People and Places

Spin me right round — What’s behind the indoor cycling craze

Maybe Arianna Grande’s song Side to Side, a music video that has the pop star and her entourage wearing improbable workout wear and gyrating seductively during a spin class, is partly responsible for the current cycling phenomena, but there’s a community and culture of spinning being created in the city — one that’s increasing in tempo.

New dedicated spin studios such as Wheelhouse (Wellington West) and Spin City (Centretown) have recently opened; Dailey Method (Glebe), primarily known for their dance classes, will be adding spin to their repertoire this month, and Iron North Studio (Hintonburg) has continued to add more and more classes to their schedule to try to combat waitlists.

Why? What is it about spin classes that make it such an attractive choice for workouts?

The answers vary. Some point to the class’s often exuberant atmosphere, others to the community cycling creates, and the low-impact nature of the exercise, which makes it easier on joints and muscles — the kind of exercise that’s ideal for rehabilitation from injuries.

We spoke to Samantha Armstrong, co-owner of Iron North Studio, Deanna Renzi, senior instructor at Spin City, Heather Andrews, owner of Wheelhouse, and Sarah Thompson, owner of the Dailey Method, as well as Jacqueline Yeldon, MScPT physiotherapist to get the low down on the workout of the moment.

Photo, courtesy of Spin City
Photo, courtesy of Spin City

So what attracts riders to this type of workout?

Renzi: “The energy. The music. The vibe. Our riders are part of our crew. We ride with them, we push each other, we laugh, often in a delirious way. When we think we can’t push any further, then we do.”

Andrews: “Riders come back … because of the energy, motivation, and positivity from our instructors, our curated workout and playlists, our amazing front staff, the workout high that comes from our classes, and because of all of the other riders who bring their A-game every ride.”

What makes spin a choice workout compared to other options?

Yeldon: “Spinning is a great low-impact workout. This type of workout not only improves cardiovascular fitness, but also targets a number of large and important muscle groups including glutes, hamstrings, quads, core, back, and shoulders — without putting excessive forces through the joints. When the stationary bike is fitted properly to the rider, the smooth cycling motion prevents over-stretching of the muscles, which can lead to muscle strains or joint injuries. And from a rehabilitation perspective, spinning can be a great way to maintain fitness, strength, and flexibility following an injury or during the rehabilitation process.”

Andrews: “Spin is a low-impact workout (so it’s easy on the joints), but it’s also high-intensity, so you get an awesome calorie burn and high-intensity interval training workout to improve overall fitness.”

Renzi: “Spin allows you to take what you need. With a resistance dial that you control, you can listen to your body and adjust based on your body’s needs. You get to be in a group atmosphere, the instructor does all the thinking regarding class set up, and you just ride.”

Photo, courtesy of Daily Method
Photo, courtesy of Daily Method

What changes can riders expect to see and feel in their bodies?

Armstrong: “The [body’s] core is a huge part of spin classes, and a lot of people don’t realize it until they take a class.”

Thompson: “Riders can expect to be stronger, faster, increase their endurance, and cardiovascular health.”

Renzi: “Their stamina and endurance will increase. … Their legs and butt will become firmer and more toned. At our studio, with the upper body moves being incorporated, they will see more defined arms and shoulders. Often as a result of their effort you will see many lose weight and just feel lighter. It becomes easier to wake up in the morning. Are we all going to be the Energizer bunny at 5 a.m.? Probably not, but you just feel less lethargic throughout your day.”

Of course it’s highly dependant on the individual, but the consensus seems to be that the average person will burn between 300 and 800 calories for a class roughly an hour in length.

Renzi: “I’ll say this, if you are pushing yourself, I mean really getting out of the comfort zone, the average calorie burn is in the range of 500 to 800 in a 50 minute ride.”

Andrews: “With regular riding, you will boost your metabolism and burn even more calories [while] at rest.”

Photo, courtesy of Iron North
Photo, courtesy of Iron North

What should you eat (or should you eat at all) before a class?

Andrews: “Most people find a smaller snack with complex carbs, good fat for energy, and protein for muscle recovery works best. If you’re short on time, grab a banana and some almond butter (that’s my go-to snack!). And of course don’t forget lots of water!”

Renzi: “Eat light before! Or have your last large meal at least 90 minutes before class to allow for digestion. I can’t tell you how many times I haven’t listened to my own advice and felt a tad dizzy half way through or just felt weighed down.”

And afterwards?
Renzi: “Brunch! Seriously, have we not earned the right to brunch at this point?!”

Photo, courtesy of Wheelhouse
Photo, courtesy of Wheelhouse