BY MARSALIE MACKENZIE
We spend a lot of time at On The Glow talking about fitness on a budget because – let’s face it – most young professionals in DC can barely afford their parking space, let alone a $30 drop-in fee at their favorite gym.
That said, it takes a lot less motivation to complete a prescribed workout as part of a group fitness class than it does to go for a 5 mile run by yourself. Not to mention that the structure of most fitness classes ensures that you spend your time at the gym being active (and not just sitting on a stationary bike reading US Weekly).
The demand for efficient, high energy workouts is part of the reason that spinning has become so popular with cardio-lovers in the District. The movements are simple, the pace is fast and virtually every class promises a 45-60 minute all-you-can-sweat-fest.
With the wealth of cycling studios around the city, there’s a membership to fit every budget – but what kind of workout are you really getting for your money?
With the help of our trusty heart rate monitors and smart watches, we took spin classes at 3 of the city’s most popular boutique cycling studios to see which gym offers the most bang for your buck.
The Answer? Biker Barre if you’re a frequent spinner, FlyWheel if you’re high on energy, but short on time and Off-Road if you’re feeling technical.
Biker Barre is a locally owned spin and barre studio that has earned a cult following with the Hill crowd for its unpretentious feel and music driven classes.
Tucked away in an unassuming row home on 7th street SE, owners Jane Brodsky & Katie Geffken have embraced a pared down approach to fitness that focuses less on technology and more on technique.
The spin studio itself is similarly understated, dimly lit by a handful of candles beneath the instructor’s podium, giving the room a relaxing, almost meditative quality; but don’t be fooled – the lighting is the only relaxing part of spin classes at Biker Barre.
Given that there’s no torque or RPM sensor on these bikes, riders are encouraged to push themselves as hard as they can over the course of a 45 minute class. Since 100% effort is different for every rider, we pushed ourselves harder than we do following a normal class.
The instructor wasn’t afraid to go heavy on the torque herself, which – combined with a great workout playlist that wasn’t exclusively EDM – motivated us to reach a record high heart rate of 181 bpm.
Fair warning, the bikes are older and more basic than most other studios in the District, and the sound system leaves a lot to be desired – but, weirdly enough, that’s part of Biker Barre’s charm.
Our two cents: If you’re looking for a community driven studio where you can break a sweat without breaking the bank, Biker Barre should be number one on your list.
$25 per class / 354 cals = 7cents per cal
$150 unlimited spin and barre (assuming 2 classes per week) / 354 cals = 5 cents per cal
$15 student/military/teacher class = 4 cents per cal
Walk into FlyWheel and you might think you’ve been magically transported to a cycling studio in the year 2030. Located at CityCentre in the heart of D.C., the modern space has been optimized for convenience and efficiency in order to better serve its corporate clientele.
IPad log-in stations, complimentary shoe rentals and RPM/torque sensors on each bike are just a few of the perks of membership. No more lines – especially great for people short on time or patience – and no more toting around those sweaty sneakers in your gym bag for the rest of the afternoon.
Enter the stadium (FlyWheel’s name for its futuristic spin room) and you’ll immediately feel as if you’re in a Miami nightclub. Uplighting and the latest hits from your favorite artists set the tone for a high energy class, which is matched from start to finish by the intensity of the hard-bodied instructor.
Unlike some other studios, the instructors at FlyWheel cue their classes using the RPM and torque sensors on each bike. If you’re remotely competitive (which we are) then you’ll love ‘The Leader Board’ – a running scoreboard which ranks your power output relative to your fellow FlyWheelers.
The class was one of the toughest we’ve been to in the city – but a few things need to be said.
First off, for all of its conveniences, FlyWheel doesn’t have an adequate number of showers to serve the morning and lunch rush crowds. Yesterday morning, the line-up to get a rinse was 8 deep! Forget trying to put your makeup on either, because space in the bathroom is at a premium during peak hours.
Second, while rental shoes are really convenient, they’re also really gross. Who wants to put on someone else’s used footwear?
Our two cents: Regardless of where you stand on the issue of sweaty sneakers, we can all agree that FlyWheel offers an unparalleled riding experience. If you love gadgets and integrating the latest technology into your workouts, then you need to try FlyWheel.
$28 per class / 405 cals = 7 cents per cal
$350 unlimited spin and barre (assuming 2 classes per week) / 405 cals = 11 cents per cal
$18 student class = 4 cents per cal
Off Road DC – 637 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Off-Road DC is a homegrown fitness studio that specializes in the three B’s: Bike, Box and Build. By including a mix of cycling and cross training classes in their weekly schedule, they claim to offer one of the most effective full body workouts in the District.
If their popularity is anything to go on, Off-Road’s claims aren’t far from the truth; in fact, the flagship studio located in the U-street corridor has performed so well that they’ve recently opened a second location on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Their newest studio is located in the shadow of Capitol Hill and has an old-world, industrial feel – think exposed brick walls, duct work and surgical steel light fixtures. This aesthetic is in stark contrast to the spin studio, which is packed with high-performance Stages bikes and a blank screen for virtual rides.
At the beginning of each workout, the instructor explains that an image mirroring the power output from your bike will be projected onto the wall in front of the class – allowing you to keep your head up, rather than fixated on the torque meter. 5 minutes into class, the instructor leads you through a 5 minute test, which allows the computer software to determine your relative maximum power output, which is also projected on the wall and helps you pace your ride.
We thought so too.
There was so much explanation involved that our heart rate stayed conspicuously low relative to other studios. While it was certainly helpful for our first class, the mere thought of being a regular here and listening to the same spiel every day made us want to poke our eyes out with rusty spoons.
Our two cents: Great equipment, cool space, and one of the most affordable boutique spin studios out there – just try to go after you’ve had a cup of coffee.
$22 per class / 371 cals = 6 cents
$199 unlimited bike, box and build / 371 cals = 7 cents