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Author: Pernille

Life cycle

David Stalker

President, EuropeActive | Group CEO, Myzone

“Forget your old model and your short-term focus,” urges Stalker

A call to action

As we emerged from COVID, our sector was suddenly presented with a new opportunity: the chance to be health delivery partners. This has the potential to transform our industry, but only if we make it our foremost objective and embrace the opportunity wholeheartedly.

We can’t pick and choose which elements of health to focus on. We can’t just deliver to the already-healthy, which is pretty much what we’ve always done as a sector. We have to open up to the wider population. We have to look for the people we can influence. And the biggest group where we can make the biggest difference is the older population, because most of the things that are wrong with them – physically, mentally, emotionally – are purely age-related.

Medication is helping us all live longer, but not necessarily in good health: we have years of being infirm, alive but not enjoying life, home alone and lonely. Our sector is uniquely positioned to change this for the better, and I believe we are morally obliged to do so, but so far we aren’t stepping up to this responsibility.

In most cases, we’re failing to look at how we can serve this enormous population even within our existing accessible facilities: swimming pools, indoor cycling studios, even elements of the gym floor if only we’d stop making them so intimidating. Honestly, now aged 60, even I find the big functional spaces intimidating, and I don’t see anyone else my age at the gym.

“As health partners, we can’t pick and choose which elements of health to focus on. We have to look for the people we can influence.”

New programming will be key to changing this. We can also take our increasingly highly-qualified staff out to the community centres where older people are. More than any other group, older people seek community. We can create that. We have a social duty to do so.

Yet many operators tell me ‘that doesn’t work in our business’. My answer: it does and it must. Forget your old model and your short-term focus. Forget doing things only for commercial benefit. Do things because they’ll make a difference to people’s lives.

Of course, I’m not so naïve as to suggest a business doesn’t have to think about its finances. Even if we make nothing financially from serving the older generations, we will benefit commercially if they enjoy it and tell their families. We will create and own a new community, and our reward will be the community’s response.

“More than any other group, older people seek community. We can create that.”

Yet even this is to ignore the big picture: the unprecedented opportunity that comes with moving away from the same-old penetration and retention rates to become health delivery partners. This isn’t a philanthropic gesture. Quite frankly, every operator’s balance sheet will be blown out of the water if we do this properly.

But these opportunities will only come if we stop asking ‘what’s the commercial opportunity?’ and start asking ‘what’s the right thing to do?’ The right thing will result in a happier country, a happier state, happier businesses, happier people, better retention and a bigger market. 

We are part of this solution and we must own it with absolute passion and duty.

Dr Lou Atkinson

Schwinn master trainer | Behavioural scientist

Atkinson: “A social agenda unites everyone”

Mindset & motivations

There’s good research around the barriers and facilitators of physical activity for older people, and although there’s no universal definition of what ‘older’ actually means, most research is based on adults aged 65+.

Safety concerns are the biggest barrier for this group: not only the fear of doing themselves harm during the activity itself, but also concerns about safely getting to and from the venue. 

Indoor cycling is a great solution provided it’s marketed correctly, showing it doesn’t have to be hardcore – that it’s an achievable, low-impact activity that’s completely and instantly adaptable to all levels, with a simple movement pattern that’s easy to learn. 

It’s also seated, but won’t upset the young-at-heart in a way that being offered chair aerobics might. 

Trainers must step back from being the star to focus on members

Falls risk can be further minimised by lighting the studio so people can see what they’re doing, especially before and after class when they’re walking around; keeping the space free of trip hazards; and positioning bikes far enough apart that there are walkways. Some community providers might even consider offering transport to and from the club.

When it comes to facilitators, the social aspect is key; in a population where loneliness and isolation are big issues, physical activity is as much about being with other people as it is about fitness.

This plays to the strengths of group exercise, but note that the social aspect won’t happen automatically. Instructors must be keenly aware of this agenda and encourage interaction in a non-pressured way, getting to know participants to help them get to know each other. Instructors must also step back from being the star of the show: you won’t create a community if the class is focused on one person and communication is one-way.

“Do not make assumptions based on age. Many older adults have been active all their lives. Patronise at your peril!”

