As the ABC launches the Your Move campaign, to help Australians explore their health and fitness journey, reporter Marnie Vinall hits the road to try some of the growing exercise trends around the country.
It’s hard to watch a modern-day, women-centred millennial TV show or movie without a spin class featuring at some point.
- Spin class is an intense workout involving stationary bikes, with an instructor at the front guiding you throughout
- While some classes are standard, others involve nightclub-like conditions, with flashing lights and loud music
- Spin programs were developed by South African endurance bicycle racer Johnny Goldberg in the 1980s
Although, I’ve taken the odd RPM class here and there, I’ve never been to a cycle-specific studio to do what the kids are calling “spin”.
So, I contacted Adam Pearson — who’s been an indoor cycling instructor for around 20 years — to give me the rundown.
He told me there are many different styles of indoor cycle classes that the industry offers, including: strength training, explosive training, aerobic training, traditionalist training models and even the more recently popular “party on a bike” type methods.
However, all these forms have cardiovascular benefits through low-impact exercise, which is great for fitness without putting too much strain on the body.
So, good for someone like me with a niggly knee.
Plus, he said, it’s an incredibly efficient form of exercise.
“All the energy systems can get used — the anaerobic energy system and the aerobic energy system — they can get used in most classes, and most classes are pretty high intensity,” he said.
And, for those like me who are less versed in bodily systems, that’s energy systems needed for, respectively, quick bursts of energy, say jumping, and for sustained periods, say running.
He assured me that, no matter what type training I did, however, there was usually “always good music, so always good vibes”.
As a sucker for exercise set to dance tracks with the volume right up, I choose the more “party on a bike” option and contacted Bodhi and Ride, who offered “revolutionised traditional spin … [in] dark, hot and steamy studios, fitted with high-tech bikes and production quality light and sound systems”.
Michaela Fellner, chief executive and founder of Bodhi and Ride, kindly offered to let me take a class at her South Yarra studio.
She told me newcomers could expect “a really intense” and “immersive” workout.
“Basically, we’ve crammed everything into 45 minutes,” she said, telling me the timeslot meant it was an efficient way to get in a full body workout, including upper body as well as lower.
“The other component of it is a community aspects that happens before and after the class.”
Noting my intimidation in trying something so new and dynamic, Fellner told me they were “well aware of the fact that it is daunting”.
“It’s a very unique experience and it definitely can be an is intimidating. So, we’re well aware of that,” she said, saying the instructors were there to make you feel welcome and keep you informed about what’s going on.
Also, they are there for motivation and encouragement.
Which is exactly what I found when I plucked up the courage to head along.
The room was dark, as promised, with flashing lights, loud music and an extremely enthusiastic instructor — who very kindly helped me adjust my bike and get into my cleats.
She guided us through the tracks, pushing us to go faster and harder, while also shouting words of praise.
And, let me tell you, from the warm up onwards, it was all go.
There was a range of different tracks, including a meditation track which riders could take at their own pace and dance ones where my coordination was really tested.
Have you ever had to move your arms to keep to a specific rhythm while your legs are spinning away? Yeah, neither had I, but it was a lot of fun to give it a crack while getting extremely sweaty under low lightening.
There was also a weight track, where legs were isolated on the bikes and instead the upper body was targeted with exercises using handheld weights.
This included repetitive motions, such as bicep curls and shoulder presses to the beat of the music.
My intimidation eased as I settled into the rhythm of the class and the attempt to keep up and push harder took over.
Plus, the darkness of the room, aided with the pumping music, helped, because I only focused on myself and the movements.
The playlist — featuring the likes of Skrillex, Denzel Curry and Disclosure — definitely helped for drive too.
After wobbling off the bike, I took myself home to a big bowl of carbs and finally understood what all the fuss was about.
It was 45 minutes of intense exercise but I felt extremely good afterwards, covered in sweat and like I had achieved something. Also, like I had attended a very short rave.
What are spin classes?
Originally developed by South African endurance rider Johnny Goldberg in the mid-1980s after he was struck by a car, spin classes were targeted toward endurance athletes as a substitute for outdoor bicycle training.
Goldberg developed the stationary bikes himself, and moved to California to increase the exposure of the product and the classes.
Through the following decades, spin classes became common in gyms before taking on a life of their own, with some classes offering nightclub style environments to get the pulses racing.
How much does a spin class cost?
Classes can be anywhere between $10 and $30 for an individual session, although many places offer package deals that include more than one class.
Where can I do spin classes?
While plenty of gyms offer spin classes as a part of their membership deals, spin class studios have been cropping up all over the place, offering a more dynamic experience.
Some spin classes have even been offered in local pubs and bars.
Search for “spin class near me” online for the best results.