I used to spin more than a politician. Three or four times a week. But then I stopped...until today. I have to admint I was nervous about attending my first spin class for over two years as I'd heard that spinning had changed.
Using my payasUgym pass I signed up for a Friday spin class at Cyclebeat in the City. A gym dedicated to spinning, spinning and more spinning. Basically you can do any form of exercise at Cyclebeat, as long as it's spinning.
Cyclebeat isn’t the only spin-only venue, they’re popping up all over the place, riding on the wave of cycling popularity and the current trend for specialist exercise venues.
You wouldn’t think that post work, 5.30pm on a Friday there would be much enthusiasm for a 45 minute spin class. You would be wrong. Myself and about twenty others who had decided that spin was the better option than Friday post-work drinks saddled up and clipped in.
Clip-in shoes are available to hire and just about everyone was wearing padded cycling shorts, the guy next to me was even in full cycle club kit!
The bikes are adjustable (not necessarily a good thing for finding the best hand position) and there is a digital readout on every bike which shows your RPM and energy output.
The new technology was what set the class apart. The bikes are linked to the Beatboard – a large screen at the front of the class where your performance is displayed against your bike number.
I have to admit I became a bit obsessed by the Beatboard, which was better than being obsessed by the timer as it's a painfully slow countdown (this was the 45 minute class).
After the initial warm up, I was about 9th on the Beatboard. After playing around with my RPM and resistance – increasing both increases the power output - I started to climb the leader board until I was a close third.
So whilst you can just ignore (or opt out of) the Beatboard and concentrate on your own session, you can also use it as a powerful motivation tool, it did make me go harder, faster and push the resistance up – closing the gap on 2nd place.
It just happened that position no. 1 was club kit guy next to me, on Bike 5 – but the Beatboard showed he was in a different race altogether, uncatchable. But how?
I stole a glance at his stats - he was spinning at much lower revs but still pumping out 100 watts more than me. A sideways glance at his display showed that he was pushing a huge resistance with his 6’4”frame. I consoled myself that in ‘real world’ cycling I would have a better power to weight ratio and speed past when the road went upwards, (the reality is that I would probably shelter behind his impressive frame and take a ride in his slipstream – if I could keep up!)
Spinning doesn’t fully replicate the road then but it is great for training for real life, with sprints (interval training) and high resistance blocks (like hill climbs). Regular spinning (with or without the Beatboard) would be a great addition to winter training where commuting on the flat doesn’t prepare for a summer of the hills.
The Beatboard was a welcome distraction but it could work both ways. It’s probably better to accurately track your own performance rather than getting obsessed with the guy on the next door bike (I finished 2nd overall if anyone is interested…).
Afterwards, I felt like I’d been worked hard by the instructor who ran a well-structured class without gimmicky moves on the bike or cheesy motivational comments.
As with all spin classes, the warm downs are rushed and stretching time too short – maybe combining a Spin class with Yoga is the next fitness revolution. You heard it here first.
How did I warm down? With a very slow and painful ride home, where I was beaten in every sprint away from the lights.
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