Micro-gyms– bijou and characterful – are a far cry from the impersonal mega-gymbehemoths. From SoulCycle, an intimate and intense cycling workout bycandlelight, to Chaise23, a fusion of Pilates, aerobics, strength training andballet for a select few, small classes are big news.
Andwhile the micro-gym trend is booming inthe US, particularly in LA and NYC, London is hot on their heels with thearrival of Barry’s Bootcamp on Euston Road, Barrecore on the King’s Road and Boom! Cycle in Shoreditch – which is where I find myselftoday…
After a 40-minute trek across London – aworkout in itself – I reach the studio, which is tucked away in the quirkybackstreets of the capital’s hipsterville, in the bowels of anindustrial-looking building.
I descend the stairs to the basement, with its graffiti walls and concrete floors, where Hilary Gilbert – amodel turned fitness guru and founder of the centre – greets me. She explainsthat when she first moved to London from New York she realised how difficult itwas to find places offering indoor cycling in a boutique club setting – withthe exception of KX and The Third Space – so she decided to launch her ownfacility offering expert-instructed indoor-cycling classes.
Classes have been designed to suit arange of needs. BodyBoom! is a cycle session combining upper-body andcore-strength training, which involves moving small hand weights in achoreographed pattern; Turbo Cycle isan intense class aimed at increasing fitness and endurance; Hip Hop Ride is “a tough ride with even stronger beats”; Disco Cycle is a high-energysession to disco music under the gleam of glitter balls; and Boom! Cycle offers hardcore cardio.
I opt for the Boom! Cycle class. When I ask what toexpect, Hilary says: “Great exercise, fun, brilliant music – all in a groupatmosphere that still lets you maintain individual control over your workout.The class you are doing is our very own brand of kick-ass cardio across flatsand up hills.” She then goes on to say how the business is really growing andhas a cult following – so much so that they’re now starting to look intoindividual fitness training, with metabolic exercise testing (MET) andprogrammes tailored to the individual.
I enter the large studio, which is sodark I can barely see anything. I just about make out the Schwinn AC sportbikes, surrounding mirrors, glitter balls hanging from the ceiling and a DJbooth. I sidle up to my pearl-white aluminium machine,which I recognise from my class at Equinox, ready to commence my 45-minute session with instructorDennis Ball, who is waiting on a mini-stage ready todirect the class.
He immediately makes me feelcomfortable, even though I am a newbie among five regular Boomers (not a badturnout for a Monday mid-morning class). He explains that we willstart with a very comfortable cycle on low resistance at a speed of about 85 RPM, as shown on a little screen on each of our bikes. Sitting on his own bikefacing the class, he demonstrates what we should do and encourages us to followhis lead.
The music starts off quite chilled, withan upbeat Hôtel Costes-style mix, at about the same noise level as in anightclub. As the beats kick in, my adrenaline starts to pump.
Dennis tells us: “Never let a teachercome over and change your resistance for you; you should always be in control.”
After about five minutes of medium-speedcycling, I think it doesn’t seem so bad… until the instructor explainsthat this is just our warm-up. “If you feel comfortable, turn your resistanceup a notch.” I do so, and feel my legs having to work harder. I begin to buildup a sweat.
The music changes to Ibiza-styleclub music; our bikes virtually vibrate with the loud beat, but this makes usspin faster and work harder. We follow Dennis’ lead and at a continuous speedof about 100 RPM we begin a hardcore routine of standing up on thebike for 30 seconds and sitting back down in the saddle for 10 seconds:up-down, up-down in short, sharp bursts, which works our legs and bums. I feelas if I am at some sort of cycling rave.
After 10 minutes we sit back down andslow the pace, cycling at a steady 65 RPM. I use the moment of calm totake a much-needed swig from my Boom-brandedwater bottle.
Just as I catch my breath, Dennisinstructs us to cycle as fast as we can for two minutes. With the help ofthe high-energy club mix, I manage to reach 160 RPM without my legsspinning totally out of control.
We then slow the pace slightly and beginanother routine of standing up on the bike (as if we’re going uphill)for 30 seconds, then sitting for 10 seconds. As I stand, I grip the handlebarsto distribute my weight and steady myself as I pedal hard at 85 RPM. Denniscounts down from 30 seconds. I feel my legs getting wobblier and wobblier while waiting for him to say, “Two, one, zero and back down on the saddle”. Sweat isnow covering every inch of my body; I can feel a real burn through my thighsand calves, as well as my abs.
Before I have time to dwell on the pain,Dennis shouts, “Ok, up again, another 30-second standing session”. Thewhole class is huffing and puffing now and I have to rest my elbows on thebike’s bars to gain control and take some strain off my legs. This part of theclass really takes it out of me – yet the fun and high-energy atmosphere makesme want to keep pedalling.
At the end we step off our bikes and dosome stretching. I have to lean on the bike to stay stable, my legs are sowobbly. But still – it’s a great end to the class.
I wave farewell to my trusty two-wheeledsteed, pack my little bag and go back to Belgravia where I belong.
The bottom line:
This is a fun, hip and effective class.You are not pushed too hard, it’s up to you to set the resistance level thatsuits you – unlike Barry’s Bootcamp, where they can take the drill-sergeantattitude a little too seriously.
The atmosphere is charged to say theleast and the music deafeningly loud – so much so that you can onlyhear snippets of the instructions – but on the upside it is totallydistracting, which makes time fly. I also appreciated the mood lighting: Ididn’t have to see my red and sweaty face reflected in the mirror.
Boom! Cycle delivers a killer workout thatburns serious calories and gives a major endorphin rush. If you gowith friends, it might even feel like a night out – in a weird way. With 33packed classes a week, it’s no wonder they are introducing a new series tailoredto the individual. I’ll have to come and try it out. Well, perhaps if it weren’t on the wrong side of London…
Spa Junkie pays for all her own travel, therapies and accommodation.