indoor cycling workout

Beginner Cycling Workouts: Cycling Your Way to Weight Loss

While many new exercisers care about improving their health and fitness… they also want to lose weight. There’s no shame in seeking to cut pounds so that you can move better and feel better in your own skin. If you want to introduce fitness into your life and drop a few pounds in the process, cycling is a great place to start. Cycling workouts are highly welcoming to beginners. Just a few of the indoor cycling benefits include building lean muscle mass, improving aerobic capacity, and burning lots of calories.

Best of all, nearly every gym provides stationary bikes and offers group cycling classes. If you are just getting started in your fitness journey, hop on a bike and start pedaling your way to a whole new you.

Why Cycling Is a Great Workout for Beginners

Starting a new exercise routine after a long break can feel intimidating. It can also be dangerous to throw yourself back into high-intensity workouts if your body isn’t used to working hard. Cycling offers a great way to gently and effectively transition from couch to fitness star.

Almost Anyone Can Use a Stationary Bike

Many people feel overwhelmed when visiting a gym for the first time simply because they are unfamiliar with many of the machines and equipment. The stationary bike, however, is as familiar as biking to your best friend’s house when you were a kid.

Cycling Is Low Impact

If you struggle with joint pain, it may not be a good idea to start your fitness journey by pounding away on a treadmill. Instead, cycling offers a wonderful, low-impact workout that is especially gentle on the knees (often the first major joints to wear out). New exercisers of nearly any age, weight, or condition can successfully exercise on a stationary bike.

Tons of Different Workout Options

One common myth is that cycling is boring. You may assume you’ll just pedal at the same speed for 10 or 20 minutes to complete a workout as bland as sugarless cookies. Wrong! As you’ll learn later in this article, you can design many different kinds of cycling workouts, including interval workouts, HIIT cycling workouts, and other workout varieties that will keep you dialed in and working hard. There’s a reason cycling classes are usually at or near capacity. Cycling is exciting!

Indoor Cycling Benefits

Biking may be exciting, but is cycling a good workout? You betcha; with the important caveat that, just like any other physical activity you perform, you need to make a point to challenge yourself while on the bike. Just about anyone can set a stationary bike’s resistance on the lowest setting and pedal leisurely while catching up on their favorite television show. While that can be a good way to get your body moving, if you want to capitalize on the benefits of cycling, you’ll need to turn up the intensity. 

What are the benefits of cycling?

Big Calorie Burn

If one of your fitness goals is to lose weight, cycling is a great way to torch lots of calories. As you pedal, the large muscles in your legs and glutes will need energy to keep up the work. They do this by converting fats, sugars, carbs, and sometimes proteins into energy (known as adenosine triphosphate, or ATP).

The result is a high-calorie burn. How many calories do you burn while cycling? The answer will depend on several factors, including your age, weight, fitness level, and metabolism. It’ll also depend on your level of effort. It should come as no surprise that the harder you pedal, the more calories you’ll sizzle away.

Harvard Medical School found that a 185-lb person using a stationary bike at a moderate pace burned 294 calories in 30 minutes. Ramp up the pace a little, and that same person biking at a vigorous pace will burn 441 calories in the same 30-minute time frame.

Improved Cardio Health

Over time, regular cycling will improve your cardio fitness and overall health. Cycling can be a great way to help lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise your “good” HDL cholesterol. It can also help lower your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and even diabetes. Beyond simple weight loss, cycling is a powerful contributor to your wellbeing.

Lean Muscle Development

While cycling doesn’t promote as much overall growth in muscle mass as lifting weights, it can help you build lean, toned muscles in your quads and glutes. By engaging your abs as you ride, you can also tone your core during your cycling workouts. Your quads and glutes are some of your body’s largest muscles, so building them can help you burn even more calories in a day since muscles burn more calories than fat.

Improved Muscular Endurance

Cycling at a moderate pace will activate your slow-twitch muscles, which are muscle fibers designed for long endurance work. Over time, you should notice that you can bike further and longer. You should also be able to maintain a faster pace or handle a higher level of resistance more easily. You can even develop your fast-twitch muscles and improve your explosiveness by incorporating sprints into your cycling workouts. Better muscular endurance can improve your fitness results in other endeavors. You may notice you can walk or run farther or that climbing a long flight of stairs isn’t nearly as difficult as it once was.

