You may never leave the cycling studio, but an indoor cycling class provides a wild ride. Classes combine pumping music with stationary bikes that simulate hills, flats and windy terrain so you can fry hundreds of calories in one sweaty session. You can't go all out in class, however, without a proper warm-up to increase your core body temperature, enhance muscle contraction and prepare you mentally for the high intensity to come.
An indoor cycling warm-up starts before you even get onto the bike. Most cycles designed for indoor classes are highly adjustable to suit your proportions. Consult an instructor or trainer for a proper bike fit. Have a water bottle and a towel nearby and, if you're cycling on your own, get your music ready.
First Few Minutes
During the first three to five minutes of the warm-up, pedal at a comfortable pace. If you're working out early, you may need to extend the warm-up time by five to 10 minutes because your body temperature is naturally lower in the morning, notes Cedric X. Bryant, chief exercise officer for the American Council on Exercise in a Forbes.com article. Your primary goal in the first few minutes is to raise your body temperature, which helps you deliver oxygen more efficiently to working muscles and makes the muscles more pliable. These first minutes are also a good time to establish proper form. Lengthen your spine, relax your shoulders and pedal in a smooth, circular rhythm.
Although your upper body doesn't get a lot of action during a ride, loosening it up during the warm-up can help prevent tense shoulders and a rounded back from making your ride uncomfortable and inefficient. You can do moves such as neck rotations to lessen tension in the neck, shrugs to release the shoulders and chest openers to discourage rounding of the back. During these upper-body moves, continue to pedal as you sit up straight and release the hands from the handlebars.
After a period of comfortable pedaling, perform a few short speed drills to generate more body heat and prime the muscles more. Make these drills last between 15 and 30 seconds and go about 100 rpms with modest resistance. You should feel like you're generating power with your legs as you accelerate, but you don't want to give 100 or even 80 percent effort in this early stage. These drills are to prepare you for the higher workload to come, not to burn you out and potentially cause injury. Complete between four and six of these bursts prior to getting into the main portion of your ride.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.