Buddying can be a good option, introducing newcomers to well-matched individuals in class, as can post-class coffees, out-of-class activities, online communities and WhatsApp groups. If digital classes are offered – a great way to break down initial nervousness among tech-savvy older generations and cater for those physically unable to attend in-person – use camera angles that show participants as well as the instructor.

A few other thoughts… Many regulars in my classes are aged 50+, with several in their late 60s and 70s, and they have a lower tolerance for loud music. This doesn’t mean they just want old music, though: it’s important to ask about musical preferences and offer variety. Many also use reading glasses which they won’t wear in class, making it harder to rely on console data; coaching becomes more verbal, so it’s more important than ever that your voice can be heard above the music.

Last but absolutely not least, do not make assumptions based on age. Many older adults have been active all their lives, are fitter than many 40-year-olds and just want to continue with the activities they’ve always loved, just with a few modifications. Patronise at your peril!

Many regulars in Atkinson’s cycling classes are aged 50+, with some in their late 60s and 70s

I’ve certainly never been a fan of the ‘this class is specifically for this group / this purpose’ approach. Indoor cycling is so adaptable in the moment that every class is for everyone. Even as they age, regulars may well keep going to the classes they’ve always done. 

But as I say, there are preconceptions to address among those who haven’t done indoor cycling before, especially if they’ve been nudged towards exercise by a health diagnosis and are nervous about the safety of taking part. My advice: take the pressure off by marketing around fun, social interaction and quality of life – living better for longer. There will still be different fitness levels in class, but the social agenda will unite everyone.

Daniel Callow, PhD

Postdoctoral research fellow, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Callow has a long-standing interest in healthier cognitive ageing

Scientifically proven

As a postdoctoral research fellow at Johns Hopkins, I’m currently exploring the impact of sleep and physical activity for healthier neurocognitive ageing, with a view to creating multi-domain lifestyle interventions for older people.

My interest in this field goes back years: I studied kinesiology as an undergraduate and did my PhD in cognitive neuroscience, in both cases focusing on exercise as a way to promote healthier ageing, and in particular cognitive ageing. 

“All cardiovascular exercise is beneficial for the brain as we age, but indoor cycling is an accessible option that also brings strength benefits”

For my PhD, I became very interested in neuroimaging: using MRI scanners to look at the structure and function of the brain. I wanted to provide objective evidence of how exercise can support brain health in older adults and delay or prevent cognitive decline and dementia progression.

Most research into cognitive and mental health among older adults focuses on aerobic exercise – my dissertation included. It was based on a set of three acute exercise studies, ‘acute’ meaning the impact of a single session of activity. All three studies involved getting older people into the lab and onto a stationary bike, some days being sedentary, other days cycling for 30 minutes at moderate to vigorous intensity. We’d then do cognitive tests and neuroimaging. 

A single session of aerobic activity can benefit executive function in older adults

In fact, indoor cycling is often used when researching the impact of acute exercise on the brain and mental health. As scientists, we want to control as many factors and variables as possible, and a stationary bike is an accessible way to deliver the right sort of aerobic workout in a lab environment.

But why aerobic activity? There’s a lot of research linking cardiovascular health with brain health, and it makes sense: your brain is one of the most metabolically active organs in the body, and it’s the cardiovascular system that brings it the ingredients it needs to produce energy – oxygen in particular. If you start to have issues with your cardiovascular system, it may not be able to provide those resources adequately to the brain. This could be one of the causes of age- or neurodegenerative-related cognitive decline, as well as mental health problems.

All cardiovascular exercise is therefore beneficial for the brain as we age: it doesn’t have to be indoor cycling. However, stationary cycling is an accessible option that also brings strength benefits, making it attractive to older people who need to minimise the load on their joints, for example, or whose gait/mobility issues make walking unsafe.

In our research, we looked at the hippocampus specifically – a small area of the brain that’s crucial for memory. It’s also the part of the brain that deteriorates first, shrinking by 1–2 per cent a year in normal ageing among less active older adults. 

Importantly, studies suggest this decline can be delayed or prevented through regular aerobic exercise: the hippocampus is one of only two regions of the brain capable of producing new neurons throughout the lifespan, and studies suggest exercise to improve the cardiovascular system may directly support and benefit the hippocampal region.

