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Cycling: Biking Fitness in Your Living Room

Indoor cycling is a popular sport both for people who exercise at home with the TV and people who take sin or cycling classes at the gym or the local Y.

The benefits of cycling indoors are many: you can do it safely, day or night, regardless of the weather. You don't have to worry about cars or muggers or mean dogs, either. You won't hit an invisible curb and you probably won't fall off (hint; never drink beer while cycling!)

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Some people are happy enough at home with the cycle, pedaling away to the sounds of their favorite music until the timer rings. You can buy cycling videos to help with motivation and keep you on track with your program. But many people prefer classes, finding they provide more entertainment and a better workout.

But you might be nervous about trying an indoor cycling class because you've seen how people look after those classes. They're wrung out, dripping wet, sometimes even gasping. They come out of the room laughing and chatting and sweating and they look like world-class athletes just finishing a major workout. You tell yourself, "maybe next year. I'm just not ready for that."

But do not fear, little would-be cycler. You don't have to exercise your guts out to take part in a cycling class. In fact, the best instructors want you to start slow, and if you start gasping, they'll tell you to slow down because gasping means you're not getting enough oxygen and that's very bad for exercising. The truth about cycling is that nearly anyone can do it: it's no impact, set-your-own-pace and very freeing. Even people with arthritis or sore backs can often engage in cycling, where they can set the intensity level they want by adjusting the bike.

Instructors are there to help you set up your bike correctly for your body. They create the mood, choose motivating music and sometimes provide encouraging patter to help as the virtual miles slip away under your wheels. Some use visualization techniques or even videos that roll out a scenic landscape. Instructors who think they're boot camp sergeants aren't good for beginners; look for someone who's supportive, interested and enthusiastic.

Classes last from 30-45 minutes in most cases. Wear comfortable clothes; you may want to try padded bike shorts or thick sweat pants, and biking shoes will feel good on your feet. Take a bottle of water and some people like a small towel around the neck, which also makes it look like you've been working very hard. Make sure you take the time you need to learn the proper adjustment of your bike: a comfortable bike means an enjoyable ride and a stress-free workout. Most of all, don't let the people around you intimidate you into overdoing your workout you'll just wind up with muscle cramps and a sore backside. Take your time to work up to a hard workout; first learn at an easy pace and then step it up gradually.

Continue reading the next aerobics article on water fitness

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