The Cycle Zone

By Jessica Downey

Are you cycling at the best intensity to get the most out of your body? Here’s three ways to ensure you’re not spinning your wheels.

While the high-energy atmosphere and music may keep you coming back to group cycling class, getting your heart working at maximum efficiency to incinerate fat is what makes cycling a truly killer workout. But if you don’t have a heart rate monitor, you can get lost in the hills, sprints, and jumps of a typical cycle workout if you don’t know how to recognize your intensity levels during the ride.

“About 90 percent of the people in my classes don’t have heart rate monitors, so we use an intensity chart,” says Denise Druce, a group cycle instructor at the 24 Hour Fitness Sugarhouse Sport club in Salt Lake City. “We use the numbers on a scale of 1-10 to use the perceived exertion so people know how to gauge themselves.”

But if that’s not enough to judge how hard you’re working, your body will send you recognizable signals to determine your intensity. The frequency of your breathing can give you a good idea where you fall on the intensity chart. “If you’re at a 7, you could speak in a full sentence before you had to take a breath,” Druce says, “but if you’re at level 9 or higher you should barely be able to talk.”

Other physical cues like burning legs and decreased concentration will let you know you’ve reached the higher levels of your intensity scale, she says. “I can tell when they are slumped over their handle bars and their backs are rounded that their intensity is [starting to peak].”

But Druce encourages people to embrace the higher intensity levels because it’s there that they will derive the most benefits from the class. “I’ve been doing this so long that I remember when we would tell people not to work to hard because we thought they weren’t burning fat,” Druce explains. “We’ve learned as an industry that when you’re working hard you’re burning carbohydrates and fat. So I try to encourage people not to be afraid of working hard.”

The class schedules for 24 Hour Fitness locations are available on line.  To find a group cycle class near you, use our club finder and enter your zip code for a list of clubs near you.