Working out at home became hugely popular during the pandemic, when the entire world temporarily shut down. With new variants of coronavirus on the rise, it’s safe to say many of us will continue to exercise caution and get our fitness on from the comfort of our living spaces.
One of the best ways to make working at home successful is by stocking up on the right equipment. If you’re an indoor cycling enthusiast, that might mean investing in your very own bike.
Peloton, of course, makes one of the most sought-after at-home bikes on the market — but it can take some time to get into the swing of things. Whether you’re thinking of upgrading your at-home gym with a Peloton bike — or you recently purchased one, there are a few things you should know.
We chatted with personal trainers (all of whom have Peloton bikes themselves) to get their best Peloton tips for beginners.
Set up your bike properly.
Making sure your bike’s seat and handlebars are positioned correctly is quite possibly the most important of all the Peloton beginner tips. An improperly adjusted exercise bike can increase your risk of injury.
“Peloton makes adjusting your bike really simple,” says Tami Smith, ACE-certified personal trainer, owner of Fit Healthy Momma, and avid Peloton user. “You can adjust your bike seat and handlebars so that you’re in the optimal position for riding so that you’re comfortable and in proper form to prevent any injuries.”
This video from Peloton does a great job showing you how to set up your bike. Essentially, you want your seat height to be aligned with your hip bone when standing next to the bike and your seat depth to be about an elbow’s length away from the handlebars. As for your handlebar height, it’s best to start by setting it as high as possible — you can adjust the height down as you get more comfortable with the bike.
Smith notes that part of your setup also includes making sure you put your bike in a safe space. “You don’t need a ton of space around the bike, but you do need a few feet of clearance to make sure things don’t get caught in the flywheel and that you have space to move around on the bike and add weights for the upper body,” she says. Choose a space that’s comfortable, convenient, and allows adequate space to enjoy your bike to the fullest.”
Keep in mind Peloton gives you access to tons of off-bike workouts, like strength and yoga, so it’s good to have room to set up a mat for floor workouts too, adds Smith.
Buy the right workout gear.
Real talk: When you first start indoor cycling classes on the Peloton bike, your butt may hurt from the seat for about the first week or so, says Jamie Hickey, NASM-certified personal trainer, nutritionist, and founder of Truism Fitness, who also owns a Peloton bike. A pair of padded bike shorts can help until you get used to the saddle, he says.
Other than that, stick with workout clothes that are comfortable but well-fitting. “You don’t want any kind of baggy or oversized clothing that may interfere with your ability to ride properly and/or that might get caught in the wheel,” says Smith. She suggests a sports bra with a tank or tee over it and fitted shorts or leggings.
“Keep in mind that you’re going to get warm quickly when riding, so either prepare by wearing something light or have layers on that you can remove as you go — i.e. a lightweight T-shirt over top of a sports bra that can come off when you start getting hot.” says Smith.
Another thing to note? When it comes to clip-in shoes, you’ll need to get ones with Delta-compatible cleats in order to use them with the Peloton. This video from Peloton does a good job of explaining how to attach the cleats to your shoes — they also have a video that shows how to clip into the bike if you’re a beginner.
Start with a beginner-level class.
“If you aren’t used to physical activity, you should start off slow with low intensity and increase your duration as your body gets used to being pushed and your cardiovascular system becomes stronger,” suggests Hickey. “If you start to have cramps, nausea, or lightheadedness you need to stop right away.”
Peloton offers a variety of low impact rides and short rides between 10 and 20 minutes that are good choices for newbies.
“Cycling can be very demanding, and you don’t want to come out the gate too hot and end up injured or burnt out,” says Smith. “I always recommend people begin with shorter rides, between 10-20 minutes, and that they try to stick with the beginner-level classes.” Smith recommends avoiding HIIT rides when you’re first starting out too.
“You can also start by taking scenic rides where there are no instructors or leaderboards, just you cycling at your own pace, getting a feel for the bike and your cycling form,” she adds.
Find the ideal instructor for you.
