London Fitness: Spinning

Back in the days before I actually owned a studio membership and developed a class addiction, I used to go to the gym weekly (or at least I went through phases where I went weekly) and use the equipment on offer. That inevitably involved a bike because that something I could figure out how to use without hurting myself. However, when it comes to exercise classes, in the past I have shied away from spin classes. They’re hard the first few I did I didn’t enjoy as much as other classes, however I have slowly started to come round to it. Plus, one thing all my spin classes have had in common is that they are a very good workout.

A spin bike differs from a normal exercise bike but, being no expert, I don’t really know how. All I know is that there is a weighted flywheel on the front and using a spin bike makes the indoor experience more like riding a normal bike outside. It’s easier to stand up on them and classes are designed to replicate cycling out on the road. They will generally involve a series of sprints alternated with slower rounds using increasingly heavy resistance. Sometimes you’ll stand up, sometimes you’ll sit down and sometimes you’ll lean your lower body back and hover above the seat.

GrooveCycle

Studio: GrooveCycle
Where: Canary Wharf (Reebok Sports Club) and Covent Garden (Jubilee Hall Gym)
Duration: 60 minutes
Class Pass? Yes

GrooveCycle was the first spin class I ever took. My friend sold it to me as cycling with dance choreography – I thought it could be fun. I turned up in Canary Wharf one Saturday morning not feeling particularly well (but it was too late to cancel) and ended up completely lost as I tried to find the class in the impressive Reebok Sports Club. Thankfully, my friend shortly arrived to rescue me. She hadn’t been before either but it wasn’t actually hard to find (it was above a big Waitrose) – it was just me.

We slid into the back of the class a bit late, which wouldn’t have been a problem if I knew how to set up a bike. I followed my friend’s lead by pulling at some levers but I think I just made it worse. That thing was not comfortable. What followed was probably one of the toughest classes I had done yet. The dance choreography wasn’t particularly complex and involved some leaning to the side and clicking as well as lots of leaning our torsos down over the handlebars, which was a bit harder. There was lots of standing up and sitting down and towards the end of the class we also started to use some weights. Throughout the class, the instructor kept shouting motivational things (which was bit much for me) and kept telling us to turn up the resistance on the bikes. Considering my delicate state, I didn’t always do as I was told and by the end of the class my friend was mildly concerned for my wellbeing. Thankfully, I made it home in one piece.

Cross Spin HIIT

Studio: Movers & Shapers
Where: Balham, Muswell Hill, Queens Park, St Margarets and West Hampstead
Duration: 30 minutes
Class Pass? Yes

Movers & Shapers’s Balham studios used to be particularly convenient for my work commute so I went relatively often in my Class Pass days. I must admit, it is not my favourite studio as it lacks a bit of character but it is still nice enough and the classes are only 30 minutes. It may be an intense 30 minutes but you can go after work and leave with plenty of time left to enjoy your evening.

The Cross Spin HIIT classes consist of 15 minutes on a bike and the rest of the time of a cross trainer. This is one of my favourite pieces of gym equipment so I thought this would be the class for me – it also mixes up a standard spinning class, if spinning isn’t your favourite thing to do. What I hadn’t considered was that I like both cycling and using a cross-trainer when I can go at my own speed, on whatever level suits me and I don’t have to focus on my RPM. In this class, the instructor was constantly giving us a benchmark we had to get our RPM up to and a level we had to be on. Both of those were really hard to reach and I really appreciated being able to change machines halfway through. I undoubtedly had a good workout.

Accelerate

Studio: Core Collective
Where: High Street Kensington
Duration: 45 minutes
Class Pass? Yes

Core Collective was one of my favourite Class Pass studios. It was one of the ones I couldn’t believe I got to go to (the Made In Chelsea lot often post Instagram pictures of their workouts there). It was sleek and boutique. It also had the vibe of an industrial area – albeit a very chic one – and several of the studios are dark and filled with neon light. Since I hadn’t loved spin classes up until this point, I hadn’t planned on going. But then I decided to quit Class Pass and I wanted to use up as many of my studio uses for the place as possible – so I went. No one could have been more surprised than me to find that I loved it and I couldn’t believe I’d only found out at that late hour.

The spin studio was relatively small but full of bikes. The music playing was the kind that made me want to dance and the instructor (Heloise) was very upbeat – both of which helped give me some motivation, which was very necessary because after a sadly short amount of time I felt like I might have to give up. I can’t put my finger on what it was that made me like this class so much more but I left on an endorphin high.

Tour De GymBox

Studio: GymBox
Where: Bank, Covent Garden, Farringdon, Holborn and Westfield London (Shepherd’s Bush)
Duration: 45 minutes
Class Pass? No

Five out of eight of GymBox’s branches hold a spin class called Tour De [*insert branch name here*]. Tour De Bank was the first class I took when I moved from Class Pass to GymBox. Despite the name, it actually takes place inside on stationary bikes. Most of of the GymBox venues I’ve been to have been pretty easy to navigate but Bank is somewhat of a maze. It has the feel of the inside of a large cargo ship (combined with dark lighting, sleek studios and a DJ) and I did need one of the members of staff to show me where the room actually was.

The class is very much meant to replicate cycling outside and, I can’t lie, I really didn’t like it. Once again, I didn’t arrive with enough time to properly set up my bike and I couldn’t get the display to tell me what level my bike was on. I don’t know if it just didn’t tell you or whether I had it on the wrong setting but either way it meant I generally didn’t have a clue whether I had my resistance too high or too low. I could tell something wasn’t right however because (and this is what made it worse) there were screens at the front of the class with our rankings on them. I was perpetually at the bottom (obviously this was mainly because I am no spinner) and I just couldn’t get my power and RPMs to match up with everyone else’s. Goodness knows what I was doing. The instructor was shouting instructions and motivational stuff at us for most of the class (and telling whoever was on my bike number to go faster) – which was bit overwhelming for me as I struggled to know what was going on!

Bike & Beats

Studio: GymBox
Where: Bank, Covent Garden, Farringdon, Holborn, Old Street, Victoria, Westfield London (Shepherd’s Bush) and Westfield Stratford
Duration: 45 minutes
Class Pass? No

I was a little nervous about spinning after Tour De Bank but I’d heard that Bike & Beats was very different so I thought I’d give it a go at GymBox’s Victoria branch. Victoria is very different to Bank. The gym is very open and the studios are located round the edges so they are easy to find. The place has a similar vibe (but less intense) but the bikes here were different. I picked one that already looked like it was set up as I would need it and I was instantly able to find what level my bike was set to on the display. I was already off to a better start.

The class, much like other spin classes, involved biking to the beat of the tracks being played. The instructor would tell us when to turn the resistance up high or down low but she didn’t always specify a number – which a novice like me needed. However, I used the people around me to get some kind of idea and I seemed to pick it up as I went along. I don’t know whether I just didn’t push myself or whether I actually am getting fitter but this was the first class where I didn’t want to collapse after 10 minutes. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I felt exhausted and couldn’t believe how much longer I had to go but I could actually push through. Perhaps this is why I actually really liked this class. I did the class at 7.30am and it pretty much made me feel good for the rest of the day. I never thought morning classes would be my cup of tea but doing them doesn’t half make you feel smug.

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