Around 20 people between the ages of 17 and 89 pulled their bikes to the front of the Group Exercise Studio at the JCC of Greater Washington early Tuesday morning and adjusted them for spin class.
“Let’s do this!” instructor Karolina Webb called to the class as she hopped on her own bike at the front of the room.
Though open to anyone with JCC membership, the Tuesday and Thursday 7:15 a.m. spin class has acquired a core group of attendees throughout its 15-year run. With many veteran riders, spinning has become not only a means of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but also an opportunity to catch up with friends before heading to work.
Before Webb started the first song, riders chatted about their children and upcoming family plans as they warmed up by peddling at low intensity.
Indoor cycling—trademarked as “spinning”—is a popular group exercise activity known for its high intensity and sweat-inducing workout. Since it was dubbed the “hot” exercise by Rolling Stone magazine in 1994, spinning has become increasingly popular at gyms and health clubs across the country, where the classes have broad appeal. While some may find large gyms daunting, fitness classes can provide guided instruction and motivation.
Stationary spin bikes are equipped with a weighted flywheel at the front that can be adjusted to simulate the varying momentum needed when bicycling outside, where hills and valleys provide that variation. Spin classes tend to vary the pace and weight of the workout in accordance with a predetermined playlist, and older and younger participants spin to the music.
Andrea Denicoff of Rockville, who’s been attending the spin class for six years, said the class took a veteran rider out to lunch for his 88th birthday. She said a previous spin instructor also gave him a T-shirt that featured his head on a cartoon bike and read, “Just keep spinning” on the front.
Denicoff also said people from the class reached out to her when she sprained her foot and missed class for a few weeks.
Nutritionist Sarah Rueven said maintaining an active lifestyle is vital, especially when individuals are at an age when they are at risk for heart disease.
“Maintaining heart health is super important,” Rueven said. “Especially as you age, we can develop [heart disease]… and your arteries [can become] blocked. Attending group classes or working out on your own and raising your heart rate keeps your heart healthy.”
Rueven said attending group exercise classes with friends can be a productive group activity.
“I love recommending group exercise classes to people as an activity to do with their friends other than going out to dinner,” she said. “It’s a great way to connect with people and do something that’s good for you at the same time.”
Larry Tamarkin of Rockville is among the faithful. He has attended JCC spin classes routinely for the past year and a half. In addition to the early morning Tuesday and Thursday classes, he’s also at the 5:30 a.m. class on Mondays, the 6 a.m. class on Fridays and the 7:15 a.m. class on Saturdays.
“It’s the best exercise in the shortest period of time that I know of,” Tamarkin said. “I have a spinning bike at home which I stopped using because it was getting kind of boring by myself. I’d been doing that for a long time but this is much more interesting.”
A 2010 study in the Journal of Social Sciences examined the effects of exercising with other people and concluded that individuals tend to imitate the exercise behavior of their workout partners. Spinning classes, like those offered at the JCCs in Rockville, Baltimore and Washington, provide an outlet for members to attain high intensity workouts as well as build a community while they work out with others.
Spin classes have had some creative add-ons. SoulCycle, with locations in Washington and Bethesda, offers high-intensity spin classes that can be described as having a dance party while on a bike, and those have established almost a cult following. Participants tend to sport SoulCycle branded clothing and quickly sign up each Monday for a spot in one of the classes that week.
“When people sign up for group classes, because they cost money to sign up, they’re much more likely to go to the class,” Rueven said. “If you have a gym membership lying around that’s not as much of an incentive to go work out as it is if you’re expected to be at a class, so that’s also another benefit.”