These days, it seems like it's not enough to just have a gym membership. Every week, there's a new studio fitness trend in town, often in boutique-style indoor cycling form. And while these cycling studios all differ in style, they do have one thing in common—they're not exactly the most affordable way to work out. With so many choices to ride, how do you choose which cardio is right for you? We asked Dara Hartman, an instructor at Cyc, for some advice. Whether you choose SoulCycle, Flywheel, Cyc, or Spin, keep these calorie-burning tips in mind before you drop your cash on a class pack.
Think about more than cost and location: Each indoor cycling studio has a different philosophy and vibe, so don't only stick with the convenience factor when trying to decide which studio to try. "It's about finding a studio that has the environment to give you the workout you're looking for," Hartman says. That means paying attention to "the vibe of the studio as a whole as well as the right connection and the right fit with the instructor." If you like your class and your teacher, you'll be more motivated to show up, work hard, and burn the most calories.
1. Just let go: It can be very intimidating to show up to a class when you're a beginner and everyone seems to know each other and what to do. But Hartman says to remember that you're all in it together. "Anyone at any level, from pro athletes and avid cyclists to those who have never mounted a bike before, can spin and finish this workout feeling energized and accomplished," she says. "Don't feel self-conscious! Everyone is there together. It's a place to work hard, let go, and have fun!"
2. Push it during the weights section: Many indoor cycling studios combine cycling with weight lifting light dumbbells. Cyc, for example, incorporates weight lifting and other sports-inspired movements for 40 percent of the class—meaning you should really push your limits for the most effective workout. "I challenge my group to minimize their recovery; my goal in each weighted sector is to get to that effective muscle fatigue, to really push through the feeling of discomfort, to try to not drop their weights or shake out their arms," Hartman explains. It might not seem like much when you're just holding two-pound weights, but trust her, after a few songs, those weights will "feel like anvils!"
3. Check your form: One of the biggest mistakes Hartman sees her students make in class is also one of the most dangerous. "I so often see clients riding with improper form, their knees too far forward, their weight pressing though their toes instead of their heels," she says. Riding like this could cause your cycling shoes to unclip from your pedals while you ride—not very safe when you're bouncing in and out of your saddle and giving it your all. Hartman reminds students to regularly check their form during class so you don't have to cut your ride short because of a mishap.
4. Fuel up: You don't want to feel weighed down while you're sweating it out in class, but you do need to have the energy to make it through a grueling session. Hartman suggests eating solid food—a mix of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein—no more than an hour before class and then something lighter right before if needed. Her go-tos: three egg whites and oatmeal with prunes followed by a piece of fruit, smoothie, protein bar, or shake right before class.