Meanwhile, a lot of previous evidence shows how a single session of activity can be beneficial for executive function, especially among older adults – executive function being the higher-level cognitive skills that generally decline with age. There’s also evidence around the benefits of exercise for depression and anxiety, although my own work is less focused on this area.

Put it all together, however, and there’s clearly a strong body of evidence highlighting the mental and neurocognitive benefits of indoor cycling, not only in the lab, but as an accessible way to exercise our cardiovascular systems as we age.

Kaleigh Cohen Fitness

Why did you create Kaleigh Cohen Fitness?

In the 90s, mum and I went to fitness classes together, but ever since I qualified as an instructor – I’m Spinning-certified and also have Stages Beat, PT and weight loss certifications – I’ve lived elsewhere in the US and even overseas. It meant mum could never come to my classes.

Cohen is a qualified indoor cycling coach who began her influencer journey by creating a video for her mum

In 2019, my husband and I were living in Dubai with our five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter and I was missing teaching. I’d given mum my old indoor bike, so I decided to create a workout video for her. The first recording was dreadful, so my husband – who was getting back into videography – filmed it for me and we uploaded it to YouTube. 

“We have 275,000 cycling and 100,000+ strength subscribers, allowing this to be a full-time job for my husband and me”

Mum did the workout, but so did other people, so we decided to create more. We weren’t very consistent at first, uploading just one or two a month, but uptake began to grow organically from people searching YouTube for indoor cycling content. There was one video in particular, a cycling class for beginners, that did really well. Things took off from there. 

We then launched a separate Strength channel two years ago. Cycling is a great stress-reliever and a fun way to sweat it out, but strength is also crucial if you want to change your body.

All of Cohen’s workouts are free for everyone to use, with one or two uploaded each week

How has your community grown?

We’ve never really done any marketing, but we now have 275,000 indoor cycling subscribers and over 100,000 strength subscribers, many of whom are unique to strength. 

For over a year now, this has allowed Kaleigh Cohen Fitness to be a full-time job for my husband and me: I do the workouts and Jason does the production and editing.

Cohen launched a dedicated Strength channel on YouTube two years ago

All our workouts are free for everyone to use, so the majority of our income comes from YouTube AdSense, sponsors and regulars who choose to purchase our US$15/month Kaleigh Cohen Fitness membership. This gives them early access to all workouts posted on YouTube, a monthly Zoom ride, a private Discord session where we can discuss anything from goal-setting to nutrition, and free downloadable bundles of support material for all our Cycle and Strength programmes.

Tell us about your content.

I used to struggle with confidence and self-image and indoor cycling helped me in the most amazing ways, so it’s at the heart of what we do. I want to help others take that crucial first step, because you never know what will happen from there!

Cohen is now a full-time content creator and influencer

That’s why, although I encourage people to challenge themselves – getting stronger on a bike to be stronger in life – I never want anyone to feel a workout is too hard. My role is to uplift and motivate and make you feel glad you pressed ‘play’, and of the 110,000+ clicks we get each week, around half go on to do the whole class.

Most classes are pre-recorded and 20–30 minutes long; each takes around 20 hours to design, film and edit, so we upload one or two a week. We ride to the beat, although it isn’t rhythm cycling: I include sprints, climbs and jumps and every song has its own focus. 

“My role is to make you feel glad you pressed ‘play’. Of the 110,000+ clicks we get each week, around half go on to do the whole class.”

“What really inspires us are the stories of how we’re changing lives,” says Cohen

However, we do have a 45- to 60-minute live ride every Saturday, with around 500 participants each week. People join from across the world, including a lady in New Zealand who’s cycling in the middle of her night! There are lots of regulars, so people know each other and interact in the live chat; a US$1.99/month YouTube channel membership gives you a badge by your name and unlocks special emojis to use in our live chats. 

“We’re so grateful to have almost fallen into this and to have so many people coming along for the ride”

Our community really does make what we do so special, and it’s also the community that shapes what we do: we listen to what they tell us in the live chat and on our social platforms and gear our content around this.

What are your USPs?

I use non-mainstream music and really harness the lyrics to mean something in class.

