Get Off Your Spin Bike and Try This Outdoor Cycling Workout Instead

Amp up your bike ride with this challenging 30-minute interval workout.

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Sure, spin class feels killer, but outdoor cycling may require you to work even harder, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Plus, "there's something really nice about covering distance and being in the fresh air and sunshine," says Jim Rutberg, a cycling expert for Carmichael Training Systems and Strava in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He created the 30-minute interval workout below. If you're a beginner, try doing the workout in a loop first so you can log the distance without getting too far from home. Once you feel comfortable, turn it into an out-and-back ride and explore some new terrain.

The warm-up:

  • 3 minutes easy riding
  • 1 minute fast pedaling (high cadence, low resistance)
  • 1 minute easy riding
  • 1 minute fast pedaling (high cadence, low resistance)
  • 2 minutes easy riding

The workout:

* Six 30-second speed intervals separated by 30 seconds of easy recovery. Rev your cadence and power as you accelerate for 30 seconds, then pedal very lightly as you slow down for 30 seconds before starting the next effort. These aren't really sprints so much as hard, seated accelerations.

* 3 1⁄2 minutes easy recovery

* 8-minute tempo interval. Effort should be a 6 on a rate of perceived exertion scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being as hard as you can go. Your breathing should be deep and controlled, nowhere near panting.

* Cool down with an easy pace for 5 minutes.

This workout burns approximately 285 calories (for a 30-minute ride at 12 to 14 mph for a 150-pound person).

Not sure how to tell if you're biking at "easy" or "fast"? There are a lot of ways to gauge your intensity level, but you won't always have a heart rate monitor handy. Instead, you can use a "talk test" to track your efforts.

* Talking casually: recovery pace/easy

* 1 to 2 sentences at a time: endurance pace/moderate

* 2 to 3 words at a time: labored breathing/hard

For timed intervals, look at a watch, or you can time the distance between landmarks, like phone poles, and use those as your markers.

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