SPIN CLASSES are one of those workouts that can feel extraordinarily hard. They require determination. They will make you sweat. In the first 10 to 15 minutes I often go into wishful thinking — and perhaps even a little prayer — to make it end quickly.
It’s also the reason spin is so popular. People love getting beaten up to the sound of loud techno combined with intense amounts of sweat and a major burn in their legs and glutes.
At CorePower Yoga, a nationwide chain of yoga studios, the spin classes are intended to complement the yoga. The yoga/spin concept has been growing in popularity over the past few years, with studios in Seattle including Live Love Flow offering the combination.
CorePower has an added twist: bikes that lean and turn. Nobody told me ahead of time how hard it would be to make the bike lean and turn. If I’d known, I might not have shown up.
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CorePower uses Ryder bikes in its spin classes for the lean and turn, which works your core and in some ways mimics a real ride. Other than the Ryders in the beautiful Ballard studio, it’s a pretty low-tech spin class. There are no screens to track your revolutions per minute or time; there’s a knob to change resistance and that’s it.
Teacher Tommy Jerome told us to challenge ourselves by using zones. In Zone 2, we should feel some resistance but still spin fast and fairly easily. In Zone 3, he wanted us to work between 60 and 80 percent of our max, basically still able to spit out a sentence or two. By Zone 4, we should be working our maximum intensity with no breath left to talk.
He cranked up the music, which mixed in uplifting yoga tunes, and we were off into some speed drills of 40 seconds at max intensity and 20 seconds off. Two rounds in, I was gasping and wondering why I had chosen this torture.
Besides the usual reminders to keep our shoulders back and our belly pulled in, Tommy told us to think of our feet as paintbrushes, brushing through the bottom of the pedal. It helped me relax a bit during the most relentless parts of the class.
Which helped because “breaks” entailed leaning and turning into the bikes. For the first round, Tommy pulled my bike’s handlebars right and left. He told me to pull with my lower arm and push with the top arm. This wasn’t so bad.
By the next round, he’d moved on to help someone else. I had to throw all my weight to one side to get the bike to turn in either direction, often trying to spin at a high speed. I had to use my core and could feel more of a focus on the leg I was leaning toward while cycling. I kept slowing down until we got back to center.
It also was challenging to keep the bike stable when we went up out of the saddle. I saw in the mirror that I was wrenching my bike side to side and kept focusing on trying to stabilize my upper body and keep my form to prevent the bike from swaying.
As we worked through speed drills, some hills and lots of turns, Tommy also encouraged us to let go of our day, to drop into our body and stay focused through the intensity. I appreciated, through gritted teeth, the words of wisdom.
Sometimes we have to make ourselves do things we don’t love. I was more than a little relieved when it was over. And if I’m going to put myself through spin torture, I prefer bikes with monitors to track my progress on resistance or times.
Regardless of the technology, I got my butt whupped in the way I know some of you crave. Try it out. And if you catch me on a good day, I’ll join you.
Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.