Review: hills session at The Spin Room

Image courtesy of Natasha Godfrey

When I think of indoor cycling I think of long, sweaty hours on the trainer with the rain pouring down outside. I think of the frustration of working hard to get nowhere. Most of all I think of the excruciating boredom.

But last Tuesday, when I headed to The Spin Room for a specialist hill-climbing session, I didn’t have time to be bored.

The session started with a seven-minute “warm-up” which felt less like a gentle start and more like my legs were engulfed in flame. On a couple of occasions I took a break from chewing the stem of the Wattbike and looked around the room, hoping to see others struggling as much as I was. We’d been going barely five minutes and already I was starting to question whether heading straight home from work might have been a better option.

“We’re going to fill your legs with lactic acid; really break them down before we get started”, declared instructor Sam Stapleton. “That way, all the efforts you do will be on fatigued legs.”

That statement would have been cause for great concern had I not been busy keeping my afternoon tea down.

For the next 45 minutes, Sam put us through a series of efforts as the likes of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and the Foo Fighters blared from a nearby stereo.

There were long, gradual build-ups, in which we simulated climbs that started tough and became tougher. There were short bursts in which we simulated short, sharp rises in the road. There were seated efforts, and there were standing efforts.

But the one thing that remained constant throughout was the pain. On lactic-filled legs, every effort had me at my limit, trying desperately to match the cadence Sam had set for us.

“30 seconds at 90 RPM!”, he would yell from the front of the room, making it look easy as he danced on his pedals. For a moment or two 90 RPM would seem within grasp but then my cadence would fall away, my legs refilling with lactic acid.

Image courtesy of Natasha Godfrey

Throughout the session, Sam hopped on and off his bike, leading the group through some of the efforts, dispensing advice during others. As someone who’s never had any formal cycling training, it was great to hear Sam’s thoughts about how I could improve my technique and efficiency on the climbs.

In the final section of the class Sam urged us to push bigger and bigger gears, and to try and set the highest cadence we could. I managed to hit 158 RPM a couple of times, but paid the price with my right calf cramping up quite painfully.

When the session drew to a close after one long hour, I stepped off the bike feeling a little worse for wear. The class’s final moments had left me light-headed, my hands were shaking and my afternoon tea was making a concerted reappearance attempt.

In the opening minutes of the class I’d thought to myself: “there’s no way I’m doing this again”. But within minutes of stepping off the bike, my attitude was beginning to change. And by the time I left the building I was already looking forward to the next session.

It’s funny how quickly we forget the pain.

I’d like to say a big “thank you” to Andy van Bergen from the Hells 500 crew for inviting me to the session. Thanks also to Sam and Sarah from The Spin Room for a great session, for being so welcoming and for the great advice.

There’s no doubt that an hour with The Spin Room folks will leave you in all kinds of pain … but that’s kind of the point. They do a range of classes across their three studios, all of which are bound to make you a stronger, more efficient cyclist.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s reason enough to go back.

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10 Replies to “Review: hills session at The Spin Room”

  1. I too had never been to a spin class before I started, so I started my first class with a bit of trepidation I arrived 20 minutes before the class started as advised and Sarah set me up on the Wattbike made sure that it was the right “fit” advised me on how to use and asked what I was looking for and my level of fitness, she said “any chest pains, stop!! And I will come over” Sarah stressed to me that the numbers were for the middle of the class so long as I elevated the effort when asked I would find what I was looking for.
    Later when my partner decided to come along for the first time she was nervious as she had never been to a gym or a professional fitness class, Sam took the same care at setting her up and explained that so long as she had some “base” numbers to work from she was doing well, Sam gave her numbers that were within her ability but that stretched her a bit but not too much, after her first class Sam debriefed her and we have become regulars.
    I am disappointed to read the negative comments above as it is easy to post on a forum but if you had concerns would it not have been even easier to talk to Sam and Sarah rather than make a post?
    In my humble opinion the Spin Room works well, no contracts, joining fees and great atmosphere and it has improved both my fitness and my partners fitness much quicker than hours on a road could, it has meant that we have been able to ride some of the harder hills without as much pain, for your information we are both in our late 50’s.

  2. On the contrary to some of the above comments – I’ve found the instructors to be incredibly helpful with advice on warming up, injuries and expectations for output during class.

    Both instructors have been very forthcoming with that advice after being approached, but I believe the vibe they are going for is very much at the other end of the spectrum to gym classes – chances are that if you enjoy those, you’ll likely not enjoy the spin room approach.

