Los­ing my­self in a mega spin class

The Guardian - Weekend - - Front Contents -

The chal­lenge with spin is al­ways to make it more im­mer­sive, and I si­mul­ta­ne­ously don’t re­ally un­der­stand this – be­cause peo­ple who love spin al­ready re­ally love it – and un­der­stand it com­pletely. Spin is at the outer edge of ex­er­cise max­imi­sa­tion.

Peo­ple go to a sta­tion­ary ex­er­cise-bike class for one pur­pose: to get fit. They want re­sults, they want eupho­ria, and they want those things fast. The more in­tense your sen­sory di­ver­sion, the less you’ll no­tice the pain and the harder you’ll work. So you get a lot of in­no­va­tion in the field. There are classes with a night­clubby ethos: loud mu­sic, low lights. Or there are fu­tur­is­tic ones, where you’re cy­cling through a CGI land­scape. There are chill-out classes, with bliss­ful mu­sic and in­struc­tions to “just ride”. And now there is uber-spin, with rows and rows of bikes as far as the eye can see. The church of spin.

I’ve been to a spin “am­phithe­atre” called 1Rebel, and I ad­mit, I love the aes­thet­ics – 86 bikes laid out severely like in an exam room, with the in­vig­i­la­tor to match. Where it gets weird is that once you’re cy­cling, you don’t re­ally no­tice how many peo­ple there are. Un­less there’s some­one very high-en­ergy, whoop­ing, you get your head down and your butt up, you fol­low some kind of car­dio se­quence and, as far as you’re con­cerned, through a com­bi­na­tion of con­cen­tra­tion and ef­fort, you’re the only per­son in the room.

First Light, in West­field Lon­don, has a slightly smaller stu­dio but more of a sense of com­rade­ship be­cause it has a nar­ra­tive. The idea is that the ar­ti­fi­cial light em­a­nat­ing from the back screen will take you through a sin­gle day, morn­ing to night­fall, and you’ll get into some kind of cir­ca­dian rhythm – fierce in the morn­ing, un­stop­pable at lunchtime, steady in the af­ter­noon, and re­laxed and whizzy in the evening. All in an hour. Be­ing asked to buy into this col­lec­tive fan­tasy un­doubt­edly bonds you to the rest of the room. There were only about 15 of us on the Sun­day morn­ing I was there, but I could de­scribe them very closely: the sil­ver fox who looked like Richard Gere; the young guy who whooped reg­u­larly; two blond women who looked as if they were off to do some­thing much more fun af­ter­wards.

It would not be true to say that we spurred each other on; who knows, maybe I spurred them on (as a cau­tion­ary tale), but they didn’t have much im­pact on me, since once I get go­ing it’s just me and the bike. I loved the rather silly con­ceit of mov­ing through the hours, but hated the holo­grams of char­ac­ter­less build­ings, like fake upon fake. I loved the in­struc­tor. I main­tained self­aware­ness through­out, but I worked like a dog 1rebel.co.uk; first­light­cy­cle.co.uk; spin­ning.eu

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