There’s a Peloton instructor to suit every workout style, beginners included. “All of the Peloton instructors have rides that range from beginner to advanced, but there are definitely some instructors who are known for being a little more brutal than others,” says Smith.
For beginners, Smith says Matt Wilper is a solid choice. “He’s super-laidback, focuses on your form, and helps you start from where you’re at,” she says. Smith also recommends Hannah Corbin and Denis Morton for beginners.
Hickey also likes these choices for beginners and adds Cody Rigsby and Tunde Oyeneyin as being two other good options when you’re starting out.
Learn the basic terminology.
As a beginner, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with Peloton’s workout terminology before getting started so you’re not lost during class.
According to Smith, some basic terms you should know include:
- Cadence: how fast your wheel is spinning/your feet are moving
- Resistance: how much resistance is on your bike/how hard it is to pedal
- RPMs: revolutions per minute, which are directly related to your cadence
- Saddle: your bike’s seat
- First position: hand placement on the lower portion of your handlebars
- Third position: hand placement on the upper portion of your handlebars
Get a feel for the different class styles.
It’s also a good idea to get to know some of the different types of indoor cycling classes Peloton offers. Hickey breaks down some of the popular options:
- Low impact: In low impact classes, the cadence won’t exceed 100 and the resistance won’t exceed 50. There will be little to no “out of the saddle” (i.e., standing) sections.
- Groove: These classes are based on cycling to the beat of the music rather than the instructor’s cadence. This type of ride is the most like what you’d find at Soul Cycle.
- HIIT: High interval training rides involve short bursts of intense work, a little break, and then back to intense work. Remember: This type of ride isn’t usually good for total beginners.
- Tabata: This is a type of high-intensity interval training that follows a set rhythm. It usually consists of 20 seconds of intensity followed by 10 seconds of recovery.
- Theme rides: Many instructors teach rides based on a specific musical genre. Some you may come across include ‘70s, ‘80s, Y2K, classic rock, EDM, country, jazz, and Broadway.
- Power Zone: These rides guide you through even output zones, ranging from “Very Easy” to “Max Effort” based on your determined “Functional Threshold Power.”
Don’t worry about competing right away.
One of the features a lot of Peloton users love is the leaderboard — aka the ability to see how you stack up against other people you’re riding with in a live class. The thing is, the leaderboard can be intimidating for newbies.
“I recommend taking it off the screen if you’re new and not even paying attention to it,” advises Smith. “Nail your form and allow your body to get used to cycling before you start to climb your way up the leaderboard.”
Take rest days.
One common mistake Peloton beginners make is riding every single day. However, rest days are important.
“It’s so exciting to get a new piece of gym equipment, and it’s super-tempting to want to use it every day,” says Smith. “I caution newbies against this, as it can cause burnout and potentially injury.”
Smith’s advice? “Ease into it — it’s yours to keep. You will get many great years of cycling out of your Peloton.”
Stay hydrated during a ride.
Fill up that water bottle before you hop on to the bike. “Cycling is an intense cardio exercise that will get your heart rate up, get you sweating, and can deplete your body,” says Smith. “Ideally, you should be consuming water throughout your whole workout, taking small sips when you need to [or] the opportunity presents itself.”
Hickey explains that maintaining hydration during exercise helps keep your blood pressure stable and improves blood flow and circulation. This, in turn, promotes the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to functioning muscles and other tissues.
Incorporate stretching into your post-workout routine.
Last but not least, don’t skip out on a post-ride stretch. “The practice of stretching at the end of your workout can help you increase your flexibility, minimize your chance of injury, and reduce muscle tension in your body,” says Hickey. “It may even assist you in improving your performance the next time you exercise.”
Smith adds that even five to 10 minutes of post-ride stretching can make a difference. “During your ride, you’re asking your legs to work hard,” she says. ‘The best way to prevent muscle soreness and fatigue is to stretch them back out after the workout.’
Luckily, you can find plenty of post-workout stretches on Peloton’s online fitness platform to fit your needs.