Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sweat Seattle: Spin City

People always ask me how it is I keep my svelte shape … fine, no one ever actually asks me that. But I like to think they do to use as my motivation to power through the 45 minutes of hell I know is coming to me at FlyWheel Sports, the next Seattle fitness fad. If, of course, Hell is a dark room packed with stationary bikes (or”spinners”), shallow pools of sweat and Now That’s What I Call Music-style techno-pop beats reverberating against padded walls. And, of course, if you consider indoor cycling a fad, even though it has been around since the days of past — the ’80s from what I could garner on Google.

FlyWheel Sports/@strubanana/Michelle Strub on Instagram

Sneak photo with my phone and Instagrammed, of course.

It’s true, indoor cycling (or spinning) has been around since 1986. It only recently made its way to Seattle as a legit fitness fad after it morphed into a citywide phenomenon in New York in 2007 with the opening of SoulCycle. I know this because it was this same year I tried spinning for my first time while on business there at SoulCycle’s Tribeca location. I dragged my Vogue-editor friend with me whose only foray into exercise was dancing after a few cocktails. She was less than enthused. But after an hour inside SoulCycle’s Jonathan Adler-candlelit studio spinning-while-meditating, we were hooked. A week later I flew back home to Seattle, yearning to get back on the bike.

In the years following my first experience, spin went to the sideline after disappointing lackluster versions of the class at my local gym. And then 2012 came and Seattle was introduced to FlyWheel. Another New York import, FlyWheel was founded by ex-original SoulCycle master instructor, Ruth Zukerman, who had some sort of hush-hush falling out with its founders Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler.

No matter; I was anxious to get back into any sort of spin and signed up right away for my first class at FlyWheel. To my delight, the first class was free — but otherwise usually $25 for such drop-ins. This may be a bit of a high-flying price but you know, towels and clip-in shoes come as part of it so there’s that.

FlyWheel Sports/Michelle Strub

Free pre- and post-race snack!

My class day came and as I pulled open the glass doors I walked into a studio that was slick and white with high ceilings and modern flair. There was a lounge area complete with a flat screen TV, bowls of apples and baskets of PopChips — all for free.  There was branded merchandise on the shelves and against the walls … and of which I just had to have. There was a FlyBarre studio upstairs (what’s barre, you ask — read more here). There were water stations and lockers. There were changing rooms, bathrooms and showers stocked with Bliss products and extra hair ties and clips. I thought for a second I was in a W hotel but the daydream all came crashing back down when I saw the door. The submarine-like door with its faux window. You see, all of this stuff … it was just a distraction for what was about to come. The calm before the hellish spinning storm, if you will, right behind that door.

There was a class in session but within minutes that submarine door opened and people drenched in sweat came pouring out. A FlyWheel employee at the ready with a mop and bucket went in after. It was at this moment I realized FlyWheel probably wasn’t going to be anything like the spinning-meditation I had experienced at SoulCycle. I should’ve known since, when I signed up, I was asked to register a screen name for the Torqboard. In non-spin language, the leaderboard. That could only mean one thing: competition.

FlyWheel’s spin room is set up like a stadium with the instructor on a raised stage in the front and center. The room is completely dark with the exception of the glow from the two Torqboards which are really just TV screens attached to the ceiling that will sometimes flash the class stats. It was all making sense. It’s not just riding, it’s racing. Speed on resistance. Resistance on speed. Rating yourself against the other names on the Torqboards. I realized at that moment what their “Never Coast” slogan meant.

A FlyWheel employee adjusted my bike and not  five minutes later and into class I, struberry, was far off from Khaleesi who was currently ranked number one on that damn Torqboard. Who was this Khaleesi? Besides the powerful dragon mother on “Game of Thrones”?  But who was she exactly in this class? And why was her power rating more than 50 points ahead of mine? The Torqboard said she was on bike 32. Where was bike 32? Was she the toned blond in the back corner? Or maybe the lean brunette a few bikes to my left? I tried to pedal faster but my thighs were burning and it came down to a choice between breathing or trying to gain some power on Khaleesi. I chose breathing.

More breathing. 2 minutes of climbing. 30 seconds of sprinting. Wait, more climbing? And more sprinting? This is supposed to be a 45-minute class and I swear at least 55 minutes have already passed! Just then the instructor lowered the music. I thought my time in Hell had finally come to an end but she sent that thought packing as she yelled at everyone to pick up our weights. Sure, they were only two- and four-pound weights, but combined it was six pounds of pure torture. After that I had my last chance at trying to break a 200 power rating (my goal) and with the last bit of sweat in me, in position one and now over 100 points behind Khaleesi, I pedaled to 203.

At last! I staggered out of the spin room and … signed up for more classes right away — with Tommy and Ray and their music-focused themed rides, natch, races. Hooked again it seemed.

Soon, Khaleesi, I will catch up to you and your 300 power rating. And in the meantime, I’m just glad spinning has made its way to Seattle.

A Seattleite goes for a spin …

THE WHOS

Who can participate: Anyone!

THE WHATS

What is it: A 45- or 60-minute ride … err … race that is cardio-focused and music-oriented done on a spinner in a darkened stadium-style studio and involving climbs and descents, while working arms with weighted bars.

What it will cost you: Your first class is free! After that, $25 for a single class with discounted packages available.

What to wear: Skintight or spandex-style shorts or pants and probably a tank or bra top (if you’re a woman) since you’ll be sweating with a capital ‘S’. And socks! Clip-in shoes are provided.

What to bring: A WATER BOTTLE. Towels are provided and most people use two during their class. The employees at FlyWheel are all super helpful and will get you set up on your bike if it’s your first time — don’t be afraid to ask!

THE WHERES

Where is it: FlyWheel currently has two locations — in South Lake Union and in Bellevue.

Where you’ll feel the burn the next day: Your legs. Maybe your core and your arms. And, well, your privates. Sometimes that spinning seat isn’t the most gentle.

THE WHENS

When can you go: Class times vary by studio but usually start at 6:00 a.m. with the last class at 6:30  p.m. or 7:30 p.m.

THE WHYS

Why you should try it: Where else can you burn 500+ calories in 45 minutes just sitting? “Just sitting.”

Why it’s worth it: See above. Plus the atmosphere is something that you just can’t find anywhere else.

FlyWheel Seattle     

224 Westlake Avenue N, Suite 100, Seattle / (206) 402-4819
1032 106th Avenue NE, Suite 124, Bellevue / (425) 605-5253

About Michelle Strub

As a Seattleite since one month after birth Michelle is, naturally, a graduate of the University of Washington with a B.A. in Communications. She also has her M.B.A. from somewhere that doesn’t matter since it’s not in Seattle. If inquiring minds really want to know, Texas A&M. Michelle previously worked in the fashion industry but now finds her day job is getting paid to watch TV. When she’s not otherwise out for a run she’s exploring the city and all its rain-drenched nooks and crannies while wearing her North Face fleece. Just joking about that last part. Michelle doesn’t own any fleece. Strike up a conversation with her on Twitter @michellestrub.
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