It’s no secret that I’m a lover of indoor cycling classes. Sure, as a triathlete, the best possible training is to be riding my actual bike, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a bit of cycling class addict and incorporate it into my training. Cycling classes are a fantastic workout, super motivating, and lots of fun! I’m all about making exercise fun and having variety in my fitness life to stay motivated. And they are actually a great supplement to my other cycling training – they’ve helped to improve my cadence and build muscle strength.
As I dive into the “off season” (is there really such a thing with Ironman Lake Placid training about to start?) I’m excited to get back into to cycling classes that I missed during the peak of my training when I had to maximize my training time on my tri bike. I’ve tried several brands of cycling classes and hope to review them all, but I’m a regular at Zengo Cycle so I wanted to start with Zengo.
Zengo Cycle is a local chain of cycling studios in the DC area. They’ve popped up in the last few years and the idea is that you go get in a fantastic workout while using the bike as your cardio “tool”. There’s a Zengo Cycle studio local to me in the suburbs of DC, so it’s easy to pop over for a 6am class and be home in time to shower, feed the kids, and get ready for work.
Just last night, I went to an evening class after a long, intense work day and a long, intense commute in DC traffic. I was stressed when I walked in the door, but as I pedaled I was reminded why a cycling class after a crazy day is a great way to get out your stress.
The 50-minute classes vary by instructor in terms of specific workout, but the format has similar elements. The music is pumping and you pedal to the beat. You have some tunes to ride hills, some jumps, some intervals, and throughout there are sections where you combine upper body movements to work your arms and core while you pedal.
It’s intense and the music is pumping, but you can really get in your own zone. The instructors are motivating and encourage you to do your best and to make the most of your workout.
There’s always the “Zen” tune. This is when the lights go out, the instructor stops talking, and you just ride. You go at your pace, your intensity, and it’s a great way to refocus your mindset.
After Zen is a tune devoted to arm work. You start with bicep curls and then do a series of arm exercises. You can keep pedaling or stop during this part (although some instructors have a preference). Sometimes this part is a bit quick so it’s hard to keep good form, so I like it best when they have a nicely paced arm song where I can still maintain decent form for the exercises and am not just flinging my arms up/down/back/forth.
Then there’s a couple more tunes that build back up the intensity, and then it’s time to stretch and get off the bike.
The whole class is a total sweat-fest. My heart rate gets much higher than typical spin classes because it’s more of a total body workout.
The bikes are Schwinn bikes, and are a pretty smooth ride.
You adjust the resistance with the typical spin bike knob – no display of power or watts or cadence. You go by feel. This has positives and negatives – on one hand you can just listen to your body, and nobody else knows what your resistance is. On the other hand, I’ve really liked cycling classes that have metrics displayed and found I work harder in those.
There’s two “cup” holders, one for a water bottle and the other holds your weights. You can swap out the weights for other sizes before class – they have 1, 2, and 3 pound weights.
The studio provides lockers (no lock needed – you program it with a code), towels folded and waiting on each bike, and weights. You can buy water bottles at the studio and rent shoes. I believe that the shoes are $3/rental but I always bring my own. According to my receipt for water last night, it’s $2 for a water big water bottle that has a sport cap/easy spout.
There are a couple restrooms and also a shower/dressing room. I have only used the shower room once in all my visits to Zengo, and it worked out great.
- It is a great workout! I always feel amazing during and after class.
- Every instructor I’ve had has been fantastic. I honestly haven’t had a Zengo instructor that I wasn’t happy with! I typically have the instructor Nas the most because of the class I attend, and she’s great! Lots of positive motivation and encouragement throughout the class, and she gets me to push it harder while feeling empowered. As with any fitness class, the atmosphere and whether it’s more encouraging vs. butt-kicking will vary by instructor.
- The class really works your arms and core at the same time. Throughout class there’s presses down/up on the bike itself, oblique work, and then a whole song dedicated to arms.
- Great music!
- There’s an emphasis on your ride – there’s no judgment, no criticism, nobody watching your spin bike’s dial to see how heavy your weight load is cranked up. I love that it’s all about doing what feels good to you and then pushing yourself from that point.
- If you’re not used to upper body work while you ride, this can take some adjustment. When I first started doing cycling classes like this, I felt really uncoordinated. But I have the hang of it now! My dad came with me once and thought there was too much bouncing around, up and down. So check it out and decide if you like it or if you want a more “pure” cycling class that doesn’t have upper body work.
- The weights only go to 3lbs. I’ve been to other cycling classes that have 5lb weights.
- Cycling classes are expensive. If you buy a package you get a lower price per class, but any way you slice it, it’s still kinda pricey. I still can’t stop doing them, so I’m happy to pay for the workout since it fills a need in my workout life.
- The classes expire after a while, which makes it challenging for me to determine which package to buy and then to use the ones I’ve bought in the allotted time frame. They’ve been great about extending the package if I contact them.
- The music is loud. Maybe I’m getting old, but I am going to try earplugs for some of these classes.
The Wrap Up
Zengo Cycle is a great workout and lots of fun – I highly recommend giving it a try! The first class is free so why not!
They open up signups at 1pm on Mondays for the week. My studio doesn’t typically sell out so I can spontaneously join workouts like I did last night, but I hear the ones in DC are busier.
You can find Zengo Cycle studios in:
- Maryland – Kentlands (Gaithersburg) and Bethesda.
- DC – Logan Circle and Cathedral Commons
- Virginia – Mosaic District
Do you do indoor cycling classes? If not, what’s your preferred group fitness class?
Note – this is my own independent review, Zengo did not sponsor this review and doesn’t know I’m posting it. And by the way, The Zengo links are my referral links. I think I get a free class if you sign up and spend some money on a package, so hey – why not.