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.
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.