After two weeks and 12 classes at Flywheel, we review the spin and barre classes.
By Laura Wainman
Today is the first time in two weeks I have been able to walk without looking like I just got back from a two-day bareback horse ride. Today is also the first time in two weeks that I’ve been absent from Flywheel Dupont for more than 48 hours. As previously mentioned, I decided to participate in Flywheel’s two-week, tune-up challenge to re-energize my summer workouts. Sure, two weeks may not sound like much, but let me tell you, it was enough. Enough to see results, enough to have muscles I didn’t even know I had ache for days and enough to develop a slight obsession.
From July 13-July 27, I took six classes a week, alternating between Flywheel and FlyBarre classes, for a total of 12 classes in two weeks. I took morning, afternoon and evening classes so I could experience the studio at various points during the day, and take classes with a variety of instructors. I took Flywheel classes with Gregg Pitts, Ashley Stanwick, Stephanie Sutton, Alex Perrin and Alex Robinson (also my coach for the week), while my barre instructors included Tessa Midour, Stephen Murray, Felicia Curry and Marisa Workman. Though every instructor I experienced at Flywheel was terrific and encouraging, I have to give a shout out to Curry and Robinson who were absolutely incredible instructors whose classes I would seek out; both were motivating, especially during morning workouts of which I am not a fan, and very informative when it came to constructive criticism and form corrections.
As a newbie to Flywheel, I wanted to check out the space before I was thrown into a class. Lucky for me, the program was designed to allow you to do just that, with a beginning coach check in, where I met with Coach Robinson, received my nutrition plan for the two weeks (prepared by SELF magazine contributing editors Stephanie Clarke and Willow Jarosh of C&J Nutrition and did my weigh in/measurements that would be used for comparison to my results at the end of the program; the weigh ins and measurements were completely optional but I opted in as I figured it would be the easiest way to see quantifiable results. A 45-minute wheel and barre workshop class were also offered to participants in order to make your classes more efficient, but I was unable to make the scheduled class. Of the 33 locations nationwide, I was told that the Washington, D.C. studio had the most participants in the challenge, with a total of 36.
The first time I walked into Flywheel, a barre class was just letting out and a wheel class was just starting so the studio was more than a little hectic. Yet, I was impressed with the lack of chaos that seemed to be occurring. Instead, operations were running very smoothly, thanks in large part I believe to the well-run Flywheel app that allows participants to check into classes online prior to arrival. First time attendees are given a tour around the studio, which includes the lobby area where you can check in either at the desk with instructors or on one of the four iPads an grab your spin shoes from your assigned cubby, a small retail section, the Flywheel studio on the main level, lockers, bathrooms, men’s and women’s locker rooms and a barre studio on the second level. Everything is very modern and pristine, but without giving off an air of pretension.
I signed up for barre as my first class, as I have taken many barre classes before and felt more comfortable with the idea of that class than of a spin class, which has always intimidated me. I dragged my roommate with me, who has also participated in numerous barre classes before. We are both big fans of the workout craze but have always said we wished we left feeling a bit more drained and sweaty, two indicators of a great workout. Instead, barre has always left me feeling lean and strong, but it never seems like enough cardio to make it a predominant part of my workout routine. So perhaps we were heading into our first FlyBarre class a little too confident. Now you know the phrase be careful what you wish for? Yes, it definitely applies in this saga. Like in a typical barre class, the 60-minute class combined pilates, free weights and stretching with ballet moves such as deep plies done on the balls of your feet to really work the thighs and calves. The series of repetitions are intended to isolate major muscle groups and use tiny movements to work deep into the muscles, followed by recovery stretches to improve flexibility and lengthen. However, FlyBarre classes were much more fast-paced than your typical barre class with less focus on stretching and recovery until the end of class. I also liked that rather than focusing on one area of the body, core for example, for a set period of time and then moving onto another section, Flybarre tends to focus on one area of the body several times throughout a course. So you may start with pushups and tricep dips, and then in the middle of the class you will do several songs that once again focus on arms. Core and abs are always a central focus throughout the classes as well. Each instructor uses the same general class outline but will vary his or her exercises just enough to always keep you on your toes during a class, and never let you get bored if you are taking multiple classes a week. I left my first FlyBarre class drenched in sweat, out of breath and with an equally pleasantly surprised roommate by my side. We couldn’t wait to return.
