Indoor cycling cranks up the tunes, dims the lights for an intense ride (with video)

 

Typical 55-minute spinning class burns up to 500 calories

 
 
 
 
Instructor Julie Chutter rides a stationary bike at RIDE Cycle Club an indoor cycling studio in Vancouver.
 
 

Instructor Julie Chutter rides a stationary bike at RIDE Cycle Club an indoor cycling studio in Vancouver.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, Vancouver Sun

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VANCOUVER -- The rooms are dimly lit with a few flickering candles while dozens of bottoms hover above the seats of stationary bicycles, bouncing to the beat of loud pop tunes.

The latest fitness trend to hit Vancouver is building on its cult status in New York where club-style DJ mixes drive sweating bodies to burn calories — a lot of calories — in less than an hour.

Two new studios have just opened their doors in Gastown and Yaletown with another slated for Granville Street next month. Their 20-something owners are hoping to capitalize on the growing popularity of indoor cycling as a high-energy group workout that delivers the goods in a hurry, but they’re adding a few twists.

“It’s inevitable that you’ll get fit,” says Jillian Sheridan, owner of Eastwood Cycle Sanctuary at 154 West Hastings, a busy block that was a derelict dead zone until recently.

Depending on individual body size and exertion, a typical 45-55-minute class can burn 400-500 calories, similar to running for the same length of time, but without pounding feet, knees and hips. But going easy on your joints isn’t likely the key motivation for their target market: the under-40 crowd with a job downtown. Getting taut muscles with a bunch of friends is more like it.

“This is more community and unity,” says Ashley Ander, founder of Ride Cycle Club at 881 Hamilton Street. “It’s almost like you drink the Kool-Aid.”

Ander, who is backed by Shannon and JJ Wilson of Kit and Ace in Gastown and Moe Samieian Jr., says she got hooked on indoor cycling when she worked for Lululemon in New York which provided unlimited fitness classes to employees at the time. She stumbled into SoulCycle — now a 25-studio chain just eight years after it started in a basement — and has spent the last five years working as a fitness instructor here, planning to bring its style to Vancouver.

“It’s so much about the rhythm. A lot of spin classes in the city are targeted to road cyclist. With this, if you’re not used to riding with the rhythm, it takes a bit of time to find it,” says Ander, also a trained dancer.

The style of indoor cycling at both these studios — plus the yet-to-open Spin Society Cycling Studio — adds upper-body movements like pushups on the handlebars and bicep curls with light weights. Devotees say it creates a total-body workout; critics say it can potentially lead to lower back injury and is ineffective to boot.

“They’re basically asking you to do two things at once,” says Jay Shapka, owner of Cyklus Vancouver, a dedicated indoor cycling studio that opened on Expo Blvd. in Yaletown earlier this year. “They’re piling on risk without adding any benefit.”

Lora Postma, a registered massage therapist and also a Cyklus instructor, says indoor cycling provides a low impact, high-intensity workout for people of all ages, working the heart and lungs while toning muscle. But trying to make it into an all-inclusive fitness technique is misguided.

“It does not need frills, gimmicks, or extras. If you want an upper body and abdominal workout, get that elsewhere — your local Pilates or yoga studio. Or just get on the floor and do some pushups,” she says.

Spinning — a style of class on a stationary bicycle that the rider can adjust to provide more or less tension — has been around for more than 20 years after getting its start in California. The official spinning.com website says it’s offered in more than 80 countries and 25 languages. In Vancouver, three-year-old Cadence Cycling Studio on West 6th Avenue is dedicated to Spinning with its bikes bearing the trademarked name.

Cadence owner Mike Porter says he’s not a fan of adding upper-body exercises to the mix, but notes the crop of stand-alone studios are part of a trend away from big-box fitness and toward more community-minded places with rooms for socializing before and after a workout.

“We provide a place for people to come and connect because I think that’s something that society is really missing,” he says.

The latest entries in the market pump up the New-Age factor.

The website for Eastwood Cycle Sanctuary asks: “If the body is a temple, where does it go to worship?”

Presumably to a class at the studio decorated in Moroccan style where custom-scented candles are burning and sold along with a line of tights, T-shirts, water bottles and hoodies.

The idea, says Sheridan, who is branching out from her digital marketing business Gold Lemon Creative, is clients will want more than just a class.

“We think they’ll say, ‘I love Eastwood so much I want to take it home with me.’”

RIDE Cycle also sells branded gear and has a mini-meditation at the end of each class when clients set their “intention” for the rest of the day — be it for physical, mental or professional growth.

“After you exercise, your body and mind are open,” Ander says.

None of it comes cheap.

The classes cost around $25 a pop — which includes mandatory clip-in style bicycle shoes — and a towel to sop up all that sweat, with discounts for multi-class packages.

Negar Hadavi, co-founder of Spin Society, predicts indoor cycling will overtake yoga because it offers much more of a cardiovascular workout.

“There’s a trend in the industry right now, moving away from yoga and moving toward high-intensity workouts,” says Hadavi, who wrote her MBA thesis on the sector at Simon Fraser University last year.

“Studios are popping up everywhere, but the beautiful thing is everybody is offering something a little bit different.”

eellis@vancouversun.com

In the saddle: Scenes from the darkened room

I didn’t find my groove during my first attempt at “dancing on a bike,” struggling to match the instructor’s brisk 1-2, 1-2 pedalling pace while doing pushups off the handle bars. Coordination is a definite asset.

There’s no shortage of perspiration — I mean inspiration — in the room with six-packs evident on a few of the glistening clients. It’s all hard to miss when you’re jammed elbow-to-elbow like pack leaders in the Tour de France.

Classes fly by and while I was free to dial back on my effort, trying to keep pace with the beautiful people while maintaining my pride kept me pushing.

Anyone who loves working out to the beat will find an efficient way to get sweaty without the suffering the glare of unflattering fluorescent lights.

Soothing the soul? I’m sure it’s getting in shape, too.

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Instructor Julie Chutter rides a stationary bike at RIDE Cycle Club an indoor cycling studio in Vancouver.
 

Instructor Julie Chutter rides a stationary bike at RIDE Cycle Club an indoor cycling studio in Vancouver.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, Vancouver Sun

 
Instructor Julie Chutter rides a stationary bike at RIDE Cycle Club an indoor cycling studio in Vancouver.
Instructor Julie Chutter rides a stationary bike at RIDE Cycle Club an indoor cycling studio in Vancouver.
Jillian Sheridan of Eastwood Cycle Sanctuary, an indoor cycling facility.
Relaxing before class at Eastwood Cycle Sanctuary in Vancouver, BC, September, 25, 2014.
JJ Wilson with the RIDE Cycle Club logo. RIDE is an indoor cycling studio at 881 Hamilton in Vancouver.
Instructor Julie Chutter rides a stationary bike at RIDE Cycle Club an indoor cycling studio in Vancouver.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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