When it comes to biking, most people consider themselves one or the other: indoor or outdoor, says Kirk Cox, a Wellmark IT project manager and a spin instructor at Wellmark's Well for Life Center.
“Unless you have a lot of gear, it’s a challenge to be a year-round outdoor cyclist in the Midwest,” says Cox. “There is simply a limited time when the weather cooperates. That’s why indoor spin classes are so popular.”
Spinning, or indoor cycling, is a high-intensity workout using a stationary bike. The seat, handlebars, and resistance levels of spin bikes are adjustable. The resistance can be maxed out for the stronger cyclist, and turned down for a beginner.
Spinning can be a great solo workout, but a class often provides motivation to take you to the next level. Most classes last 30–45 minutes and combine bursts of fast-paced cycling with slower speeds and higher resistance levels, along with short recovery periods.
Anyone can join a spin class
Both indoor and outdoor cycling provide a low impact, aerobic workout, and increase physical endurance. The pedaling provides some resistance training, too. Spinning can also build mental toughness.
“A lot of people spin exclusively, or use the class to complement another activity, like yoga or weightlifting,” says Cox. “But anyone can join a class. Cox encourages each of his class participants to "pedal within yourself.” In other words, do what you can, based on your current fitness level and your goals.
Do I need special equipment?
You don’t need any special equipment to join a class, says Cox. “Most beginners do not like the saddles, or seats,” he adds. “So, if you find you really enjoy spinning, you might want to invest in a good pair of padded shorts.”
Otherwise, wear comfortable, no-fuss clothing, and bring a water bottle and towel to class to wipe off the sweat.
“Down the road, a pair of biking shoes that clip into the pedals are a good investment,” says Cox. “But they certainly aren’t necessary.”
Music gets the class motivated
While the instructor is a key component of any spin class, music also plays a major role. Cox has more than 40 playlists he’s collected over his 12 years of teaching spin classes, including several playlists for holidays and other special occasions.
“The workouts are timed to the music. It’s loud and it gets the class motivated,” says Cox.
The music is so important, agrees Wellmark member Tonia Land, 44, of Ankeny, Iowa. “It’s what connects everyone and gives us a sense of camaraderie,” she says.
Land attends a spinning class at her local fitness center three times a week. She is also an avid hiker, and lifts weights twice a week. “Spinning adds variety to my workout routine. Plus, it cranks up the cardio and complements my other outdoor activities. I am a stronger hiker because of spinning.”
Indoor and outdoor biking complement each other
Cox, who rides outdoor year-round and races competitively, also uses spinning to complement his outdoor workouts.
“Indoor biking can you make you a stronger outdoor biker, and vice versa,” he says.
What are the differences? “Outdoor rides tend to be longer. You cover a lot of territory and you can have a real conversation with fellow bikers. You really can take part in the community aspect of biking. Of course, the fresh air and sunshine is also a big draw.”
According to Cox, a spin class is shorter and tends to be less social, because there is simply a higher level of activity compressed into a shorter time frame.
“Indoor biking builds strength and confidence for my outdoor rides,” says Cox.
When biking outside, safety is key
For all the benefits of outdoor cycling, there are also a number of hazards. Bicyclists must share the road with vehicles, and injuries can happen even on a designated path.
Always remember to wear a bike helmet that meets federal safety standards and fits securely External Site. Just by remembering this simple piece of equipment, you can reduce your risk of head injury by 60 percent. Lights and high- visibility clothing are also excellent ideas.
Complete your fitness goals with discounts from Blue365®
If you're a Wellmark member, you have exclusive access to deals and discounts External Site to help you save money on things like:
- Exercise equipment, including stationary bikes. Get a 33 percent discount on the ProForm® Le Tour De France Studio Exercise Bike.
- The New Adventure Cycling membership, which provides you with bicycle-touring tips, mapped bicycle routes and ideas for inspiring places to ride, all at a 50 percent discount.
- Discounts on gym memberships, fitness gear and activity trackers.
Simply use your Wellmark ID card to access Blue365 deals.
Blue365® is a discount program available to members who have medical coverage with Wellmark. This is NOT insurance. Blue365® is a registered mark of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.