Now, I definitely did not go into Flywheel classes overly confident. It was more like the exact opposite, where I went in quite nervous and with zero confidence. And to be perfectly honest, each class was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done (and this is coming from someone who has run several half marathons), and it never really got any easier. I left each class looking like I had just taken a shower fully clothed. However, it was also the most electric, fun, energizing workout I think I’ve ever completed. Along with insane amounts of sweat, I left each class wearing a smile and ready to sign up for the next class, despite my knees wanting to buckle beneath me. The most important thing I learned through Flywheel is it is your ride and it’s not about anyone else. The flywheel community is energetic and encouraging which is fantastic, but once those lights go off, it really is just you and the bike for 45 minutes, which for me was incredibly liberating. One of my qualms about group classes is always that I’ll be judged by those around me or that I’m not doing the moves right and will stand out. But it really isn’t the case at Flywheel as everyone is in their own zone, focusing on their workout and competing against themselves. Don’t get me wrong, Flywheel is all about pushing past your limits (with mottos like “never coast” and “why walk when you can fly,” how can they not?) but it is all about your limits and your push rather than comparing yourself to the spin goddess next to you who looks like she eats, sleeps, and breathes RPMs. One of the things that make Flywheel classes unique is the digital RPM reader and the Torqboard. Each bike comes equipped with a small reader on the left side of the bike that shows your torq (resistance), RPM (revolutions per minute) and your current and total power; to be honest, I still don’t fully understand what the power measures, but the instructors seemed to focus more on the torq and RPMs anyways so I didn’t worry about it.Throughout the class, instructors will shout over the loud music and ask you to increase or decrease your torq depending on how high they want your resistance level, and then they will give you a range that your RPM should fit in while you are on that torq level. You control the torq on your bike at all times so there is always the option to push yourself harder, or relax a bit if needed. The instructors are big into letting you listen to your body and its needs. I admit, pretty much every class I would start to get a bit light-headed and feel queasy about three quarters of the way through and I would need to ease up for a song. I appreciated that the class environment was such that I felt comfortable taking that option rather than pushing myself past my body’s limits in a bad way. I also loved being able to track my numbers throughout the two weeks and see improvements in my power, speed, mileage and average RPMS/torq.
I honestly wasn’t expecting to see a ton of results after only two weeks but I was thrilled with my final numbers. Overall, I lost 7.2 pounds, lost 1 inch from my left arm, gained .5 inch on my right arm (woops!), lost 1 inch from my waist, lost .25 inches from my hips, lost 1.25 inches from my left leg and stayed exactly the same on my right leg. While I am an active person regularly, I don’t usually come close to six intense workouts a week so these two weeks were definitely something new for me. And the nutrition plan was incredibly helpful as well, as I tend to be someone who ends up missing either breakfast or lunch each day (not by plan, just out of sheer forgetfulness) so having a set plan and grocery list each week made it much easier to eat three balanced meals a day. I tried all of the recommended breakfasts (the almond butter, peach and coconut quesadilla was fantastic!), all but one of the lunches and only two of the dinners; I tended to eat the lunches again for dinner, or made meals that weren’t on the list for dinner from ingredients that were allowed in the program. The first week I stuck pretty strictly to the meal plans, but took a lot more liberty the second week so if I was to do this again, my goal would be to follow the meal plan for both weeks.
Overall, I would highly recommend not only a tuneup challenge to anyone looking to spice up their routine, but I also recommend Flywheel in general as an amazing workout where you see immediate results, will definitely leave feeling the effects but have fun in the process. Since ending my designated program, I have gone back to Flywheel twice for barre classes with another class scheduled for Thursday, and convinced friends to try it out too. I have every intention of making Flywheel and FlyBarre classes a part of my regular routine. What can I say- I’m hooked!