I'm about to get real honest, so buckle up.
I can't even begin to explain how many times I have had this debate with self-proclaimed "fitness experts" over the years. Many have claimed and will continue to claim that cycling or more specifically RHYTHM cycling isn't an "effective" form of exercise. So let's talk about it.
I think what these fitness experts forget to consider is the individual's end goal. Not everyone does the same thing for the same reasons. So let's break it down. Whether the goal is to build muscle, shred fat, or maintain your sanity, cycling will provide results across the board as long as you're consistent.
1. Build Muscle
I think this phrase alone has a bad rep. It is also often confused with "tone" or "toning". For women, "building muscle" has been deemed "bad", no thanks to the toxicity of diet culture in the late 90s and early 2000s. Essentially "to tone" means to build muscle. When you build muscle, it gives the body the appearance of a "tighter/more toned" look. The amount of potential clients and subscribers I have lost because they honestly believed that cycling would "make their legs bulky", is astonishing. Building muscle is NOT easy. Then we have those that believe the opposite. While many may argue that building muscle cannot be achieved while riding a stationary bike, I beg to differ.
I always say that the amount of strength it takes to keep your body controlled and sustained on the bike is INSANE, and certainly no easy feat. It takes so much strength that often times, first-time riders are easily discouraged after their first ride. "I thought cycling was supposed to be easy?" - I've heard that far too many times in my career, haha. Absolutely NOT! Like anything, it takes time to build that strength to be able to support your body in that challenging position. Now when it comes to actual growth of the muscles that are actively worked during a cycling class, well that depends on your calorie intake. In my experience, riders that follow a high-protein diet, notice results almost instantly. They're always so surprised by the definition of their muscles within the first few weeks of consistent cycling. I'll save my "diet blog" for another time, but for now consider this:
Protein = long term energy
Carbs = short term energy
Riders that don't necessarily focus on their protein intake, may not notice such drastic changes in their muscle definition, but that doesn't mean that growth isn't happening. It just might take a little longer. If I may, for the last time, CYCLING JUST ISN'T CARDIO.
2. Shred Fat/Weight Loss
This is a given. Most people who have a basic understanding of fitness and weight loss will have no issue believing that cycling can be super instrumental if fat/weight loss is the goal. So why is it that when most people begin cycling, they either lose weight rapidly and go into what they believe is their plateau, OR they notice the numbers on the scale go up?
Cycling classes yield HUGE outputs. This means you use a lot of energy, therefore burn a lot of calories. People will burn anywhere from at least 200 cal to over 1000 per class. This will put you in a caloric deficit, meaning:
- You consumed 2500 calories total in one day.
- You burned 400 calories just existing for 12 hours.
- You also burned 560 calories at a cycling class
- Your total calorie intake for the day: 1,540 (deficit)
Often times, because people are not accustomed to being in a deficit, they drop excess weight FAST when they begin becoming consistent with cycling. So why is my inbox always flooded with questions as to why they can't lose anymore weight, or now they're noticing they're gaining weight? Remember that building muscle on the bike is also happening. You might also be eating a little more to support this new active lifestyle - which is absolutely necessary. At this point, riders are usually finding themselves taking on more challenging rides to improve strength and endurance, which in turn is....
You guessed it. Your body building muscle.
So while you may not like what you see on the scale, you'll notice that your clothes are fitting different, the people around you are starting to notice, and you may even start noticing your body "feel tighter." I always suggest taking progress photos, because those photos will be one of the only things that can convince you that your body is in fact responding to cycling. Also, screw the scale.
3. Mental Health
Nothing will grind my gears more (pun-intended) than someone sh*tting on someone else because their exercise of choice is cycling on a stationary bike. And unfortunately, people like that people exist. Especially when it comes to rhythm cycling. I strongly dislike (I really tried to avoid using the word "hate") that there are people out there who truly believe that in order to be successful in fitness, there has to be a competitive aspect attached. This is not true. You can do things because you enjoy them too.
I've said it once, I'll say it until the day I die. There is something absolutely euphoric about connecting your body to the beat on the bike. Believe it or not, there is ACTUALLY something chemically happening in your brain when you ride/move to music you love. Rhythm cycling saved me from SEVERE postpartum depression. I don't think I've ever really mentioned it because I was so ashamed as a new mom. I was in a really dark place, not once, but twice. In addition to that, I have struggled with severe anxiety since I was about 11 years old. I spent three years of my marriage struggling with fertility too. Rhythm cycling saved me from it all, and I am not the only one. Hundreds, and I'd even say thousands have come to me to tell me their stories, their progress, their recovery, their success. Let me just say that nothing makes me happier knowing they had the privilege to experience the same thing I did.
It's life changing. Truly. In all aspects.
Whether you have an end-goal, or just need an outlet. There's nothing quite like riding it out and dancing it out on the bike!