I’ve been meaning to write about my love affair with Flywheel Sports for a while. Considering I’ve given them a shout-out in basically every post so far, it’s high time I explained myself.
For starters, I used to hate spin classes. The first year I lived in NYC I had a corporate gym membership to New York Sports Club. I was getting sick of staring into space on the elliptical so I decided to switch it up with one of the free spin classes they offered. Five minutes into it, I found myself feverishly glancing at the clock. “How long until this torture is OVER???” was all I was thinking. Between the lackluster music playlist circa 1983 and having no way to accurately gauge what “half a turn to the right” really meant when adding resistance, I was left out of breath and unimpressed.
I’m not going to lie. I didn’t like spinning at first because it was really hard. I can appreciate a tough sweat session, but while the class was a great workout physically, it left me frustrated and bored. If a workout isn’t exciting and doesn’t challenge me both physically and mentally, it’s not worth my time.
After swearing off spin classes for quite a while, thankfully, I found the light.
My official initiation into the boutique spin studio scene started when I went to a few SoulCycle classes with my co-workers. I left the class exhausted, yet enthused. The energy was electric as the instructor told us to move as one – the class was all about flow and rhythm without the usual jarring, sergeant-like commands I was used to from typical group workout classes.
After learning about the city-wide debate that is SoulCycle v. Flywheel, I decided to attend the rival studio and see what all the hype was about. While I liked SoulCycle, I loved Flywheel even more – it was love at first sprint and I’ve never looked back since.
(If you’d like a quick history on the rich and fabled SoulCycle/Flywheel rivalry, check out this NY Times article from 2010 when the city-wide split was just heating up. Think Montagues v. Capulets, Michigan v. Ohio State, Madonna v. GAGA!)
Why I’m addicted to Flywheel (and why you should be too):
Flywheel Sports sets itself apart from any other spin class due to its innovative in-class technology and online platform that capture performance metrics for each ride. If you consider yourself an athlete, an aspiring athlete, or intensely competitive – you will probably become a Flywheel evangelist like me.
In class, there is a mini computer screen on every bike that shows you your resistance (Torq), speed (RPM), and power output (Current & Total).
When the instructor tells you to increase the Torq to a resistance range of 20-25 while maintaining a 80-90 RPM – you can actually gauge your resistance and speed increase by turning the blue knob and watching it happen on your personal mini screen. Not only does this allow riders to accurately adjust the difficulty level of the workout throughout class, but it also reduces the temptation to slack off. Numbers don’t lie.
So here is where it gets competitive: everyone in class has a self-designated Torqname (mine is IronCalves – duh), and each bike’s stats are sporadically displayed on the “Torqboard” at the front of the class (women on the left, men on the right) so you can check in and see how you rank amongst the rest of the competitive crazies. You can opt in or opt out of this, but it really is very motivating to try to move up in rank throughout class and in my experience, try to beat the guys too!
After each class, your stats are automatically uploaded online to your personal account so that you can track your improvements/consistency and see how you rank against the Top 10 riders in your region or by studio location. Pretty cool stuff.
The Flywheel instructors are in a league of their own. While each instructor follows the same class structure – warmup, speed work, hills, arm exercises with weighted bars, and more speedwork/hills to finish the class – they all have their own unique teaching style and taste in music. (Another awesome Flywheel fact – their studios feature stadium seating so everyone can see the instructor despite where their bike is located.) No matter what you will get your butt kicked, but you may find that some instructors gel with you better than others. Thus, I advise you to try out a bunch of different instructors until you find your favorites.
I’ll go into more detail in future posts about my favorite Flywheel instructors, but here is a quick rundown (in no particular order):
Natalie Cohen – Badass. Asks for everything you’ve got and then some. Direct and to the point, demands your best every time.
Jesse Alexander – Should pursue a career as an inspirational speaker. He coaches his riders both physically and mentally and has a whole lot of Brooklyn swagger.
Stephanie Nieman – She’s a charismatic ball of Texan energy who pushes you to be your best while leaving you with a smile on your face.
Ryan Makely – Hilarious and full of positivity. Encourages his riders to not take things too seriously but ensures you a great workout and an elevated mood.
Grant Belton – Leads a solid, efficient workout and always remains calmly in command of class, subtly reminding you that you Can in fact, do this.
3.The Flywheel Community
A final note. Flywheel is a very welcoming environment. You don’t have to be the fittest person in New York City to enjoy the class and reap it’s benefits. People of all shapes and sizes attend class and contribute to why it’s such a great atmosphere to work out in and achieve your personal fitness goals. So while it may be a bit intimidating to attend your first class, know that everyone is there to support one another and despite all else, have a ton of fun.