On any day of the week, a group of around 20 gathers at a second storey studio to pedal and sweat together, all to the constant beat of high energy music.
Some may call this type of fitness ‘spin’ or ‘spinning,’ and it’s only growing in popularity. So what exactly is it?
“It’s basically indoor cycling, just on a stationary bike,” explained Dawn Larson, owner/operator at Spin Out Studio in Lacombe. “You add a lot of tension to your bike to get increased cardio, more of a muscular work out. It’s not just riding a bike. It’s actually doing weight lifting on a bike, using your own body weight, setting tension and stuff.”
The concept of spin began in the late ’80s in Los Angeles. A man who worked as a personal trainer and participated in endurance cycle races decided to take cycling off the street and it paid off. Since then, spin has only increased in popularity with studios cropping up across the nation, with most gyms offering cycling-based classes and also inspiring a reality TV show following a Los Angeles-based spin studio called Soul Cycle.
While spin can sometimes be thought of as something ‘flashy’ or the latest craze, for Larson and her studio, there is an emphasis on year-round fitness, training, achievement and community.
Larson first became interested in indoor cycling a few years ago after she took up running.
“I found running was really hard on my knees and joints so then I took up cycling and doing triathlons,” she said. “Out of all the parts of the triathlon – run, bike and swim – the bike was my favourite. I started doing bike races and working a lot on the indoor trainer. During winter you can’t be outside so then I would basically do my own spin class in my own basement. I just got hooked and I started taking spin classes.”
Most spin classes follow a similar formula. Riders enter the room filled with custom made stationary bikes and if they are new, they are shown how to sit on the bike, how to adjust their seat and where to place their hands on the handlebars. After that, with a warm greeting from the instructor, it’s off to pedaling to the set to the beat of music, first warming up then gradually building. Classes revolve around intervals – bursts of energetic cycling with higher intensity – mimicking hill climbs, sprints, or gliding downhill, depending on the type of class and length.
Larson said the intent of her studio is to share fitness with people all throughout the year.
“I would love to be outdoors everyday but we don’t always have that choice,” she said. “Our intent is to maintain that fitness level so that when you do go outdoors, you are able to hike. You are able to do whatever you want with your family, your friends.”
Spin truly does suit all fitness levels, from beginner to advanced.
“People often come in under the impression that they have to keep up with the instructor and it scares them,” noted Larson. “But that’s definitely not the case. It’s your own challenge. It’s your own work out.”
The spin instructors can be thought of as motivators, inspirational coaches encouraging riders to push themselves further each class.
So what exactly is the allure of indoor cycling? Larson said it’s that perfect combination of low impact exercise with cardio.
“It’s at your own pace,” she said. “The instructor can say bump up your tension, but if you are not there yet, you just pedal. That’s the joy of it. You just have to keep spinning your legs. You can work as hard or as little as you want. It’s basically your own workout. The instructors are there to challenge what you can do.
“We try to keep it fun and light,” said Larson. “It’s not just all about working so hard that you are not enjoying yourself.”