There’s a reason it’s called an exercise “routine.” After a while, and when it finally becomes a habit, you go through the motions without thinking about it. It's just what you do. But for many of us, it can become mundane and boring.
That was the biggest reason I decided I needed to revamp my workout regimen. Well, that combined with a little heartbreak, general life annoyances, and stress on my joints. While exclusively running did me well for me for over two years, it was becoming a chore. And if there’s anything I’ve learned about fitness throughout my life, which includes a good 15 years in a competitive sport, it’s that the minute it becomes “work,” it loses all appeal.
So instead of going for a jog one morning, down a path that had become so regular that I had started nicknaming the people I passed every day (in my mind, we were buds!), I booked a spin class at the Flywheel a few blocks from my apartment. The change of atmosphere was enlightening after being solo for so long—the loud, spirited music, exercising in a group—and because it was such a muscle shock, my butt and thighs ached for days. Like, I couldn’t walk up steps without a whining or wincing.
I picked the right day for the abrupt change in my routine, turns out. That day, the studio was kicking off a four-week "power into summer" challenge, where those participating were paired up with a coach, an eating plan, and a cycling schedule. It was kismet, and after class, I immediately signed up. What’s more, my assigned trainer—Emily Burkhardt, who happens to be one of the cheeriest, kindest, and motivating people I’ve ever met—was going to “check-in” with me every week with helpful eating, exercise, and general wellness tips. And I was free to email her as I needed with any questions or concerns.
The eating plan was filled with meals that were designed to give my the nutrients I needed to power through a class, but also keep me full—think sweet potato with almond butter, overnight oats, and egg salad with arugula and toast. I tried to follow it as closely as possible, even trying the suggestions they have for prepared food when cooking just wasn’t going to happen. There was also a shopping list, so I didn't need to spend two hours in the grocery store figuring out what to stock up on.
I was weary to add that much cycling into my routine, though. I know what running can do to my body, but being on a bike so much was just foreign, and I wasn’t sure what effects I was going to see.
But as you probably assumed from the headline of this article, I did see some results, and my trainer, Emily, filled me in on why and how it happened.
For starters, I noticed the muscles in my legs started to have more definition—specifically in my calves and my thighs—and it all has to do with the movement of the peddles. "Indoor cycling is a low-impact activity with nonstop leg work. With the correct bike settings, your pedal stroke will work your hamstrings, glutes, quads, and calf muscles without wearing and tearing on your hip, knee, and ankle joints,” Emily tells me.
Second, my core felt stronger than it has in a very, very long time—like since high school swim practice. Weird, considering you’re on a bike, no? Emily says it may have something to do with the way you're sitting. "I always have riders sit in the saddle with 'confident posture.' This means shoulders are relaxed, chest is open, spine is elongated and their core is engaged (belly button pulled back toward the spine),” she says. Keyword on the core!
"I think of the human body like one big team—in order for the team to work well together, everyone needs to put in work,” she says.
Cycling seems like it would be all legs, right? Well, at FlyWheel, like many other cycling studios, they incorporate a one-song portion of weighted arm exercises into the routine, so you get that action, too. And that little fact leads me to say that I did start seeing a teeny-tiny bit more tone in my arms. Emily tells me these exercises are meant to "exhaust your chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps, deltoid, and pectorals with 2/4/6 pound weights."
Besides actual physical changes, the thing I was most excited about was feeling stronger and seeing progress in my strength. I know that because FlyWheel utilizes a score board—you can opt into having it visible to the entire class—and my power numbers continued to grow higher and higher. I started with a score of 272 for a 45-minute class and ended with a personal best of 294. I also felt like I had more energy and was generally a happier person, though I know exercise of all kinds truly does that.
Now, I know that exclusively doing only one form of exercise over a prolonged period of time isn't wonderful for your body, or so I've heard, but what this sole month of cycling did do for me was introduce me to a new exercise that I didn't know I could feel passionate about. Now, I regularly incorporate it into my regimen.
But at the end of the day, any workout that ups my confidence gets an A+ from me. Oh, and feeling like you can do at least a few real push-ups doesn't hurt either.