I keep it real. If I mess up in class, I go with it. If you allow yourself to be vulnerable as an instructor – to just be yourself – you’re more approachable.

And I explain why we’re doing things, sharing the knowledge I’ve gathered over 15+ years to ensure there’s purpose in every workout.

Cohen “keeps it real” and aims to always be herself in class, so people find her approachable

What are you most proud of?

What really inspires us are the stories of how we’re changing lives. One lady who’s been with us from the beginning has lost 100lbs. One man broke his back, but he’s worked back up and can now cycle for 45 minutes. We’ve had people going through cancer treatment, telling us we’ve helped them overcome things they didn’t think they could.

We’re just so grateful to have almost fallen into this and to have so many people coming along for the ride.

David Watt

Tell us about the ‘psy’ of Psycle.

Psycle launched in 2014 with an ambition to get people hooked on the transformative power of movement. There are no metrics, no scoreboards, no focus on weight loss or calorie count. Just encouragement to come to class, move your body, get lost in the music and free your mind. It’s all about how our classes make you feel.

Our fundamental belief: that the state of people’s health has a direct influence on how they feel, that how they feel determines the attitude and energy they bring to their lives – and that within this pathway to happiness, exercise and movement have a big part to play. 

It’s a judgement-free approach that’s won Psycle a loyal customer base over the last 10 years. 

“Obviously ‘Psycle’ immediately says ‘cycling’, but we don’t want to rebrand. We’re proud of what we stand for.”

Lose yourself in the music of Psycle’s indoor cycling classes

How does this approach translate to your cycling classes?

Our programming has always been about putting aside inhibitions and losing yourself to the movement and the music. You will be challenged physically, but you’ll be immersed in the shared rhythm of the class, focused on gratitude for your body and your life, and the endorphins will flow.

We also embed a consciously meditative moment around three-quarters of the way through class. Coming straight after a high-exertion track, riders are in exactly the right frame of mind to switch off mentally and zone in to the rhythm of the music and/or the instructor’s voice.

All Psycle instructors are trained at least quarterly, with a big focus on musicality and authenticity

And in fact, the ‘psy’ element starts even before class, with our instructors spending up to five minutes welcoming people, dismissing preconceptions and sharing the Psycle ethos.

“We’re looking to open a couple of single-discipline locations where we already have Psycle communities.”

When we launched, our mind-music-movement connection was a real USP. It’s less so now as more operators embrace this thinking, but I believe we still bring it to another level through our relentless focus, with regular check-ins and instructor workshops ensuring it’s embedded in every class. 

The result is an uplifting, high-energy, addictive product that’s also low-impact, lending itself to high frequency. When you combine that with the community we’ve created and the ability to get everything in one place, I’m confident ours is a product with longevity.

Ride is Psycle’s north star, available in all five locations and enjoyed by 85% of customers

Everything in one place – how so?

Psycle started out as an indoor cycling brand, but in 2017 – the year I joined the company – it added three additional concepts to its roster: strength (HIIT), barre and yoga. In 2018, we also launched memberships and a benefits package to encourage people to commit and take part in more than one concept.

Ride remains our north star, available in all five Psycle locations and enjoyed by 85 per cent of our customers. However, we recognise that there’s no one perfect workout, and that a rounded approach to training is critical to a healthy body and mind. 

“Pre-COVID, there were too many operators charging premium prices for average products. There is no space for that now.”

Where we have bigger spaces, we’ve therefore introduced additional studios and rolled out concepts that match the demographics of the local market. Of course, this also allows the business to maximise its commercial potential by utilising all available space.

Psycle’s five locations offer site-specific combinations of five products, including Barre and Reformer

Sadly, demand for yoga was impacted significantly by the pandemic, exacerbated by an ongoing abundance of content available for free online. We do still offer 1.5 days of yoga each week, but have also introduced a fifth concept – reformer pilates – in response to community demand. Since COVID, we’ve realised we need to be in-tune with customer wishes in a way boutiques didn’t really have to be in the pre-COVID boom years.

Can you credibly diversify with the name ‘Psycle’?

Obviously ‘Psycle’ immediately says ‘cycling’, but we don’t want to rebrand. We’re proud of what we stand for. If anything, with mental health an increasingly hot topic, we want to go further in telling our story and explaining our ethos.

