2024 is here, and that means there’s likely been an influx of interest at your local gym, running club, or other fitness establishment. There’s never a bad time to get start working to improve your fitness, but the advent of a new calendar year is a great time to kick off new habits and streaks.
If one of your goals is to improve your fitness or simply burn more fat before swimwear season, you may have considered using an exercise bike or turbo trainer. There are plenty of bikes available in most conventional gyms, but if you're looking to buy one, you've probably heard of Peloton. Aside from being one of the best fitness apps, the company has pioneered the at-home spin-class bike experience with their Peloton Bike, complete with guided workouts with experienced trainers.
However, Peloton isn't cheap. If you're using an exercise bike in the gym, or considering buying a more basic bike without the cost of Peloton's rolling monthly subscription, you can still get some nuggets of wisdom from one of Peloton's best trainers, Sam Yo, who was kind enough to sit down with TechRadar to discuss the best way to use an exercise bike to get fit in 2024.
Sam Yo is a Peloton Instructor and teaches cycling classes from Peloton Studios London. Sam draws his professionalism from his kaleidoscope of experiences and uses this to help others achieve their fitness and mindset potential. Having spent two decades in the entertainment industry merged with 15 years as a fitness coach, Sam combines his technical expertise from his training with his serene mindset from his time as an ordained monk in Thailand.
The importance of exercise bikes in 2024
The instantly-familiar act of putting your feet on the pedals and simply cycling makes the exercise bike an easy pick for fitness newcomers. However, even experienced gym users can stand to benefit from regular cycling workouts, both indoors and outdoors.
“Cardio is key to our health, whether you do it indoors or outdoors, with the physical and mental benefits helping lower blood pressure, control blood sugar, and improve all-around wellness,” Yo explains.
“Indoors we have more control of the environment, therefore we can have more consistency in our training. We've all been there when we plan to exercise outside but it's pouring down with rain or your work meetings have overrun, leaving no time before it's dark outside.”
On an exercise bike, we can control when we want to simulate climbing a hill by simply turning up the resistance, whereas outside, all you can do is pick a route and follow it. Still, cycling outdoors, whether on a conventional bike or one of the best electric bikes, is important.
“The outdoor experience provides a connection to nature, fresh air, and varied terrain, stimulating the senses and offering a change of scenery. There is a thrill that we are constantly adapting to our environment, sparking awareness as opposed to staring at a blank wall or control panel indoors on a machine,” Yo says.
“Outdoors can be a social and community event with others which is a huge bonus because you have others helping you be accountable to your fitness goals. You can also recreate this on the Peloton App with classes with people from all around the world sending virtual high-fives to encourage one another.”
We asked Yo how Peloton tailors its workouts, and how he adjusts his own, to help anyone feel as though they’re able to get involved, regardless of experience levels.
“Peloton has many beginner programs for those starting their wellness journey and we are consistently adding more,” he explains.
“In these classes, there's an emphasis on technique, positive reinforcement, and building confidence. Also, different class durations to ease those into longer classes are also available making it more seamless to schedule a 20-minute class in your day when you know that is all the time you have.
“The class instructor will always give a wide range of options for all fitness levels participating so everyone is catered for and can take part which makes it an inclusive experience for all.”
If you're just starting out, hop on the bike for 20 minutes on a low level of resistance, perhaps while watching one of the best streaming services or listening to a podcast. You don't have to go all out and leave it all on the bike: you can aim to make exercise enjoyable by making it your time to watch an episode of The Bear, while still getting more movement into your day.
Once you become confident on the bike, you can gradually up the intensity, switching to guided workouts on paid apps like Peloton, Apple Fitness Plus, or free services. Even YouTube has a stack of spin classes, although they're missing key elements of interactivity such as customised music and leaderboards, which apps like Peloton make good use of.
How to work out on an exercise bike
Once users have worked their way through those beginner stages, HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) might appeal to many riders as a time-efficient way to train hard, burn fat and improve fitness. HIIT is very popular, but Yo recommends caution, offering a more balanced plan if weight loss is your goal.
“We must remember that HIIT training is a high-performance training method that gets your heart rate over 80% of its max, and when we work at that extreme level we are using glycogen, the stored carbohydrates, as your main energy source,” he says.
“This will help 'burn' but if you really want to target fat, you have to work at a steady state intensity under 80% of your max heart rate, where fat is used as the main energy source for you to move.
“You will have to work for a longer duration, but you have more control over what energy source you are using for your specific goal. My advice is to do a combination of both in your program and know that there is no "quick fix" - just the consistency of working out regularly.”
As someone with a heart condition, that’s positive news. I’d certainly grown concerned a lack of HIIT would essentially cause me to struggle to shift fat. Low-intensity, steady-state cardio done for longer periods is simple and achievable even off the bike: one writer tried swapping the gym for getting 10,000 steps in every day for a week.
Once you can cycle for 20 minutes on a low resistance, try upping the resistance by one or two points and your time by five or 10 minutes. Soon you'll be doing harder, longer workouts, binge-watching some of the top TV shows of 2024 while putting in some serious virtual miles.
So, what final advice does Yo have for fitness newcomers in 2024? In short, have fun with it.
“First identify what your goal is, how many times you want to exercise and most importantly what you enjoy doing,” he explains.
“There is no point putting your mind and body through something that you don't enjoy because in the long-term you will probably quit. A fitness plan can be catered to anybody's needs but establishing your individual why, motivation and joy will keep you going.
“You will discover your inner strength with every new milestone but it starts with step one...just move!”
This article is part of TechRadar's Get Fit for '24 week of fitness content.
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Lloyd Coombes is a freelance tech and fitness writer for TechRadar. He's an expert in all things Apple as well as Computer and Gaming tech, with previous works published on TopTenReviews, Space.com, and Live Science. You'll find him regularly testing the latest MacBook or iPhone, but he spends most of his time writing about video games at Dexerto.