‘How do you feel?’ I hear, as the door swings open and a cool blast of air hits my sweat-drenched face. As I wobble out into the light, I’m not sure which I need to do first: be sick, or pass out. I’ve just tried my first session at Flywheel, a studio dedicated to spinning – with a competitive twist. Here, not only are you faced with all the usual challenges of such a hardcore exercise class (mainly staying upright, conscious and not vomiting), but there’s a scoreboard at the front of the class that displays participants’ progress. Depending on your peddling prowess, this is either an outlet for showing off, or being shown up.
People who sign up to Flywheel might be drawn by its reputation in its native New York (celebrities including Jimmy Fallon and Sofia Vergara are said to be fans). It also boasts a unique logging system, which collects the data from each of your sessions to give you a breakdown of the distance travelled, your estimated calorie burn, the average revolutions per minute (RPM) and much more. Though there are a number of classes out there offering a similar workout, none of them are as comprehensive as Flywheel when it comes to showing you the data after each class, and giving you the means to compare yourself to fellow students during your session.
I don’t have a particularly competitive personality (at least in circumstances where I’m convinced from the outset that I will lose), so I’m not too excited about the prospect of having my (potentially poor) performance beamed to the whole class. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to starting the day with a gruelling workout and reaping the benefits of the extra wave of endorphins. When I arrive, American instructor Barry Ennis shows me how to sign in using the computers provided (all riders have their own online account), before giving me a short tour of the studio. It’s a smart, stylish new facility on the ground floor of the Burj Views development in Downtown Dubai: the changing rooms are equipped with everything I’ll need to get washed, dried and groomed to head straight to the office after my workout. He asks me if I’m feeling nervous; when I nod, he tells me not to worry, adding that most people get addicted quite quickly.
A couple of minutes before the class begins, we head into the studio to allow me to get my feet strapped onto the pedals and grab some extra padding for the seat. British instructor Paul Watson will be taking the 9.30am class, which I am relieved to discover has only two other participants (had I come any earlier for a pre-work slot, no doubt I’d have been met with a much busier room). But as we begin, I soon realise that even in a full room, there would be no reason to feel inhibited – the lights are turned right down, and the music cranked up. As we power through and the class gets tougher, the pounding tunes drown out my strangled outbursts and groans of pain, and my sweat-soaked, beetroot-red face is shrouded in blissful darkness.
Bizarrely, it feels a bit like working out in a nightclub, so if mind-clearing runs along one of Dubai’s sunny beaches aren’t for you, you might well find yourself falling in love with this brand of cardio. The endlessly enthusiastic Paul shouts encouragement from the spotlight on his instructor’s stage, as we blast through the workout with The Killers’ ‘Mr Brightside’ ringing in my ears.
To say I enjoy the class from start to finish would be an enormous fib. Ten minutes in, I find myself so breathless and my legs so leaden that I probably would have run away if Paul wasn’t so encouraging. At 20 minutes, I feel certain I’m about to throw up. Regardless, I power on, keeping my eye on the scoreboard and pushing as hard as I can. By the end, despite not managing to sustain all the standing portions of the class, I’m exhausted, sweaty and aching everywhere, but thoroughly pleased I didn’t chicken out. I feel as though I’ve done a marathon circuit session – I’ve actually cycled 17 miles. And though I came nowhere near first in the final 30-second race (spanked by an entrant called MrsP), I did finish second, much to my surprise.
Later, instead of vomiting or fainting, I ride a tsunami of endorphins for the rest of the day. It’s the kind of incredible buzz anyone could get used to – so don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Dhs110 per ride, Dhs500 for five, Dhs900 for 10, Dhs1,700 for 20. Burj Views, Downtown Dubai, www.dubai.flywheelsports.com (04 423 2544).
Two more to try: cycling sessions
A Les Mills indoor cycling workout where each rider sets their own resistance level while keeping in time with the music.
Dhs50 per class. The Aviation Club, Garhoud (04 282 4122).
The Shangri-La’s health club offers an intense workout that will have your quads and glutes burning.
Dhs60 per session. Shangri-La Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 8888).