    I first started spinning with a broke collar bone, and not only did Sam tailor each class for me, he assisted with exercises to do outside of class. My partner doesn’t ride at all and has a low level of fitness, and again Sam was very helpful in tailoring the class to her so that she built up her ability over time. In our experience, the best approach is to speak to the instructor before the class and layout any concerns you have.

    Not everyone wants to hear warnings and diatribe before the start of each class and personally I’ve found the no-nonsense approach refreshing!
    I suppose they are limited by time for warming up, which is likely why the 15 minute warm ups are quite fiery. But if you’re really concerned, just turn up 10 minutes before class for a longer warmup?

    My fitness has sky-rocketed since getting stuck into regular classes and I’ve not experienced any ill-health from them – quite the opposite in fact as I’ve been able to strengthen my weak knees (no more knee pain) and improve pedalling technique, so it’s kinda win-win all round.

    Fantastic classes in my experience so a bummer that some have not got out what they expected.

  3. Hi Guys,
    Great info, Great Site,
    Just a few concerns Regarding ( the spin Room ) Im a big fan of fitness,
    and of Fitness clubs opening for our health, Its a bit concerning that
    there are Fitness Instuctors not qualified or experienced to do spin !!!
    As a Cycling Coach and Instuctor for 25 years there are spinning studios
    like this opening with out a greater understanding of peoples capability
    and fitness strengths, Injuries , and physical health, have done a class at
    the 2 spin room locations, Instrutor NOT once before class mentioned
    to spinners if there was any injuries or health issues, OR any Question air
    or info about the spinner, Just sit on bike they take $15 dollars and start class, Its just very frustrating that these kind of studios can operate with
    out these very important structures, the studio has a moral responsibility
    to the spinner to make sure that there health and fitness are not jeopardised
    in any way,

    tom warren,

  4. Hi guys,
    great site, Im writing in regards to the “the spin room”
    i did my first class few weeks ago, i had a instuctor called
    sahra, its my first time in a spin room invirement and first time i done a class like this, paid my $15 dollars and started spinning, NO warm up, we got straight into it,
    rediculous, and i did say to sahra it was my first time,
    at the end of the class i had a chat to her in regards to the class, and that it was my first time! she turned and said
    ” if you can not handle classes its not the right place for you” i was discusted and very disapointed, not professinal
    at all, after talking to some friends of mine in the fitness industry “the spin Room” has that reputation!!! NOT GOOD AT ALL, i will not be recomending to any one to
    do any classes at spin room !!! did my first class at FITNESS FIRST great guys ,

  5. Fair enough; The real point I was trying to make was that working people hard in a class (this is the Spinroom unique selling proposition) is great as long as you do it responsibly and you know what you are doing. The danger is that if you don’t you put people at risk. Sam is a great motivator however has no qualifications in group fitness; cycling coaching or even first aid (in fact the Spin room doesn’t even har a first aid kit on hand should someone go into difficulty)…… Sarah has been in the industry for less than 12 months, has been cycling for less than 2 years and hence my point is that they should consult ‘appropriately qualified’ professionals before they put spinners at risk. In any case they have a great concept and I hope they take on the feedback(from ok girls like me who have been in the cycling and fitness space for over 20 years) and go places.

    1. Jacky,
      You need to seriously check your information before posting in a public forum.In regards to my qualifications ,I hold a spinning instructors certificate (crank cycling,David Collopy)and have done 9 years,a level 3 in first aid which is revised annually,a certificate 3 in group fitness,a level 3 afl accredited coaching certificate. I worked as a spinning instructor for 9 years with the ymca,fitness first,recreation gyms,yarra leisure centres(kew,nth fitz,richmond,collingwood)have operated an indoor cycling business catering for not only cyclists of all fitness levels ,age groups and social backgrounds but for people also just looking to improve their state of health both of a mental and physical level.I started racing bmx 35years ago and have been around the riding seen ever since presently racing CRITS for northern vets,cyclo cross,numerous endurance based mtb events and a number of adventure based events.For the record the spinroom is an indoor cycling venue not a spin studio ,doing one or two of our classes does not qualify you or entitle you to voice out on what we are trying to achieve via our cycling concept,if you don’t enjoy it or understand it or find it to challenging stick with fitness first and keep your misinformed options to yourself .

  6. A ‘proper’ indoor cycling session by ‘Appropriately’ qualified instructors would not risk injury or harm by not appropriately warming you up and ensuring that the session had a specific fitness goal etc. I like what the Spinroom concept is about however I’m not sure that they are really acting with the appropriate levels of concern for their spinners.

    1. In defence of the folks at the Spin Room, we did have a ~5 minute light, warm-up spin before the official “warm-up” began. That is, those 7 minutes of pain were not the first bit of spinning we did for the night…

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