of the gyms I teach at. I know they do have youth classes on offer on an actual track at Lee Valley (http://www.visitleevalley.org.uk/en/content/cms/london2012/velo-park/youth-activities/).

Talking about special populations, classes for silver foxes are a great way to attract older generation. I think London gyms and leisure centres are missing a trick here.

Finally, as the outdoor season ends we have the outdoor cyclists who are not interested in exercise classes. They want to train over winter to keep their form up but they want clear goals, tests, a whole programme. Some gyms are halfway there since they have brought in great bikes like the MatrixIC7 with a console providing the all important data to track your progress. In my opinion in a few gyms I teach at, a specialist cycling class would work a treat.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not about excluding people as in “only outdoor cyclists wearing lycra allowed”.  All that would be needed is a clear indication – BEWARE: you need to know why you are here, you may have 30min in the saddle non-stop, it will be goal focused and as much as it still can be fun it is geared toward achieving specific results at the end of the programme.

So far one gym chain I have spoken to is excited about incorporating a few weeks’ specialised programme that would go along a challenge that they run.

HAVE YOU DONE IT AT YOUR GYM? HAS IT WORKED?

I would love to hear from you if your gym runs any specialised indoor cycling classes. Whether you are a member or an instructor. If you created a programme and managed to get it approved, please share your story.

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