But we do now have five different products, so we are considering a reorganisation of the words we use. Rather than sitting five programmes – Ride, Reformer, Barre, HIIT and Yoga – under the Psycle banner, we may shift to ‘Reformer by Psycle’, ‘Barre by Psycle’ and so on. In this way, we take our brand credibility with us, but with more clarity around our expanded roster of classes.

Psycle recently launched reformer pilates in response to community demand

What’s next for Psycle?

We’ve experienced good momentum since COVID, with consistent profitability, which is pleasing. 

Customer experience is now high on our agenda. We’re looking to upgrade our communal spaces to make people feel more luxuriously welcome, creating environments that nurture our community. We’re also exploring benefits and partnerships to further enhance the customer journey and encourage even longer-lasting relationships.

Meanwhile, we’re looking at opportunities to open a couple of single-discipline locations where we already have Psycle communities – where there’s scope to complement our existing offerings for an already-engaged audience. These will not be focused on indoor cycling, as we’ll be opening them in areas where we already offer Ride.

Psycle launched strength (HIIT) classes in 2017, to complement Ride

In the future though, even in new locations, we may launch multi-concept studios without indoor cycling. With the cost and complexity of creating a Ride studio – we’re talking over £1m – there are only limited locations in and around Greater London where it’s really viable. Running costs also mean we need 1,000+ bodies on bikes each week just to break even.

“Consolidation under one brand is the way to achieve scale… We’re looking to invest in businesses with ready-made communities.”

Add to that the fact we burned so much money during COVID, and the lack of access to capital right now, and we need to be flexible in how we scale.

Demand for yoga was impacted by the pandemic, but Psycle still offers 1.5 days a week

What are your plans to scale?

We’ve identified three sites in London that could support multi-studio locations with Ride, and another eight to 10 that could support non-Ride studios –that is, offering site-specific combinations of our four other concepts. After that, we’ll start to look at the white space beyond London, in big cities across the UK.

Looking ahead five years, I’d also like to be in key cities in Europe and Asia, ideally with a local partner but still in control of the brand and the product.

But all of this will only happen if we reach the sort of scale in London that unlocks access to capital; 10+ clubs is the point at which we believe private equity will be interested. 

I believe consolidation under one brand is the way to achieve that scale.

Boutiques must be committed to a relentless pursuit of excellence, says Watt

A large number of small operators are running on survival right now, unable to invest in their people or consistently deliver a good enough product. They simply aren’t long-term viable, and in this challenging market, there are few options to turn that around.

This is how we’re looking to scale Psycle, without being aggressive or underhand. We’re looking to invest in businesses with ready-made communities, where the current owners don’t have the funds they need to uplift the product, regain price appreciation and become long-term viable. We’ll invest, become owner and majority stakeholder, put Psycle above the door, bring in our programming and infrastructure, and offer earn-out opportunities.

“We don’t see ClassPass as a discounting tool. In fact, it’s where we drive our highest yield.”

How is the London boutique market post-COVID?

This is a hard business. Many people perceive boutiques to be highly cash-generative, but costs are high if you want the best staff, the best facilities, and to offer great instructor training and development (see ‘A best in class team’, below). You must be committed to a relentless pursuit of class excellence – and even then, there’s no guarantee of success. 

In fact, it’s even harder now than pre-COVID, with ever-increasing rents, rates and service charges alongside consumer behaviours that have fundamentally changed. It’s super-positive for Psycle that the majority of the people who used to train with us still do, but they’re coming 40 per cent less often due to changing working patterns and the ongoing impact of working from home. 

Psycle uses ClassPass strategically, to fill spots that would otherwise not be filled

The cost of living crisis is another factor. We’ve seen customers move to lower-frequency products and have introduced a new lower-frequency membership tier to allow for this. We’ve also introduced an under-27s membership, targeting younger customers on lower incomes who used to come more often than they do now. 

“Many smaller operators are leaning on deep discounting to drive footfall at any cost. It’s devaluing what boutique stands for.”

But product quality must still be consistently high. Pre-COVID, I would argue that there were too many operators charging premium prices for average products. There is no space for that now. 

