Test Driving: Not Just For Cars

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You wouldn’t buy a car without shopping around and test driving a few so why not do that with exercise? I have been doing a lot of spin lately but have also gone to 4 different spin studios in the last 6 months and while they have all been equally great experiences, they are all very different. I have been to OneCycle, Spoke N Spin, and Peloton in Calgary, and I visited BPM in Victoria.

OneCycle

OneCycle is located in Mission and has a bit of a “trendier” vibe to it. The music has a very easy-to-follow beat and the bikes are regular spin bikes with a knob that increases the tension. There is always a “weight track” during the class where we lift little dumbbells to add in some upper body exercises. There is also some “choreography” (for lack of a better term) throughout the class where you do tricep dips, crunches, and push ups on the bike to the beat of the music.

Spoke N Spin

Spoke N Spin is in located in Banff Trail in a hotel. It’s a really nice studio and also has a trendier vibe to it. They have giant TV screens where they play music videos while you ride so that distracts you from the burn in your legs a little bit. The class I went to didn’t have a weight track but there was a 10 minute TRX session at the end to build in the upper body and core.

Peloton

Peloton is downtown in the Beltline, it’s a different feel than OneCycle and Spoke N Spin. The bikes have a screen on them so you can view your RPM, intensity level, power output, and it can pair with a heart rate monitor. The bike is also colour coded for intensity levels. The instructor tells you the colour zone and the RPM to stay in which gives you more guidance throughout the class. This class was just straight cycling with no weights or core component (beyond the core required to maintain cycling form).

BPM

BPM is the spin studio I went to in Victoria. This studio gave everyone a heart rate monitor which paired with the bike. The bike also let you monitor your “gear”, RPM, and power output. All of the heart rates were transmitted to a screen at the front of the class so you could compare yourself to others in the class. It also colour coded the screen based on a percentage of your age-predicted maximum heart rate.

Why Does It Matter?

Even though all 4 of these studios are “spin studios” my experience at every single one has been very different. It got me thinking about how important it is to shop around for fitness classes and find the right environment for you. I really like that BPM and Peloton allowed me to quantify my workout and know exactly how hard I’m working. However, because of my exercise physiology background, I found that I was getting really caught up in how hard I was working or comparing myself to the other people in the class. Although this can be fun when you’re at class with friends sometimes you need to just go with how you’re feeling that day and listen to your body. On these days I feel like OneCycle or Spoke N Spin are better fits for me.

Take Home Message: It’s definitely not one size fits all. I’m planning on doing 1-2 classes a week at OneCycle or Spoke N Spin and 1-2 classes a week at Peloton. I think this will help me keep my workouts fresh but I’ll also be able to pick the class I need for the state of mind I’m in that day. At the end of the day, the best class or studio is one where you enjoy the atmosphere and the workouts. If you like it, you’ll stick with it.

Tips for Getting Started:

1. Think about your needs. Are you super competitive or do you want/need quantitative feedback to keep you in check during your workout? Will the studio be easy for you to get to with your usual weekly schedule?
2. Do your research. Find a studio with class descriptions that seem like they have offerings that fit your needs. Studios might also have deals for you to try something the first time.
3. Talk to the studio. This is particularly important if it’s an activity you’ve never tried before or you have a number of injuries or chronic conditions. They will likely be able to suggest a class that would be a good starting point.
4. Show up early for the first class. You will have a chance to talk to the instructor about any concerns or injuries you have. You will also be able to get the lay of the land.
5. Try it again. Try different instructors or classes within the same studio. Sometimes you just mesh well with an instructor’s style and sometimes you don’t. The first class can be overwhelming so try it again before calling it quits.

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