‘Oh God’, I think, five minutes into my first Psycle spinning class, ‘I’m too British for this’.
‘This’ is a darkened, disco-lit room in Psycle’s very smart new London exercise studio where the occupants of forty-five stationary spinning bikes are clapping in time to the music. The music is nightclub loud and the trainer, Tim Weeks, is bounding around the floor at the front, while my fellow spinners whoop in encouragement. It is 8 o'clock in the morning.
Tim Weeks told me he consulted with dancers from Pineapple for some of the choreography in this workout. That thought, plus all this loud enthusiasm, is making me nervous - I’m not one of life’s joiner-in-ers, I always stand near the back wall at an exercise class. Participation gives me the sweats. I clap very, very quietly.
I’ve heard it’s a similar vibe at NYC spinning outfit Soul Cycle where affirmations and cheering are part of the calorie burn, and Jake Gyllenhaal is a regular. People speak so reverentially of Soul Cycle classes it’s as if they’re discussing a church service or therapy session, not a highly effective cardio workout. I am intrigued, then, when Psycle – first to import this style of boutique, consciousness-raising spinning to London - invite me to their opening session. The clapping stops just at the moment that I’m getting used to it (an advantage of being in the dark: no one can see you squirm), and it’s heads down and into the forty-five minute routine.
This is comprised of ten sections, each accompanied by a different track, and using the spinning dial to amp up the resistance or loosen off into sprints. It’s not the usual routine, encompassing a core-challenging section based on ballet, keeping our hips motionless, and our legs pushing against the heavy wheels, and challenging different parts of the body in sequence for an all-over workout.
Weeks tells us that he doesn’t care how hard we work, it’s all about our own journey – meaning, we can all work at our own pace and ability. Which, frankly, comes as a relief from classes where the instructors threaten and berate you into action, usually with the consequence that you exhaust yourself, or pull a muscle, and never ever go back. (I recall one hideous spinning class when the PT came around each bike and sadistically cranked up our dials because he didn’t think we were working hard enough.)
“The most important part of exercise starts in your brain,” says Weeks. Which is where music comes in. The music at Psycle really is the best part of all. Most of us might not be bothered to go to an exercise class but would happily go dancing all night. Psycle takes advantage of music’s powers of motivation with playlists curated by DJ Miranda Sawyer that include interesting mixes – not the usual, soul-crushingly awful house music beloved of spin studios – and uplifting beats that have me wishing I’d bought my phone to Shazam the playlist. (A Psycle CD will be forthcoming, I’m told, and not soon enough.) It’s like going to a rave in Ibiza – but healthier - with a similar endorphin rush and psychological high, pushing you on to sweat more. I was as sad when the session finished as when the lights come on at the end of a night out.