The problem is, as market conditions bite and the number of boutique operators continues to contract, things are going the other way. The sector is now dominated by a handful of multi-site brands alongside ClassPass-led, one-stop shops that are driving prices to the floor. They’re devaluing the product to the point that audiences are unsure what ‘boutique’ really means. 

Doesn’t Psycle use ClassPass?

Since COVID, yes, and actually we really like it: it helps us fill spots that would otherwise not be filled. We allocate the inventory we want, manipulating demand and supply to add footfall across all studios and times.

We don’t see ClassPass as a discounting tool, though. In fact, it’s where we drive our highest yield. 

Products may be rebranded slightly, to become ‘Barre by Psycle’, for example

The cheapest way to enjoy Psycle is always through our own credit packs and memberships, meaning direct-to-Psycle customers continue to make up the majority of our attendance. What ClassPass does is unlock an audience we might traditionally have missed – people who enjoy the flexibility of picking and choosing from a variety of studios and concepts. 

The point is, the discounting issue isn’t because of ClassPass. It’s because of the prevailing mindset in the market. Many smaller operators are now very short-termist, leaning on deep discounting to drive footfall at any cost. It’s devaluing what boutique stands for, and it’s only getting worse.

Boutique is about beautiful spaces, great service, best-in-class instructors and delivering consistently high-quality classes – but it gets increasingly hard to deliver that when there’s so much discounting going on. The sooner we stop the downward price spiral, the sooner we’ll all feel we’re building sustainable businesses.

APProved by you

Intelligent Cycling

intelligent cycling spinning app
Performance data gathered by the app helps users track their progress

This free-to-use app functions as a training companion, helping users train smarter and providing instructors with a large, high-quality workout catalogue they can help grow.

More than 50,000 workouts on the platform include Intelligent Cycling’s own official rides, plus workouts by BODY BIKE, Keiser, Wattbike, Schwinn and other industry leaders, as well as users.

Track your progress in the app using your performance score and workout history, embrace the newly-added social dimension – like, follow and share your favourite creators – and use expansive new search filters to easily find your perfect workout: Spotify vs no playlist, official vs user workouts, duration, intensity and so on.

The mobile app can also be paired with a desktop app to enhance the in-studio experience.



A multilingual app created by former pro cyclist Darren Teagles who – finding himself involved in fitness industry education and disillusioned by the level of indoor cycle training concepts – decided to create his own.

“Ciclozone harvests the best cycle science and professional cycle training knowledge and harnesses it within the standard indoor cycle format,” he says.

AI-based algorithms understand your power levels and constantly adjust as you train, recommending new workouts based on previous performance.

Able to connect to RPM and power sensors on bikes and cycle trainers, as well as heart rate devices, the app has a proprietary data value – Ciclozone Output Level% – that constantly guides you in every element of your ride to help you continually improve.


Motsumo spinning app
Instructors can interact with participants using polls and emojis

Free to use for gyms, instructors and members, Motosumo’s smartphone app connects to any make or model of stationary bike to unlock an engaging, data-driven experience, however entry-level the bike.

On a smart bike, it connects via Bluetooth: the bike’s sensors send data to the app. On other bikes, the phone sits on the handlebars and accurately translates vibrations from the bike into cadence, distance and calories. Additional data can be drawn in by connecting to an external heart rate monitor or power meter.

Motosumo also connects bikes and riders into shared social experiences in-studio or via livestream: create a group, invite people to join and take part in real-time rides together. Instructors can interact with participants via polls and emojis.



phone running indoor cycling apps
The Myzone app uses colour-coded heart rate zone tiles to help people work at the right intensities

Cycling with Myzone means connected fitness experiences powered by personal effort, accurate heart rate (HR) tracking and real-time feedback.

The free Myzone app offers workouts, challenge incentives and a like-minded, motivational community. Colour-coded heart rate zone tiles on your smartphone screen push you towards your goals and educate around recovery.

Recently launched are three new premium elements: MZ-Club, MZ-Together and MZ-On Demand. MZ-On Demand unlocks 1,300 pre-recorded classes – including virtual rides – while MZ-Club allows facilities to broadcast their own content to exercisers everywhere.

