Thoughts /// Wellness x
spin studios
Who knew cardio could be so invigorating? (Image via Instagram)

First lesson: don’t ‘spin’ yourself out.

Spin studios seem to be “the workout” to do, especially among middle class, 20 to 30-something women. “Spinning” was first introduced to the United States by Johnny Goldberg, a South African fitness lover who invented the first ever spin bike as a way to train at home while his wife was expecting their first child. In 1994, Goldberg opened the first ever spin studio in Santa Monica, California, and spinning has been a fitness staple ever since.

Today, spin studios are everywhere and appear to be an absolute necessity for anyone trying to improve their physique or overall health. From SoulCycle and Flywheel to CycleBar, the options are endless and available at many locations. Several celebrities have really ramped up the recent hype surrounding spin studios.

In 2016, Shape magazine even devoted an entire piece to celebrities who love spinning, including Victoria Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio, singer and actress Selena Gomez and Khloe Kardashian. These beautiful, young celebrities hold enormous influence over women — older and younger alike — and with Shape’s emphasis on their love for spin studios, why wouldn’t every woman in the country (who can afford it) flock to cycle classes immediately?

So, spin studio memberships are obviously very appealing, particularly to young women. However, spin class is not always as perfect and glamorous as it appears on ads. Here are some important lessons I learned during my one-month membership at CycleBar.

Don’t feel intimidated

Like many boutique fitness classes, everyone’s first class, or “ride” as CycleBar likes to call it, is free. Sounds great, right? Well, not so fast. Like all spin studios, CycleBar is quite intimidating, and I put off booking my first ride for almost two years.

Sure, I really wanted to give it a try, but I assumed everyone in the class would look just like all of the ads — a mix of physical trainer meets supermodel body types — and would be in impeccable shape, and that a scary instructor would be viciously shouting at me to be better.

I was afraid that I, an average and semi-in-shape but also semi-out-of-shape woman, would embarrass myself and be judged by all the other super fit people. But once I got over my insecurities and went, I realized I was totally wrong.

I can only speak for my local CycleBar, but the staff and the trainers are extremely inclusive and friendly as soon as anyone walks in the door. Not only was I greeted with a smile, but I was shown to a locker that read “Welcome Lauren,” was fitted for special spin shoes, gifted with a free CycleBar water bottle and was shown step-by-step how to get on and off my bike as well as how it works.

Throughout this whole beginning process, the staff assured me that this class was my own ride and that I should not feel any pressure to follow the instructor’s direction. I did not have to follow the choreography, go as fast or have as heavy a gear as the instructor was shouting if I did not feel comfortable or able, and that assurance is what finally eased my nerves.

The other riders were also not as I expected. Believe it or not, my North Carolina-based spin studio was not full of supermodels but was instead populated by a mix of people of all ages and of all levels of fitness. Everyone at CycleBar is there for themselves and for a good time, not to judge anyone else’s performance.

It really is as cool as they say

The lights, the music, the moving in unison — I am not going to lie, it is a pretty awesome experience. The studio has very disco vibes, and once the music and lights are activated, spin class feels more like a dance party. Several classes throughout the week are even themed, including country music, dance party and more. So, everyone can choose whichever class suits his or her preference, leading to a more fun experience.

Honestly, the whole ambiance of the studio is very motivating. The combination of the dynamic lighting and the music are intense, putting me in the mindset that it’s time to work hard, sweat and forget about anything else that is going on in my life. The atmosphere makes spinning more than a workout. It clears my mind and gives me a chance to detox any negative energy I might be carrying with me.

Honestly, it can be difficult

In contrast to my initial thoughts about spin studios, many people believe spin classes are just another fad workout people do for the sake of the fad and that they are not beneficial or difficult at all. Well, I am here to testify that cycling is not easy. In fact, sometimes I am so exhausted after class that I come home and collapse onto my floor for 30 minutes before I can even get up to take a shower.

However, I am just an average person of average (or below average) physical fitness. Spin classes might not be that difficult for marathon runners or Iron Man competitors who follow the instructor’s RPM and gear guidance. But with their own intuition on what gear and speed challenges them, these athletes might be able to reap the benefits of spin studios as well.

Rides get easier

For people like me, the average joe who just wants to have fun and get (sort of) in shape, don’t fret. Rides might feel like hell at the beginning, but they get easier with time. Every time I finish a ride my stats have improved, and I feel proud of myself and what my body is learning to do. I might not be ranked as a top three rider in the class, but I have my own accomplishments that are separate from my fellow spinners.

The bottom line is that spin studios can be fun places if riders have the right mindset. Yes, spinning does bring that group mentality that can act as a motivating force, but it is just that. If someone can’t keep up with the rest of the class, it isn’t the end of the world. Everyone is just there to have fun, and everyone will naturally improve with time.

Final thoughts

I have really enjoyed my time at CycleBar, but I have also missed doing non-cardio exercises as well as the extra $100 in my bank account. Because I opted for the one-month unlimited rides package, I have gone to a class almost every day and am yearning for some variety such as yoga or resistance training.

I think changing up workouts on a weekly basis is more fun, and with a CycleBar membership it’s difficult not only to find the time for these other workouts, but also to afford them. When I’m paying for cardio, I can’t necessarily afford to pay for yoga and pilates too. I have learned that everyone must pick her poison. Personally, in the future I will be getting in my cardio with a run or walk outside so that I can still enjoy a drop-in yoga class here and there.

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