“Y'Allah! Y'Allah!” cries my trainer.
I pedal as fast as my legs allow, pushing my feet with each rotation, trying hard to keep up with the music (and the girl next to me), but each push of the pedal is arduous and requires great effort. I grimace and look at the elapsed time. 14 minutes. Great. 30 more minutes to go and I can’t even get past the 15 minute mark. Come on. Push. Push. Push!
Yes, that’s indoor cycling for you. It’s not easy, that’s for sure. But is it worth it? Definitely.
Indoor cycling has fast become the talk of town. But before you jump on a bike, let us guide you through the workout, and the best place in Karachi for this group class (not that there are many options, to be honest).
Let's go for a spin
Essentially, indoor cycling is a cardiovascular workout that primarily works the legs. Adnan Gandhi, co-owner of gym and studio CORE, explains, “It works the legs harder than anything else. Your legs are such a huge part of your muscular body make up, they also generate the highest metabolism."
The CORE instructor does not go easy in his class; he'll amp up the music and keep changing the lights to keep everyone interested and grooving to the music.
He adds, “80% [of the exercise] is cardio, but the leg muscles are the biggest muscles in the body and when you manipulate your balance and use your legs, you’re using a lot of trunk, (meaning your entire ab area).
During his class, Adnan makes sure everybody is constantly moving, from legs to arms and the chest, all body parts working in unison. Even during rest, the legs slow down, but don't stop pedaling.
"The trunk and your center of gravity are manipulated such that you are balanced, so getting that balance between movements is what helps you. Your abs and your core area develop strong."
One has to keep regulating the revolutions per minute (RPM) -- resistance or measure of cadence -- to make sure you're moving with the same resistance as the instructor. Because indoor cycling is primarily a simulation, Adnan explains that at CORE, the instructors try to vary the workout in each class.
"We try to do it as such that on Mondays it’s a hill workout, Wednesdays it’s a speed/interval workout. So in a Wednesday class you’ll be faster, above an 85-90 RPM," says Adnan.
Studio X, on the other hand, employs a different approach.
"Our trainers all have different styles in the way they teach their classes; workouts and music. Which is what Studio X is all about, individuality and diversity. No class is ever the same! Ayesha likes to do sprints, Arshy incorporates tabata and weights into her classes, and I like to work with resistance and endurance," says Fuzzy Faruque, co-owner and instructor of Studio X.
In classes with Arshy, the workout also incorporates weight training with dumbbells, push ups and high knees. The class is meant to achieve a whole body workout along with cardio.
"Unlike gym machines that isolate and work one muscle, at Spin X we try to work the whole body with a variety of exercises. While spinning we use our upper and lower body, engaging our core and strengthening our muscles with endurance (resistance) and stamina with sprints.
"Along with push ups and crunches on the bike to work our shoulders, back, biceps and triceps. I like to say ‘we leave no muscle behind, lets spin to the beat!” Fuzzy adds.
Review: CORE vs Studio X
Here's what it boils down to. While both classes at CORE and Studio X are extremely intense, they vary in a number of ways.
Location: Located on the 14th floor of Ocean Tower, CORE's cycle class features a glorious view of the Karachi skyline, a dark room with neon lights and 23 bikes.
Equipment: The bikes come equipped with the multi-function computer system, which allows the biker to monitor speed, RPM and time. This makes it easier for the instructor and the class to go on an equal pace and keep track of their speed.
The bikes are stocked with hand towels placed on the handlebars before class. Bonus: The handlebars are padded and thus provide cushion for the palm. However, the seats are highly uncomfortable, do take an extra towel to place on the seat before the class or else your workout will suffer.
There is enough space between bikes for movement and stretching for the cool down.
Class: In the 45 minute class, Adnan does not disappoint. He goes the whole nine yards, changing the music and syncing it with the workout; he also keeps changing the neon lights in the room to keep things interesting. There are regular intervals during the session with varying levels of intensity to keep pushing the body without letting it plateau.
Throughout the class Adnan makes rounds to keep a check on posture and hand movements.
Trainers: CORE's indoor cycling trainers are certified Spinning® instructors*, they include co-owners Adnan and Sheema Sultan, along with their trainers Adiba, Ayesha and Junaid. Adnan is also Schwinn® certified.
Crowd: You'll find men and women from their early 20s to their 40s in attendance in the mixed class. CORE also offers women's only classes at different times of the week with different instructors.
Ambiance: With a great view, good, upbeat music and an energetic instructor, the class sets a good tone for the course of its duration.
Difficulty: 4.5/5. This class makes you do some intense cycling and will burn you out.
Fee: Rs 1150 per class. CORE doesn't allow walk-ins, people are allowed to come as guests of members only.
Note: This is a first-come-first-serve class only. The class was packed, due to which many had to be turned away.
Location: Located on Main Saba Avenue, Studio X is not too difficult to find. However, its cycle room is a bit of a let-down as compared to CORE's. While opposite sides of the wall are stocked with mirrors -- a perk for all those who love peeking at their reflection while working out -- the back of the room has glass windows that don't offer much of a view.
Equipment: The bikes lack a computer system, which made it hard to monitor progress without RPM. You have to follow the instructor and turn the resistance knob when told. Also, there are no hand towels on the bikes and if you're a new-comer, you don't know where to go to get yourself one.
The handlebars of the bikes are plastic-covered, which seems like a minor detail but has a major impact. The handlebars tend to hurt your palm, especially when lifting weights (the weight is being supported by one arm), hindering the workout.
The bikes are very close in proximity and when using weights, it can be dangerous.
Class: The energy levels are high, the trainer is fun and exciting, and she engages with the class. The 45-minute class keeps changing in intensity, challenging the group.
The use of weights - albeit light, around 2 kg - makes it slightly difficult to pedal and do arm movements with a dumbbell in hand. Maintaining constant balance paired with the requisite speed and intensity becomes tricky and one has to be careful.
Add to that push ups while pedaling, and it feels like there's too much happening. Although it does feel gratifying to be doing an overall body exercise in one go, it does become a bit overwhelming and the intensity wanes because the body is all over the place and one is trying hard to balance and not tip off the bike.
Trainers: Studio X has one certified Spinning® instructor at the moment, Fuzzy Faruque, the other two trainers Ayesha and Arshy have been trained by Fuzzy over a course of four months, and plan on getting a certification this summer.
Crowd: You'll find young girls to women in their 30s in attendance in a women's only class.
Ambiance: The class offers loud, upbeat music which is synced with the intensity of various body movements. There are multicoloured lights to add a fun vibe to the class.
Difficulty: 4/5. This class, though intense due to the combination workout, isn't as hard on the biker as the CORE routine. Still, it will definitely leave you dripping with sweat.
Fee: Rs 2,000 per class for non-members.
Having said that, trainers at Studio X and CORE are equally helpful. Throughout their respective class, both trainers got off their bikes to assist people with bike adjustments and walked them through the various body movements, making rounds and fixing postures, or pointing people out and asking them to correct themselves.
Both places offer classes thrice a week, each session lasting a total of 45 minutes, which is perfect considering how strenuous the class is.
CORE: 4.5 stars
Studio X: 3 stars (The pricing and attention to detail really make a difference.)
If you're looking for intensity, Studio X and CORE don't disappoint, the energy levels run high at both the gyms and you end up leaving knowing you put in a good workout. However, if you're looking for value for money, our best bet is CORE.
*Spinning® is a certified trademark and only instructors who have obtained a certification through the Spinning program are allowed to say they “teach Spin.”