Some do it for the rush, others spin to win

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Some are in it for the endorphin rush, others, to win. See how high DOSE contributor, Theo, scored on the leaderboard after a week-long baptism of spin…

Okay, so I’m just going to say it. I was wrong about spin classes. I swim, jog, do a martial arts, I’ve even braved the ridiculously hot and sweaty climes of Bikram Yoga. I thought I was fit. But when I turned up for my first ever spin class, expecting Zumba on wheels, let’s just say I was surprised. Over two weeks, I sampled four different data-driven spin classes and went from the uninitiated newbie, to finally crawling my way up from the bottom of the leaderboards.  

One 10
Photo: One 10
ONE10, Baker Street: Big screens, leaderboards and pain

It’s Monday lunchtime and I’m sitting in the dark, on a bike, surrounded by men. Fit men. Safe to say this is not what I was expecting when I signed up for this class. Within the first five minutes I was already struggling. With my quads screaming, my brand new “dry fit” t-shirt taking on water and the shocking realisation of how long 45 minutes actually is, I was left thinking, how can I get out of this? It’s crazy how few credible excuses there are to get out of a spin class, especially when you’re sat directly in front of the instructor. Also, have I mentioned the massive screen at the front showing our live stats to everyone? Giving up in private is one thing, but with an audience and with my name so annoyingly legible there was no going back. At the end of the class there was one last 10 second, all out sprint. I didn’t have much left in me, but with the end on the horizon and my new pals on screen still going, I wanted to go out on a high.

For me though, fitness is the painful pursuit of doing better and if it doesn’t hurt you’re doing it wrong. This class isn’t as flashy as some, there is less cheerleading and the visuals are very simple. In other words, there is very little to distract you from the pain of what you are actually doing. But this means that when you finish, you do so with a real sense of personal achievement. Not one for the fainthearted but definitely one for the fitness sadist, suffering a pain for the pleasure that comes with the results.

CLASSES – £20. DISCOUNT PACKAGES AVAILABLE

Digme Richmond
Photo: Digme
DIGME FITNESS, RICHMOND, MOORGATE & BLACKFRIARS – Bright lights and Avatars

My second class was at Digme Fitness in Richmond. This ride class is all about the visuals. Think video game, meets cycle class with a leader board. I grew up playing Playstation and it doesn’t take much for me to tap into my super competitive button-tapping self. So as we set off along our sleek virtual track, I was no longer Theo, the pasta loving ex-smoker from South East London. I was number 36, the cycling savant about to take on the hills of this exotic looking landscape. This suspension of belief and my overactive imagination meant that although my legs were screaming, I was less concentrated on them. Also for the first time in my very brief spin class career queue inspirational music, I was not at the bottom of the leaderboard. The sense of travelling was also a good motivator. Climbs were easier to visualise. An imaginary hill with a top and a descent that gave me a more tangible end to my now fairly considerable pain. All in all when it was time to unplug I was still exhausted, but with the video game-esque distractions and energetic strobe lighting the 45 minutes had definitely flown by. And even though my target on the leaderboard had rode off into the distance, I WAS NOT LAST! After the class they sent me an email saying I had burned 444 calories. Not bad for 45 minutes of Playstation I thought.   

CLASSES – £20. DISCOUNT PACKAGES AVAILABLE   

RIDE REPUBLIC, FULHAM ROAD – Lethal b, smoothies and a wet flannel

My final spin class of the week was the burn45 class at Ride Republic in Fulham and with that location in mind, I was expecting a little bit of glamour. The studio did not disappoint. Lovely changing rooms, boutique shower gels and the promise of a lovely after-class smoothie meant that I approach the bike with a sense of optimism. Although this class, like all before, started with the customary awkward clipping in tutorial I was starting to feel like a seasoned pro. This class was all about the music. BPM’s matched RPM’s and grime tunes kicked in when you needed to dig that bit deeper. During a particularly hard endurance bit, Lethal Bizzle made an appearance. That was it, I was out of my saddle, and my feet were motoring along with the beat. I might have also been singing along but that’s another story. A surprisingly good workout song. After this particularly hard push, emerging like an angel from a doorway I hadn’t even seen, came a woman with a batch of cold wet flannels. Thank you flannel lady!  So with sweaty brow mopped and a new banging house track to cycle to, I was ready for the end part of the class. In this class they have what they lovingly refer to as the burn board. The top 10 men and women are shown on big leaderboards at the front. I was placed firmly at the bottoms of the men’s board and I was locked into a bit of a Mexican standoff with the leading women. So with her steadily gaining ground and with a new inspirational song in my ears I spin-dance-rode to victory. My prize “fat burner” smoothie was definitely worth the wait.

CLASSES – £20. DISCOUNT PACKAGES AVAILABLE

Photo: Nuffield Health
NUFFIELD HEALTH – Short, simple and colourful

The final stop on my whirlwind tour of London’s spin classes was the ICG® Heat class at Nuffield health in Covent Garden. Unlike the others, this one is marketed as an intense HIIT style 30 minute class. 30 minutes! I was already looking forward to it. This was a completely different approach to the spin classes I’d already been to. Although it did use data it focused much more on colour. Each effort level had a number from 1 to 5 and each of these numbers had a corresponding colour. White, blue, green, yellow and last but not least red. White was a stroll in the park with your elderly relative, and red was hill sprints with Adam, that personal trainer that you swear has some form of deep seated hatred towards you. For me, by now a seasoned vet, this was the easiest. But, like many things in life when they seem too good to be true, they usually are. Normally all effort levels are personalised and based on a predetermined fitness score, but not being a member of Nuffield, I didn’t have one. With a few questions the instructor managed to see past my sucked in gut and adequately gauged my fitness level. Which according to the brutally honest bike display, was poor. But which on reflection was a good thing, I can only imagine how hard it could have actually been.

This is a good introduction to spin. Short, sharp, personalised and easy to follow. And, with the distinct lack of leaderboard, if you fail, you can do so in anonymity.

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So after all this, which one would I chose to chisel the old pins? Good question. In an ideal world, I would probably continue with my smorgasbord of spin classes. But alas this is no ideal world. Even Disney films are dark nowadays. So, If I had to choose, I would go for the ride class at Digme studios. Home of the visually interactive, Playstation-style spin. Bright lights and a TV always take away my attention and in the world of high intensity exercise the more that distracts you from the pain the better. I do have aspirations of finally conquering One10’s Paceline class in a more convincing manner, but I fear it might have been too far too soon for my poor little legs.

By Theo

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