Indoor Cycling: Fun and Fitness

Learn why these Jackson, Mississippi, women make indoor cycling classes a weekly fitness routine.
Erin Shaw Street

The women of the Northeast Jackson Y are as sweet as their tea. Just visit an indoor cycling class a few minutes before they start pedaling and you’ll feel like you walked into the nicest bunco gathering in town. But don’t expect a leisurely workout: These friends are serious about their fitness.

“There’s nothing like the feeling of pedaling fast on the bike, with the music up loud,” says Mary Catherine Barlow. The mother of two started indoor cycling at the Y nine years ago to supplement her long-distance runs and was hooked right away. She says, “You get an amazing workout on the bike, but it’s also so much fun. The music and the cheers from my friends encourage me to push myself.”

Mary Catherine, Libba Wilkes, and Megan James attend class several times a week, usually in the evenings. Class size is limited, so they get there early to reserve a spot. Before class they catch up on what’s happening in each other’s lives—the books they’re reading, the vacations they’re planning. But as soon as the instructor turns up the music and turns down the lights, there’s no chitchat here.

Over the course of 45 minutes, Britney Moss leads participants on a stationary bike “ride” set to high-energy music. Following her cues, each woman makes small adjustments to the bike to simulate the feel of an outdoor routine, from hill climbs to sprints. They are encouraged to create enough resistance on the bike that they are challenged.

“Okay girls, now hover!” is one of Britney’s favorite call outs when she teaches. On this cue, the whole class stands up while pedaling, which works both the quads and hamstrings. Consistent cycling also builds abdominal and back muscles, strengthening the core muscles that support the upper body. It’s an intense ride that delivers results. “You can completely transform your body through indoor cycling because it requires you to use so many muscle groups,” Britney says. “All the sweating is worth it when you gain muscle and lose pounds.”

In the front row you’ll often find Britney’s mom, Libba. “I enjoy riding my outdoor road bike, too, but I love the challenge of keeping pace with my friends in class,” she says. She joined the group two years ago to spend more time with her daughter and to get a cardio workout.

Libba says being able to modify the intensity on the bike is important because she has knee problems stemming from arthritis. When done properly, indoor cycling is a great joint-friendly exercise. “I exert myself just as much as I would if I were running; it’s just easier on my knees,” she says. Libba adds that the intense workouts, combined with the camaraderie, are what makes her return each week. “Britney’s my daughter, but I consider this whole group my family,” she says.

For Megan, that sense of community and the instant stress-relief are what motivate her to keep returning to class. “After a long day of work, sometimes I just want to go home and sit on my couch,” she says. “But then I get a call or text message from one of the girls making sure I’m going to be there, and it motivates me to get moving.”