Let me preface this whole article by saying I HATE CYCLING AND SPINNING. I just need to make that clear because I’m trying to be as objective as possible about something I continue to do because it’s good for me despite loathing everything about it
Back to fitness.
I don’t know about you but as an incredibly competitive person, I feel like I’m always up against others and myself. Living in New York City has only infinitely ballooned the issue. Therefore, fitness classes that in any way quantify your workout beyond personal gains tend to be utter failures for those like me simply because I will push myself, well beyond my own capabilities in order to beat myself and those alongside me. PR or ER (personal record or emergency room) is a very real thing and in today’s society, we have moved beyond simply activity tracking and into that competitive bubble where we all have apps and challenges and competitions so I’m sure there’s more than a few people who share this problem or else the industry would not exist.
That said, my workout of choice for this post is FlyWheel. I’m not a huge cardio fan at this point in my life but if I have to do it I want quality cardio. FlyWheel is quality cardio and unlike some of the other fad cycling classes, the focus is on that quality cardio, form, listening to your body, and not doing weird dance moves that should never be done while cycling for high risk of injury. In my experience, the instructors are trained in fitness and anatomy vs other brands where a dance background is preferred (very different from cycling), they are knowledgeable and helpful in the subject matter and know how to correct both to accommodate prior injury and prevent new injury.
As far as the studios in general, they are quite clean and modern; very typical of any boutique fitness studio. Their “stadiums” are much smaller than most other spin classes I’ve attended. If you preregister for your class, a bike number is assigned to you and your shoes will be waiting in a cubby for you when you come in; no waiting in line for a pair of shoes. They offer complimentary water, towels, fresh fruit (usually a bowl of apples and bananas on the tables), lockers and have full amenity showers and changing rooms (although you may want to skip the closing stretch to grab a shower if you’re on a time crunch as there is usually a short wait). They’re really great spaces.
So cycling just not being for me does not mean I’m not going to continue doing it because it pushes my limits and comfort zones. No one wants to plateau, especially when training for a physically vigorous challenge. Cross training is key.
So FlyWheel. It is amazing for me in many ways. I need more cardio and more experience controlling breathing and my core temperatures during more strenuous cardio. I need an instructor if I’m going to spin otherwise I will half ass it like a champ. It gives me current stats on how I’m performing at any given moment via a nifty personal digital display on each bike. Those stats, much like the displays on a treadmill or elliptical, help me pace myself and follow the lead of the instructor. I am absolutely terrible at pacing myself through intervals. I am always going too fast through the slower parts. It also keeps me from sprinting all out vs holding steady at an increased output during the harder intervals and only sprinting during actual sprints. It also allows me to see how I’m progressing via their online profiles.
For me, FlyWheel is also dangerous because it does quantify and rank your performance against other fellow classmates using what I can only assume is an algorithm taking into account your rpm, torque, etc., which means fight to the death…usually my death because I’m the one with issues. There are digital “leaderboards” in the front of the room although you do not have to displayed on them if you don’t want the whole room to know you’re dying over in the corner just spinning in first position or that you’re kicking everyone’s butt in third with full torque. Even if you choose not to be displayed on the public leaderboards, you can still compare yourself to the leaderboard numbers using your personal display. You can also sign into your profile online and see how you ranked against everyone in the class afterwards and see how you fared within your own previous performances. And if you’re like me, you can then berate yourself until your next session for missing a PR by TWO MEASLY POINTS!!!!
As you can see, many of the pros and cons overlap with the cons being more psychological than fitness related. In general, I recommend FlyWheel or any cycling focused spin class for someone with injuries or limited fitness experience. It is lower impact on the joints compared to walking or running but more so than say, an elliptical. Well-trained instructors are key and as always, listen to your body and go at your own pace. Basically do as I say and not as I do.
Enjoy the sweat!