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Studio Cycling: What Is It and How It Can Benefit You
by Lee Wright, BS, BSMI (CPFT)
Wellness Director, Conoco

Studio cycling, known by many different names such as group indoor cycling, Spinning, Cycle Reebok, Pace, and others, has become one of the hottest exercise formats to hit the fitness industry since step aerobics. What is this phenomenon that appeals to the elite iron man athlete and the 65-year-old grandmother?

Modeled after an outdoor bicycle training session and originally designed to help train professional cyclists and athletes, studio cycling has now become a low-impact instructor lead indoor stationary bike workout assisted by cycling technology, general exercise, heart rate training principles, motivational cues and music. The instructor literally creates a "virtual" outdoor bike ride traveling over a variety of terrains.

Part of the popularity of studio cycling is due to the types of bikes that are used. The specially designed fixed gear stationary bike replicate the kinesthetic experience of riding an outdoor bicycle. The feel is accomplished through a belt-driven or chain-driven flywheel mechanism and a seat and handlebars that can be positioned so the rider achieves a comfortable, streamlined racing position. Resistance is increased or decreased using a mechanism that works like the gearshift of a conventional outdoor bicycle. Resistance is self-regulated, making studio cycling appealing to all fitness levels.

Another primary attraction of studio cycling is the low intimidation factor. It is a program for everyone, at any age, and every level of fitness. A rider doesn' t need a lot of skill to fit in. Another plus is the group setting, which provides enough competition to inspire individuals to a better workout. Participants have the option to increase or decrease pedaling speed, vary their positions on the cycle (seated or standing), and alternate the level of resistance at any time during the workout. Novice cyclists might ride seated using lesser resistance to simulate level riding, or add more resistance to give the feel of hill climbing. Other body positions include running (pedaling while standing with moderate resistance for the feel of flats), standing climbs, jumping (coming out of the saddle repeatedly while maintaining a steady pedal cadence), and sprinting (riding at a fast cadence with low to moderate resistance). Everyone finishes the "road race" at the same time, regardless of ability, gaining a sense of "reaching the top."

Some of the Benefits Of Studio Cycling

A study conducted by Bicycling Fitness Advisory Board member Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D. and others found that during a typical 45-minute cycling class an individual burns 450 to 600 calories, significantly more calories than a full hour of fast walking or low impact aerobics. Making it an excellent way to lose weight.

Research has shown that a typical indoor cycling workout evokes an average heart rate (HR) response of 87 percent of maximum and an average VO2 response of 74 percent of maximum. (Stavig, Francis & Buono 1998)

The visual imagery provided by the instructor sets cycling workouts apart from the usual boredom of stationary cycling. There is no time for tedium, thus solving one of the biggest complaints about stationary cycling, boredom.

Weight-bearing cycling techniques such as pedaling while out of the saddle, builds muscular strength in quads, hamstrings, calves, hips, and abdominal.

The skills built indoors have a direct benefit to outdoor cycling.

Both the novice and advanced participant can work out side-by-side and control their own effort by increasing or decreasing the resistance.

Participants experience road cycling without all the associated dangers.

People of all ages and fitness levels can take a stationary bike and transform it into a powerful workout tool.

A great choice for the cyclist who wants to take his/her outdoor program inside during inclement weather.

Compared to running or impact aerobics, cycling is a low impact exercise that is easier on the body, particularly the joints.

Lee Wright is the avid cyclist with many years of road and off road cycling experience. She has competed in many long distance cycling tours and is a group studio cycling instructor at The Downtown YMCA. Lee is the co-owner of Cyclistics, a group cycling certification and continuing education company recognized by the American Council on Exercise awarding 1.2 ACE continuing education credits and accredited by the University of Houston earning 1-college semester hour. For information about upcoming Group Cycling Specialists Certifications and workshops, contact Lee at 713.869.8355 or email her at Cyclistics@yahoo.com.

View Lee's Bio




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