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The Ultimate Guide to Indoor Cycling In the Winter: How to Stay Fit

December 11 2023 4 min read

With winter's icy weather nearing, the idea of setting out on your bike can be a challenge, especially when it’s dark and the roads are slippery. 

But that’s where the trusty indoor bike comes in handy.

In this Fitness First guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about indoor cycling and how it can transform your fitness routine in the winter. Say goodbye to the winter blues and hello to a season of fitness success!

What is indoor cycling?

Also known as spinning, indoor cycling is a fantastic way to stay fit and enjoy a cardio workout without having to brave the elements, especially during winter. 

Indoor bikes are stationary, so they’ll come equipped with resistance levels, a comfortable seat and handlebars. As you pedal, you can control the intensity of the workout by increasing or decreasing the resistance, essentially making it harder or easier. This way, you can tailor your ride to your fitness levels and goals, whether you’re looking to burn calories, build endurance or simply strengthen your legs.

Why choose indoor cycling in the winter?

Opting for indoor cycling during the winter months can be a smart choice for a range of reasons, making it a compelling option to help keep you active when the weather outside might not be cooperating!

  • Weather independence — Winter often brings chilly temperatures, snowy conditions, icy roads, and shorter daylight hours, making outdoor cycling less appealing and potentially risky. Indoor cycling offers a climate-controlled environment, allowing you to maintain your fitness routine without contending with unpredictable elements.
  • It’s safer — Riding a bike outdoors in slippery or icy conditions can pose huge safety risks, increasing the chances of accidents. Indoor cycling, on the other hand, eliminates these concerns, offering a secure and controlled environment for your workouts.
  • Offers more variety — Indoor cycling bikes often come equipped with adjustable resistance levels and pre-set workout programs, allowing you to tailor your sessions to align with your goals. You can choose from high-intensity interval training (HIIT), endurance rides, and various other workouts to keep your routine engaging.
  • It’s more comfortable — We’ve all been there: bundled up in the cold, hoping to get a bit of a workout in without overheating. Well, with an indoor cycling session, there’s no need for multiple layers of thick winter gear. You can stay warm and comfortable without having to brave the cold!
  • Consistent training — Continuing your cycling regimen indoors ensures you don't lose the progress you've made during the warmer seasons. You can keep building your strength, endurance, and cardiovascular fitness year-round.

At Fitness First, our local gyms offer a dependable, controlled and comfortable environment, allowing you to maintain and improve your cycling performance, even during the colder months; find a gym today to get started. 

What equipment do you need?

When you’re indoor cycling, there are a few essential pieces of equipment and gear that you’ll need:

  1. Stationary bike — The cornerstone of your indoor cycling experience is, of course, the stationary bike itself. You have options to choose from, including spin bikes, upright bikes, and recumbent bikes. Spin bikes, for example, closely mimic the feel of a traditional road bike and are great for high-intensity workouts. 

  2. Cycling shoes — If you’re going to be hitting the bikes, investing in a pair of cycling shoes equipped with cleats can make a significant difference. These shoes securely attach to the pedals, enhancing stability and power transfer. They enable you to generate more force with each pedal stroke, resulting in a more efficient and effective workout.

  3. Cycling shorts — Comfort is paramount when you're spending extended periods in the saddle. Padded cycling shorts, often referred to as chamois shorts, provide crucial cushioning and reduce friction, ensuring a comfortable ride each time. They're designed to minimise chafing and discomfort, making longer sessions more enjoyable.

  4. Heart rate monitor — Monitoring your heart rate during indoor cycling is a valuable tool for gauging the intensity of your workout and tracking your progress over time. By keeping an eye on your heart rate, you can tailor your effort to stay within specific training zones, ensuring you're getting the most out of your workout while staying safe. Find out more about the benefits of tracking your workouts with our blog.  

  5. Towels and hydration — Indoor cycling can be an intense and sweaty activity. Having towels within easy reach is essential for wiping away sweat to keep yourself comfortable and maintain a firm grip on the handlebars. Staying well-hydrated throughout your session is equally important. Make sure you have a water bottle or hydration system nearby to replenish fluids lost through sweat. Proper hydration supports endurance and helps prevent overheating during your workout.

How to create a proper cycling training plan

Now that you’re all geared up, the next step is to create your winter indoor cycling training plan:

1. Warm-up

Starting your cycling session with a proper warm-up is crucial to prepare your body for the main part of your workout. 

Begin by peddling at a gentle pace for around 5-10 minutes. This gradual warm-up allows your muscles to loosen up, your heart rate to rise gradually, and your body to begin the transition to exercise mode.

It’s also a good idea to do some quick stretches before your warm-up to help prevent injury.

