Pedal to the Mettle

Indoor cyclists level the playing field and enjoy year-round wheeling. You've probably seen the svelte, focused, go-with-the-flow cyclists on the road, determined to get there—wherever "there" is. Then there's the indoor crowd: various shapes and sizes, a motley crew, equally focused, adjusting their flywheels and hydrating on cue, also determined to get there—to their fitness goals, that is.

Burn, Baby, Burn

Let's start with the basics. The indoor cycling format involves an instructor and uses specially designed stationary bikes to take participants on a high-intensity workout. Throughout the ride, the instructor cues riders to change their hand positions and increase or decrease their resistance to simulate climbs, sprints and flat roads.

But let's be honest—the studio is dark and your bike isn't going anywhere, so you are in control of your workout.

Indoor cycling is safer than riding on the open road. Likewise, it can be done heedless of the wind and weather. And although the scorching Florida summer sun limits outdoor activities, the only thing burning in the cycling studio is calories. According to Mad Dogg Athletics Inc., the creators of the Spinning program, the number of calories you burn depends on several factors, including your weight and your exercise intensity level. Research indicates that on average, participants burn about 400 to 600 calories in a 40-minute workout.

Fitness Fit for All Ages

But there's a more practical reason why this super-charged workout attracts people of all fitness levels and abilities. Indoor cycling is a no-impact activity. Because it does not place stress on ligaments or joints, it is appropriate for people who suffer from hip or knee problems.

"These classes are most popular with [ages] 70 plus. That's because age is not a factor in this room. We [instructors] make goals achievable for everyone," says Michele Jefferson, a Star 3 lifetime certified instructor through Mad Dogg Athletics and a Spinning coach at Parrish Health & Fitness Center.

"I love John Griffis' story. He used to stalk in the hall outside the class and shyly peek into the studio," Jefferson says of the 53-year-old. "I gradually pulled him into the class. When he started, he could barely get on the bike, but he stuck with it. He's lost 83 pounds, and shows no signs of turning back.

"My job," Jefferson adds, "is to get them in the saddle and keep them there."

Getting in the Saddle

If getting there is half the fun, the real excitement awaits on the other side of the door. Once a month at Parrish Health & Fitness Center, Jefferson transforms the indoor cycling studio into a nutritious nightclub, complete with neon lights, disco balls, pumped-up jams and plenty of water, trail mix and bananas. These two-hour feature rides are held on a Saturday, and though there is a small charge for this special event, there is rarely an empty seat in the studio. Each feature ride has a themed video that includes footage of streets and trails in various states and countries; taking in the sights of Europe, Ireland, Egypt or the mountainous U.S. Northwest makes getting to your goal even more fun.

"The feature rides are great. Between the scenery on screen and the music on the stereo, I get lost, and before I know it the ride is over," explains 61-year-old Barbara Bradley. Bradley used to attend Zumba classes at the fitness center until she discovered indoor cycling. "I'm hooked," she says. "It's a lot easier on the joints, and I always come out feeling in a good mood."

For 60-year-old retired firefighter Ken Hipp, indoor cycling has been more than he expected. He has been riding for less than a year, and within the first four months he lost weight and "I can breathe so much better," Hipp says. "I had a heart attack in 2004, and my cardiologist said I needed to lose weight. Cycling helped me get there. It's aerobics on steroids, but it's easy on the body."

Finding Your Stride

Parrish Health & Fitness Center offers a class for every cycling level. Beginners can coast into an Introductory class or 30/30 combo session (riding and strength training). Seasoned riders may opt for a Race Day class that simulates a real race, giving them an opportunity to measure their progress. And there are many more class options in between.

Karen Colle, 74, sets the pace among the over-50 crowd with an attendance record that sees a minimum of three cycling classes per week. Jefferson says, "She's my idol. I love her energy."

Roselle Hanson, 60, is following Colle's inspiration. "I want to live till I'm 100," she says, smiling. "I'm on a 20-year plan to get in shape, and indoor cycling is the perfect way for me to get there."

For more information on indoor cycling programs at Parrish Health & Fitness, visit


Article By Erica K. Daniels