This article originally appeared in the Capital Bicycle Club Newsletter December, 2012
With the winter holidays coming to a close, and 2013 coming into focus, many cyclists face the age old decision of whether or not to go into the gym. This year, more than any other, there is greater opportunity to join a group fitness class or “boot camp” style fitness class. For many, these can be a great choice, and for others, they may need to be taken into consideration very carefully. The rest of this article will take a look at some of the things you need to keep in mind if you want to try out some of these classes.
Group fitness classes are a great way to get a workout! They are fun, motivating, & economical. Often times, they are choreographed to good music, and it’s easy to be exposed to exercises that are new to you. The physical benefit of these classes is that you are off the bike and working on areas that are generally neglected by cycling. Many of the classes have a heavy emphasis on core workouts, which we all need to work on!
On the flip-side of all those benefits are some very strong challenges that come with working out in this setting. First, they aren’t one-on-one training, they introduce challenging exercises that not everyone can do, and they often work a person into a fatigue zone where injuries can be common.
Despite the best efforts of the instructor, it’s nearly impossible to provide a one-on-one experience for a class of 10,20, 30, or more! As an instructor myself, I try my best, but it’s very difficult due to the pace and focus of the class. Especially hard is when there are new exercises to introduce. Everyone, it would seem, has a different interpretation of the verbal and visual cues when trying out a new exercise.
One of the major problems we have is that cycling has the potential to create some major imbalances and dysfunctions in the body. So, how do you ease into a class, then? If a cyclist is totally new to “land-based” exercise, I’d suggest taking 1-2 weeks of working out on your own before jumping into a class. You can practice some of the typical exercises by yourself at your own pace prior to joining into the class setting. Some good ones to focus on are bodyweight squats, pushups, planks, side bridges, lunges, and low back/gluteal bridges. In addition to all of that, you’ll also benefit from doing some general strengthening for your upper body either on machines or with free weights. Once you have done all that… then you can consider yourself better prepared to workout in a group.
When you consider the class you’ll take, I’ve found it helpful to ask friends who their favorite instructors are. Instructor style can vary and this will influence what happens in the class. In my opinion, they should be attentive to class members and regularly call out cues for keeping good form. You also want to make sure that your instructor is someone who won’t drive you into the ground and push you to fatigue. You should have the opportunity to focus on doing high quality repetitions with your workout. A good instructor will also know modifications to the exercises they offer in class, so if you have a problem, make sure you ask. Be aware, however, that there will be some limitations to how much time they can spend with you, especially during the flow of the class.
I hope these words of caution won’t stop you from taking and enjoying a good class this year. They can be very rewarding and give us many benefits that help our bodies be more resistant to injury! As always if you have any questions about these topics or more, please feel free to email me!