Women on Wheels: Take your cycling indoors this summer!

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Indoor cycling is not just for cyclists, explains our expert and flywheel instructor, Helle Bachofen von Echt.

A dark room full of sweaty, panting, groaning people pedalling like crazy to a heavy beat blasting from the speakers with an instructor shouting orders from the stage. Sounds mad, right? Well it is, in the most awesome way.

Indoor cycling has been the most consistent part of my personal regular exercise routine for the past 18 years. I have never stopped riding indoors and, despite being a competitive road cyclist and training at least four days per week outdoors on my road bike, I still ride indoor cycling classes several times a week. Eight years ago I made the transition from participant to instructor, and of all the various jobs I do and have done within the fitness, health and sports industry, I can reveal that indoor cycling has always been my favourite.


Helle at Flywheel Sports Dubai

Indoor cycling in a nutshell
Indoor cycling is an organised activity within a group fitness format. Classes focus on endurance, strength, intervals, and high intensity training using a special stationary exercise bicycle with a weighted flywheel, all in a classroom setting.

A typical class runs from 45 minutes to an hour, with a single instructor in front of the class who leads the participants through a carefully designed riding programme simulating a ride through undulating terrain. This will include hill climbs, sprints, intervals and periods of recovery. A good instructor will carefully plan a program with a variety of music and use visualisation, enthusiasm and personal experience to motivate, encourage and guide participants through a structured session whilst allowing every individual to ride at his or her own suitable level.

Every participant is in full control of their own levels of resistance on the bike’s flywheel, and therefore is in charge of their own physical and cardiovascular output.


10 reasons why you’ll love indoor cycling…
There are so many benefits that I hardly know where to start. I may be biased as I am an indoor cycling instructor, but indoor cycling has proved to me to be the number one most efficient, effective, euphoric and safe cardiovascular exercise session completed within 45 minutes. These are just some of the benefits of indoor cycling:

1. Escape the Summer heat
From personal experience, it’s very simple: outdoor sessions during the hot summer months in the UAE are draining. In comparison, the indoor sessions are refreshing and energising, as they are usually performed in an air conditioned studio. If you are looking for a good quality training session and you want to feel great after too, indoor sessions are perfect.

2. It’s YOU time
For 45 minutes, you will forget all about the real world. The focus is on YOU. This is your time and your opportunity to make yourself feel amazing. Nothing else matters.

3. Building mental strength
When the muscles are burning, the stomach is turning and you feel your heart in your throat – and there are still another 30 seconds left (just 30 seconds) of your interval, you have two options: you can quit early or you can push through the discomfort. It’s all about mental strength. You build it inside the studio, but you can then put it into practice when faced with real life obstacles.

4. Calorie burning
As an instructor, I get asked the “how many calories will I burn” question frequently. There is no specific answer. It is completely individual. Amongst other things, your calorie burn will depend on your current fitness level, your ability to push towards your maximum, your basic metabolic rate and your weight. However, indoor cycling sessions are in general built around ‘high intensity interval training’ and you get out what you put in. My best advice is to forget about the calorie burn and avoid counting numbers. You have 45 minutes to give your best; to build yourself stronger mentally and physically. As you continue to push limits and increase muscular and cardiovascular capability, you will grow into a high calorie burning machine.

5. Community feel
You will make new friends; with fellow riders, instructors and staff. Friends with the same desire and mindset as you. And if you are not quite there yet, you will get immensely inspired by the people around you in the room. Should you become hooked, your cycling studio will become your second home. An indoor cycling studio is buzzing and the energy in the room is created by all the people around you. You are all in it together.

6. Motivation / Energy / Guidance
Indoor cycling classes couldn’t possibly be any more convenient. You just have to turn up on time, follow the instructor’s guidance and give it your best. Everything else is provided for you; the bike, the music, the carefully structured training program, the encouragement and motivation, the expertise – and some cycling studios also provide clip-in cycling shoes, drinking water, showers, towels and a comfortable lounge area to relax in before or after all the hard work is done.

