An Inside Look at How to Love Indoor Cycling
Kaleigh Cohen is an indoor cyclist who shares her workouts and energy with a huge online audience worldwide. Her YouTube channel has more than 10 million views and offers motivation and inspiration for people to get on their bikes and ride.
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Kaleigh, thanks so much for talking with Shimano. You’re in Dubai, how cool! How did you end up there?
Well, we are here because of my husband’s job, and I think we’ve been here for almost six years now. We lived in Saudi Arabia before. I love it here, it’s such a great place and if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend visiting because it's amazing. There’s something for everybody here, especially if you’re a cyclist, indoor or outdoor. The outdoor cycling is particularly amazing as we have huge outdoor tracks just for cyclists, and they are just beautiful.
How did you get into indoor cycling?
Just after I turned 16, I got a job at the YMCA. I would always walk past the cycling studio and see this lady screaming at people on the bike, and I kept thinking, "I must do that!" It's a little nerve-wracking to go to your first indoor cycling class, but I finally went for it, and I've been in love ever since! It all transpired from the YMCA.
Were you immediately interested in teaching, or did you just want to be part of the group?
At first, I just wanted to do the workout. In the class I was in, everything was dark, the teacher had twinkle lights all around, and the atmosphere was so fun. The energy was so high in the room. After the first few classes, I started thinking about leading the class, with the music and microphone, helping people enjoy this as much as I do. When I loved it, I wanted other people to love it too.
How did you start teaching and sharing your workouts through YouTube?
I’ve had my certification for right around ten years now. Shortly after I got certified, we moved to Saudi Arabia and I ended up teaching a lot there because we lived on a compound. They don't have many cycling instructors, but they had an awesome cycling studio where I was able to teach a lot. It was really a fun experience being in Saudi, surrounded by all the different cultures and people from all over the world. It was such a sweet mix to get different music and influences coming into one studio.
When we moved to Dubai, I realized after all these years that I had never been able to do a class with my mom. When I was growing up, my mom would always take me to her workout classes, jazzercise and aerobics type classes, and now that I was teaching, I really wanted to share one of my cycling classes with her. I wasn't teaching in Dubai because I had two babies at the time, and it was initially overwhelming to find a studio and find someone to watch the kids.
So, during this time, I told my husband I was going to film a class with my mom and asked if he could help me put it on YouTube. He saw my filming, and fortunately, he was already getting into cameras because when he saw what I had filmed, he offered to help fix the sound quality and the filming. So, he jumped in and helped me film it with his camera, and then we posted it. I was so excited; my mom did the class and then other people started doing it too. It just snowballed from there into this online cycling class that it is now.
And what about now? What do your classes mean to you today?
It has become something my husband and I do together, and to hear the stories people share, wow, I get goosebumps even thinking about it. They tell me that this has helped them so much and at the same time they make my heart so happy, they are helping me too! It's so full circle and it helps me every day, too. Especially through such a tough time, it's so special to have this community and to connect with people through these classes.
We have over 10 million total views, so to think that that many times someone has sweated it out and hopefully had a better day is really cool.
With two kids and a sweet little dog, how does indoor cycling fit into your life now?
What's amazing about my online classes is that we can do it at home, so that’s perfect compared to a studio because I can still be with the kids. It works really well with the flexibility and their schedules too. And, my kids love it too. I have a strength channel as well, and they have been in some of the strength workouts with me! It has been such a great thing for everyone.
During your busy days, what do you tell yourself and your viewers when motivation is low to start a workout?
The big thing I tell people is to write down what the feeling is like after a workout. Whether you need to take a selfie that reminds you how happy you were or read something about that feeling, go back to that moment. I write things like, "I feel so full of energy; I feel great after this workout." Really, anything to spark your memory as to why you get on the bike. That's my motivation, the after-workout feeling. Also, I'm a big scheduler, so if I put it in my notebook, I just enjoy making the check mark. I also remind myself that our bodies are supposed to move, and even just a short ride or class will feel so good.
For someone who is interested in the sport but nervous about getting started, what would you tell them?
First, when you start out, it is going to be hard, so take it easy. Ride where you are comfortable and do not compete with the person next to you. Try to have an open mind and set goals like “I’d like to get through this 30 or 45 minutes so I can get to the next class in a few days.”
Second, know that the bum soreness goes away after about a week or so. I know that is a big thing, and I promise people that it does get better. So, go in with an open mind, have fun, if you hear your favorite song, sing away and ride for you, don’t ride for a number until you feel comfortable on your bike. It is a totally different experience from so many other sports. Your muscles work in a different way, which is really challenging. Know that if you stick with it, it will get easier.
What is your favorite gear?
I love the SHIMANO IC5, with a passion, truly those shoes are awesome. At first, I was dead set on not using cycling shoes but my husband kept telling me I had to and that if I was on YouTube I needed to look the part. Once I finally stopped being such a hardhead, the IC5s became my choice all day long. I love them.
Also, I know it's small, but I do not ride without my SHIMANO workout towel. I used to use two towels, we called it Team Two Towel when the workout was so hard and sweaty that we needed two towels. But, I can’t even say that anymore because I only need one, it's so absorbent! The bike I use is the Stages SC3, which is such a great bike and is so smooth. And my phone holder on my bike! That's a key piece of gear too!
What is the best part of indoor cycling for you?
I love, wow this is a big question, it's so invigorating. I don’t even feel like that word does it justice, but the energy on the ride, the feeling after, and what's so amazing about a cycling workout is that you can find out how powerful you are or just what you can accomplish in a ride.
I like to say that we are going to get stronger on our bikes now so that we can be stronger out in the world. On the bike, your mindset can be totally different. You can be having a crummy day and you get on the bike and you are taken to a whole different level, pushing past your comfort zone, getting stronger, releasing so much, and leaning into feeling so strong and alive. The combination of the music and the freeing feeling - I know we are not going anywhere physically, which is the silly part, but I feel like when I’m on the bike I can go anywhere, it’s such an adventure in my mind every time.
How do you pick the music for your classes?
Okay, well honestly, YouTube is tricky. In my studio classes, I use mainstream music, but on YouTube there are so many copyright issues, so the music we use now is from artists we have the rights to. These artists are so amazing! When I pick songs, I know I'll be able to ride to it if I can dance to it. So, all of the songs go through the dance test first. When I hear a song, I know within ten seconds if it's a yes or a no for the energy I want. I really like to ride to the beat as well and I think it's so helpful in a class. I look for songs with a beat that’s perfect for riding but also has those powerful bursts that give you an extra push and challenge what you’re capable of just based on the energy of the music.
Any parting advice to new riders or someone interested in trying an indoor cycling class for the first time?
At least try it a couple of times. Even if the first few classes don't feel great, try a different instructor. There is so much out there and finding the best instructor for what you want on the bike is really important. There’s a huge range of classes, some people freestyle it while others are very structured with the music or with the intervals and the music is secondary. Give it a couple of changes, and definitely find a class with music that you like. It’s just like a radio station; you've got to try out a couple of stations until you find your groove.
**Interview Edited for Clarity***