Ah, cycling fads. A whole new world of intimidation.
Why does cycling intimidate me? The shoes… the
I decided to face my fear yesterday, and I tried Flywheel, part of Flywheel Sports, which offers FlyBarre (barre) and Flywheel (cycling).
When I got there, they had written my name on a little chalkboard by the entrance welcoming me as a first timer. It was a nice touch. But… seven other people were also trying the class for the first time.
Flywheel is huge. There are at least 70 bikes in the room. And the classes happen five or six times a day, with 3 different cycling types: a 45-minute interval class, a 60-minute more endurance class, and a 90-minute You Are Insane class. (Okay, it’s not called that, but that’s what I call it). Just think about the number of clients they have!
Because of this huge environment, I felt a little overwhelmed. No one knew me personally, or had the time or space in the tiny studio, anyway. They were absolutely friendly; they helped me check in, find my cycling shoes (which clip in to the bike and are required, unless you bring your own cycling shoes), showed me the locker rooms and how to use the lockers, and helped me get fitted onto my bike. The assistant in the actual cycling room even adjusted my bike more than others since I’m so short, which was so kind and accommodating. But with so many people, it felt like I could get lost in the shuffle.
At the same time, though, the girl that checked in before me used to go to the studio all the time, then took some time off, and was now back. Multiple people at the front desk said how happy they were she was back. So I would imagine the more you go, and if you put in the personal effort, the more it could become a family.
If you’re someone who likes to get in and get out, this might be your place. You can fly (lol, no pun intended) under the radar and no one will try to approach you and win you over. But if you want a family feel, this might not be your place.
As for the class…
Everyone is assigned a bike when registering for a class, and when the doors open 10 minutes before class time everyone walks in and finds their bike. Upon the class starting, the instructor sits on her bike at the front of the room under a spotlight, while the rest of the room is pitch dark. If at any time clients want water or another towel, you simply raise your hand and one of the assistants will help you.
We did intervals for the first 25-30 minutes (I’m honestly not sure the exact time breakdown because there’s no clock, something that bothered me). The intervals were characterized by a mixture of standing and sitting on the bike, and raising and lowering the torq levels (basically the resistance levels) and the speed levels.
The instructor provided ranges for the torq and speed levels, and I always tried to do the hardest option. I will say that I consider myself to be in pretty good shape, but this class was by far the most challenging fitness class I’ve ever taken. The website says a lot about how you don’t have to be in great shape to take the class, but I’d argue with that. Yeah, you don’t have to be in great shape to just sit on your bike there and watch eveyone else’s shadows. But if you truly want to take the class and push yourself to the extreme that the instructor requests (by doing the max torq and speed levels), it’s extremely challenging for even the most fit people.
At one point during the class, we did arms for 5 minutes. Each bike had arm weights attached at the side, and the instructor had us grab the arm weights and do shoulder and bicep exercises, while still cycling. Then we placed the weights back in the holders on the side of our bikes and got back to the intervals.
During three parts of the 45 minutes, we competed with other clients in the room. A timer would light up on our bike and we’d race the other bikes– our bike numbers were displayed on a screen up front– until the timer ran out. The 10 men and 10 women with the highest “power score,” which I’m guessing is a combination of torq levels and speed, are displayed on the screen. It’s completely anonymous; no one knows your bike number or how fast you’re going. One thing that I found out after is that if you join the Flywheel app, you can sync all of your power scores each class and see your improvement over time. Pretty cool!
For the last 5 minutes, we hopped off our bikes and stretched. That was a comical part of the class for me, because our shoes clip in. I couldn’t figure out how to unclip mine, so I was still on my bike for a littttttle longer than normal. Don’t panic, though; I’m sure there’s a method to that I just was too ignorant to know it. Eventually shaking my foot around enough did the trick. Classic me.
The lack of accountability and focus on self-competition was hard for me. I like to have an instructor that personally pushes me and can hold me accountable if I’m not trying my best. With a pitch dark room, I could have quit whenever I wanted. Of course, I didn’t, and now today I can barely walk. But, after tons of classes, I can imagine I’d get lazy with no one checking on me. The timer competitions help with accountability, but they aren’t for the whole class, so it could be hard to stay motivated. The instructor would say motivating catch phrases, but they often weren’t specific to a person . I would have liked her to have told us how much time we’d be doing each interval. She did a better job of that by the end, but at the beginning we were just doing interval after interval and I had no way to motivate myself mentally. With no time gauge, I couldn’t tell myself, “only 30 more seconds,” or anything like that.
I did love that the room was dark. I was sweating profusely and to know that no one could see that, or cared, was comforting. The class also had a great ratio of men and women. In fact, my class might have had more men. Blast (which I talked about in my last post), had more women than men, but not by much. It’s looking like cardio workouts have a better gender ratio than barre workouts, which tend to have way more women.
Soooo would I recommend it? If you want to sweat a ton, burn at least 500 calories, be in a non-competitive, impersonal environment, and challenge yourself mentally, then definitely. If you want to find a fitness community where everyone is effortlessly family and you’re given personal and tailored encouragement, with strong accountability, then maybe not.
It’s not FlyWheel’s fault for my feeling out of place. Larger fitness classes as a whole require a little more effort to create community, but it definitely can be done.
Since Flywheel Sports also offers Fly Barre, I’ll be trying that soon and will be back to report on the experience 🙂
Disclaimer: I got some questions about pricing at these places. The reality is that all of the classes I’ll be featuring on this fitness fads tab are expensive, ranging from $17 to $38 a class, with discounts and specials if you’re a first-timer, you go at off-peak times or if you buy a bigger class package. For this summer, I’m using an app called ClassPass that allows me to try any class in the DC area for $10 a class. It’s an incredible app, created for people who really want to get a sense of the fitness opportunities in DC. Thus, I won’t focus much on pricing of these classes, especially because I want these posts to provide info you can’t find elsewhere. Pricing is all on these studios’ websites; how the class makes you feel, the culture, the competition, and an overall honest take are all things you can’t find on the website.