Preparing for Your Cycling Workout

Even when working out indoors, you’ll want to bring water with you for your ride. It also doesn’t hurt to bring a workout towel, as you may get a little sweaty (or “glowy” if you prefer) during your ride.

Before you begin pedaling away the calories, adjust the bike correctly; adjusting your bike to the right setting for your height prior to your ride will help you get the most out of your workout. For stationary bikes, this is relatively easy. Adjust the seat so that it reaches roughly your hip height when you stand next to the bike. If you need help adjusting the bike, don’t be afraid to ask a fitness professional at your gym for assistance.

The bike should contain some sort of mechanism to control the resistance of the bike. This may be a dial on the bike or a button on the computer screen. It’s a good idea to take a few minutes to bike slowly at a low resistance to warm up before your workout. (Here are 10 pre-workout stretches to add to your fitness routine.)

Now, you’re ready to ride. Try our recommended cycling workouts below and remember to wipe down your bike after your workout so that it is clean for the next user.

Best Cycling Workouts for Beginners

Rearing and ready to go? Great! Here are three beginner cycling workouts to try.

5… 4… 3… 2… 1

This is a perfect workout to begin improving your muscular endurance. Choose a moderate-to-slow pace as your target. Alternatively, choose a certain wattage (or power output) as your target. Your goal is to maintain that pace or wattage output throughout the entire workout.

  • Cycle for five minutes at a relatively low resistance. It should be easy to stay at your pace or wattage. At the five-minute mark, increase the resistance by a small amount. (The key is small increments.)
  • Cycle for four minutes while maintaining your pace or wattage. At the nine-minute mark, crank that resistance up just a little again and stay on pace for three minutes.
  • Repeat the process with three minutes, two minutes, and one final minute, increasing the resistance as your time domain goes down. That last minute should feel very difficult.
  • To make the workout easier, lower your pace or wattage or decrease the resistance. You can also cut down the workout time by making it a four, three, two, one.

Climb to Glory

Looking to get tight, defined legs? Then you’ll need to learn to love resistance so you can build strong quad and glute muscles. The format of climb to glory is:

5 Rounds of:

  • 2 minutes moderate-resistance
  • 1 minute high-resistance

Keep a steady pace during the moderate-resistance sections and do your best to power through the high-resistance sections. Once you get more used to cycling, give yourself a pace or wattage goal to maintain during the resistance climbs. Grit your way to glory!

Make this workout easier by lowering the resistance or slowing your pace. You can also choose to perform fewer rounds.

HIIT Cycling Workout

Have you heard of high-intensity interval training? HIIT is a popular workout format that trades time for intensity. If you don’t have long for your workout and are willing to make it burn, this is a great option for you. This HIIT workout will also help you work on your anaerobic capacity.

  • Begin with two minutes of easy cycling at a low resistance.
  • Change the resistance to moderate
  • Perform 8 rounds of:
    • 20 seconds of cycling as fast and hard as you can
    • 40 seconds of slow, steady cycling
    • Finish with two minutes of easy cycling at low resistance to cool down

You can make this workout easier by lowering the resistance and cutting down the number of rounds. Just remember, it’s supposed to burn.

Jump in the Saddle

What are you waiting for? Now that you know all the indoor cycling benefits, it’s time to try cycling at a gym near you. Still feel a little unsure of what to do on the bike? A great option is to take a group cycling class at your gym. These classes are known for their intensity, but you can always control your destiny by choosing the level of resistance. The benefits of a cycling class are easy to see. Cycling classes are a lot of fun, with an enthusiastic instructor, high-energy music, and fellow cyclists pushing through burning quads with you.

As your cycling improves, you will likely notice changes in your body. Your legs and glutes will get tighter and you may notice you have more energy. However, cycling should only be a part of your weight loss journey. To speed up your weight loss goal, consider adding resistance training into your fitness routine. You’ll also want to make sure you are eating nutritious foods in the right portions. Keep reading the EōS Fitness blog for lots of great advice on making your fitness goals, including weight loss, a reality.

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