2. Interval training

Incorporating interval training into your indoor cycling routine can help supercharge your fitness progress. 

Interval training involves alternating between short bursts of high-intensity effort, such as sprinting or pedalling at a challenging pace, and periods of active recovery, where you pedal at a slower, more relaxed pace. 

These intervals can vary in duration and intensity, and they are particularly effective at boosting cardiovascular fitness, burning calories, and improving endurance. As you become more experienced, you can fine-tune the length and intensity of your intervals to match your fitness goals.

3. Resistance and cadence

The resistance setting on your stationary bike allows you to simulate various terrains and intensities — such as experimenting with different resistance levels to mimic the feeling of cycling uphill or downhill. 

Increasing the resistance challenges your leg muscles and builds strength while reducing it allows for a faster cadence — the rate at which you pedal per minute — and a cardiovascular boost. Different cadences can target specific aspects of your fitness, such as endurance or speed. Higher cadences generally enhance cardiovascular endurance, while lower levels focus on building leg strength. Varying your resistance and cadence adds variety to your workouts and keeps your progress dynamic.

4. Time and distance

To measure and monitor your progress, it's a great idea to set specific time or distance targets for each indoor cycling session. 

This goal-setting approach provides structure to your workouts and helps you gauge your improvements over time. You can choose to pedal for a certain amount of time, such as 30 or 45 minutes or aim for a particular distance, like 10 miles. These benchmarks allow you to challenge yourself, track your achievements, and stay motivated as you work towards your fitness goals.

What indoor cycling classes does Fitness First offer?

At Fitness First, we offer three different class styles suitable for both beginners and experienced cyclists:

  • RPM classes — Our RPM classes combine hit music with the motivational power of one of our inspiring instructors. Leading you on a journey of hill climbs, sprints and flat riding, this workout is based on the science of ‘Cardio Peak Training’, which involves maintaining your heart rate at an aerobic training base — between 60 and 80% of your maximum heart rate. Book an RPM class today
  • Spin classes — Discover the exhilarating world of spin classes, where pedal power meets pulsating beats. With the guidance of our certified and motivating instructors, you’ll be taken on a virtual ride through various terrains, from rolling hills to challenging climbs and sprint intervals to endurance races. Book a spin class today.

Tips for a successful indoor cycling session

To make sure that your cycling session is a success, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to make sure it goes smoothly:

  • Make sure your bike is properly set up — Setting up your stationary bike correctly is crucial to make sure that you’re comfortable. Start by adjusting the seat height to ensure your knees have a slight bend when your feet are at the bottom of the pedal stroke. This prevents overextension and strain. Similarly, adjust the handlebars to a height that allows you to maintain a relaxed but engaged posture. An ergonomic bike setup minimises discomfort, reduces the risk of injuries, and maximises the effectiveness of your workout!
  • Focus on your form — To prevent strains and injuries, maintaining good form is key; make sure to pay attention to your posture throughout your ride. Keep your back straight, shoulders relaxed, and your elbows slightly bent. Engage your core muscles to stabilise your body and avoid swaying or excessive rocking. Pedal smoothly in a circular motion rather than stomping on the pedals, distributing the effort evenly across your leg muscles. Good form not only enhances your performance but also ensures that you can ride comfortably for longer durations.
  • Control your breathing — Your breathing plays a big role in your indoor cycling experience. Practise mindful breathing by syncing your breath with your effort level. For instance, during intense intervals or climbs, take deeper breaths to provide your muscles with the oxygen they need. During recovery periods, focus on slower, controlled breaths to help calm your heart rate and relax your body. Mindful breathing helps you maintain a steady rhythm, reduces anxiety, and optimises energy management throughout the workout.
  • Music and motivation — Music can be an extremely powerful motivator during an indoor cycling session. Create a playlist of your favourite tunes with upbeat rhythms to keep your spirits high and maintain your momentum. Music not only adds enjoyment but also distracts from any discomfort or fatigue you might experience.
  • Properly cool down — As your indoor cycling session draws to a close, it's important to transition into a cool-down phase. This involves gradually reducing your effort and heart rate. Finish your ride with a slow and steady pedal, allowing your body to recover gradually. This cooldown period helps prevent dizziness and muscle stiffness that can occur when abruptly stopping a high-intensity workout. 

Get set with Fitness First

Winter doesn't need to be a roadblock in your cycling journey. With the right indoor cycling equipment, a well-structured training plan, and access to engaging indoor cycling classes, you can train regardless of the weather outside! 

At Fitness First, we have a wide range of fitness classes, personal training sessions and more to help you reach your fitness goals. 

Book a club visit to come and experience our facilities for free, whether you're looking for gyms in London or gyms further afield in the UK. Or, for more helpful tips and advice on fitness and nutrition, check out our blog.