7. Release of endorphins
That feeling when you walk out the door after completing 45 minutes of intense interval training is the number one reason why I have continued to take part in indoor cycling for 18 years. The buzz, the sweat, the happiness, the satisfaction, the energy, and the way you feel about yourself. You are high on euphoria and ready to take on the world, and that’s exactly why you will come back for more.


8. Time efficient
It is a fact that outdoor cycling is a time consuming sport here in Dubai. It involves driving out to a dedicated cycle track, a few hours of riding and then a drive back home. If you are pressured for time and have other responsibilities in life to attend to, then indoor cycling is one of the most effective and time efficient cardio workouts you can get.

9. Risk-free / Low impact on joints and ligaments
One of the huge benefits of cycling is the low impact on joints and ligaments. Many physiotherapists will refer clients to cycling as their first form of exercise after injuries and treatments. We also see many
previous runners transitioning to cycling after experiencing problems from the high impact on their joints.

10. Suitable for any age group and ability
From a complete beginner to a top athlete, you will experience a range of benefits. Whether you are younger or older, age has no limit when it comes to exercising in a safe environment, releasing endorphins and
feeling good about yourself.

Other benefits include a lowering of stress levels and improvement in sleep, as well as cardiovascular health and muscular endurance.

Can you substitute your outdoor cycling training with indoor cycling classes?
It depends on your goal. If your goal is to build basic cardiovascular fitness, or maintain current fitness, feel good, do an effective cardio session in a short period of time, or you are looking for a change, a guaranteed motivational environment, an instant boost, or you simply want to escape the heat, then YES, you can substitute your outdoor session in an indoor environment. Indoor cycling is basically ‘fitness on a bike’.


Whilst indoor cycling is not the same as riding outdoors, it is a great way to build and maintain cardiovascular strength over the summer months. (Photo by: Annette McCusker)

It is unlikely, however, that you’ll become an Ironman or win your next cycle race from doing only indoor cycling classes. All outdoor cycling disciplines require a certain level of skill such as bike control, being visually aware, avoiding obstacles, use of core control, being confident riding close to other riders and adapting to different weather and terrain. Mountain biking for instance requires incredible skills and technique on rough and technical surfaces. Individual time trialling (the bike discipline of a triathlon), requires perfect positioning, core strength and exceptional endurance. Climbing a mountain on a road bike requires long and consistent heavy pedal power on a low cadence and a big dose of mental strength. Manoeuvring around a road cycling peloton requires some guts, extensive bike handling skills and an ability to read the environment for optimal positioning in the field as well as anticipating the moves of other riders.

Indoor cycling is fantastic for building your cycling base, your confidence, basic fitness, mental strength, as well as allowing you to become comfortable with pushing out of your comfort zone and learning about effort versus recovery. However, in order to master a cycling discipline well or become a competitive athlete, specific skills and training programmes in the real authentic
environment is necessary.


Nikos at Souplesse Cycle

Where can you find indoor cycling classes?
Most mainstream and stand-alone fitness facilities offering group exercise classes will also offer ‘indoor cycling’; check out your local gym. Group classes are usually included in the gym membership. Dubai also hosts a few cycling specific studios with a more comprehensive timetable, a consistent concept and specifically trained instructors. These studios include Flywheel Sports, Souplesse Cycle and Bespoke Ride, who all offer both pay-per-class and membership options.

Helle Bachofen von Echt is a Dubai based amateur road cyclist competing in both local and International events. She is team leader of a UAE based female amateur cycling team and she is also an Indoor Cycling Instructor at Flywheel Sports Dubai. Helle loves traveling with her bike and you can follow her adventures and racing in pictures on instagram @thegirlwhocyclesinthedesert and her blog page www.hellebve.com

Words + Photos by: Helle Bachofen von Echt


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