Fad Fitness: The Team Twist on Indoor Cycling

Week1: Swerve will make you think twice about slacking off in spin class

When you take a group exercise class, do you usually opt for a spot in the back; a spot where hopefully the instructor and everyone else in the room won't notice you; a spot where you can avoid being reprimanded in case you want to slack off a little? Don't be afraid to admit it, we all do it. Even I do.

But when you sign up to spin at a Swerve cycling studio, there's no hiding out and there's definitely no slacking off. That's because at Swerve you ride with a team.

My first session at Swerve was a little bit of a rude awakening. I'll be completely honest, in the middle of a typical spin class when the burn is big and I've already sweat an entire puddle onto the floor beneath me, and the instructor goes, "OK, now give me another full turn to the right. Increase that resistance!" I don't do it. Maybe I'll reach my hand down and pretend to turn the handle, but am I actually going to inflict even more agony upon myself? Not if I’m the one in control. In fact, chances are I might even turn the resistance down instead. (And I know I’m not the only one who does this.)

It’s not like this at Swerve though, because it’s up to you and your team to push the limits. The harder you work, the more points you score, so if you slack off you’re not only cheating yourself but everyone else spinning in the same color-coded section of the room. Obviously I didn’t want to let my team down (peer pressure is real, guys), so when instructor Douglas Johnson told us to turn up the resistance, even though what I really wanted was to take it down, I obliged. Even though my quads were burning like the fire of a thousand suns, I turned my handle to the right and increased the resistance every time he told us to. (OK, maybe not every time.) There were a few times when he told us that if we felt like we couldn’t handle any more resistance we could stay at our current level, but that meant we had to peddle faster. And that I really did do every time.

The team aspect of Swerve is totally motivating. Not only was I more apt to move because I wanted my team to win, but the instructor has a display that reads every cycler’s stats, so if you start to fall behind you might get some individual attention in the form of a friendly, “get your booty moving” type shout out. The most motivating part of the entire class for me though, was the TV screen at the front of the studio.

During every sprint interval it displayed a dynamic bar graph that corresponded to each team’s earned points. Watching my team’s bar surge ahead of the other’s encouraged me to keep moving fast and anytime our score was behind I felt overwhelmingly compelled to work harder. By the end of the 45-minute class I had sweat way more than I’d like to admit and according to my Polar heart rate monitor, I burned about 342 calories in total. Oh yeah, and my team, the green team, won. (Just so you know.) Here’s how I really know it was a worthwhile workout, though: the day afterwards, my leg muscles screamed quite loudly anytime I walked up a flight of stairs. I’m pretty sure I slowed down the flow of subway commuters coming up from underground on my way to work that day.  

So, workout number one kicked my butt, in a good, “that-was-a-great-workout” kind of way. And aside from the actual essence of the workout itself, and the new fun twist Swerve puts on spin, I am totally enthralled with the story of how the first Swerve studio in New York City came to be. Childhood friends Eric Posner, Chelsea Kocis, and John Henry McNierney all worked in corporate finance, but when they grew tired of taking clients to fancy business dinners, they began inviting them to group exercise classes and fitness studios instead.

“It made for better bonding and made it easier for everyone to find time to work out,” Kocis explained. We chatted amidst the studio’s coolly decorated white upper level which includes a smoothie bar stocked full of healthy snacks and a seating area designed to encourage social interaction. “We wanted it to go beyond the ‘get in and get out’ mentality that a lot of people associate with going to the gym,” says Kocis. The idea to put a team twist on indoor cycling emerged when Posner, Kocis, and McNierner—all former team sport athletes—realized they missed the energizing and inspiring elements of working out with a team.

Currently, the technology used in the cycle studio tracks average team energy output and individual Swerve scores (you can see your individual score on your bike’s display screen throughout the class). But in the future, Swerve cyclers will receive emails with workout recaps and will be able to accrue points that can be used towards purchasing classes based on the amount of miles they log.

My own future holds three more weeks of Swerving, which I can honestly say I’m very much looking forward to— even if it means struggling up the stairs to the front door of my third floor walk-up the day after class.

Click HERE to return to the Fad Fitness homepage.

Are  you more motivated working out on your own or with a team? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!