With MZ-Together, exercisers just need the Myzone app and HR monitor to take part in live classes such as Cardio Club, where – coached live by a Myzone master trainer – they participate however they choose, from jumping on an indoor bike to going outside for a run.

The Breakaway

The Breakaway makes it simple to understand where you are as an athlete

Founded in 2020 by Jordan Kobert and Kyle Yugawa, both early Strava leaders, and former professional cyclist Christian Vande Velde, The Breakaway is a connected training app for cyclists – a personal coach in your pocket.

Designed to easily track progress and improvement in indoor cycling, The Breakaway now covers outdoor cycling too, but still with a strong focus on the work you can do indoors.

It makes it simple to understand where you are as an athlete – with benchmarks for age, gender and weight across 12 power skills – then offers ride and workout recommendations, and expert Q&As, to help you achieve peak performance more often. 

For Peloton, it can even send recommended workouts to the bike so they’re bookmarked and ready for you, and gather data from your workouts to set personalised weekly targets.



W3ride app
Points earned can be used in a number of ways in-app, including for entry fees to charity rides

W3RIDE is a new app inspired by the concept of Air Miles: a reward system for cyclists that engages and encourages people to cycle more often.

It integrates with and draws workout data from Strava, Polar, Suunto, Komoot and more, with indoor cycling integrations due to launch based on heart rate and power. The app converts this workout data into points that can be used in the app in a number of ways: to secure discounts from partner brands including Nike, Oakley and Garmin; to buy entry into in-app charity events; or simply to donate to charity, with sponsors turning the points into cash.

Points can also unlock premium upgrades in the app – for example, better virtual bikes for your avatar that earn you more points for each ride completed.



Spivi spinning app
Spivi gamifies the fitness journey with avatars and animation, points and awards

Predominantly a studio-based solution that draws on wearables, equipment and sensors in the club to track performance data and gamify members’ fitness journeys – with avatars and animation, live leaderboards, challenges, milestones, points and awards – Spivi also offers a couple of complementary apps.

Spivi.Connect can be installed on your Apple Watch or Android device, allowing you to stream your heart rate data to Spivi.

Meanwhile, the Spivi Home app allows gym members to take part in live and on-demand classes from home, staying connected with their community and training with their favourite instructors. Metrics and performance history help riders stay accountable and motivated. The app also includes Spivi Workout Creator, which allows instructors to design structured workouts.


What led you to become an indoor cycling coach?

Initially, it was just to prove people wrong – to show it could be done. I’d always been active: I was a wheelchair racer from the age of eight to 15 years and even beat Paralympic gold medallist David Weir once, although it was a bit of a fluke!

“I was previously a wheelchair racer and even beat Paralympic gold medallist David Weir once!”

I was working as a personal trainer at Aspire Leisure Centre in the UK when, in 2009, they introduced indoor cycling and asked who’d be interested in teaching it. They weren’t sure if someone in a wheelchair would be able to do it. I was up for the challenge.

spinning instructor in wheel chair
Burns uses a krankcycle, so focuses predominantly on verbal cues for his participants

That April, I did Schwinn’s Bronze level qualification. It was a two-day course and wasn’t modified at all for wheelchair users, so when it came to teaching a class, a colleague had to get on the bike to demo what I was asking people to do. It worked, though, and I was the first wheelchair user in the world to complete the course.

What’s your role now?

I’m now a Gold level Schwinn coach and have done a few mass participation events, up on-stage alongside able-bodied coaches. I also still work at Aspire as a personal trainer – I’ve been a PT since 1996 – and an indoor cycling coach, teaching classes using a krankcycle.

spinning instructor with disabilities
Burns uses a krankcycle, so focuses predominantly on verbal cues for his participants

Aspire is a very inclusive gym. On average across the UK, 1–2 per cent of a gym’s members will be disabled. At Aspire it’s 28 per cent, and that’s reflected in our team too.

My wife comes to my classes – she’s also in a wheelchair and uses a krankcycle – and although most of my participants are able-bodied, many have some sort of health consideration such as overweight, heart conditions, prediabetes and so on. It’s a very inclusive class that attracts a broad array of people. I think they see me and think: ‘If Graham can, I can!’

What’s your coaching style?

I’ve done disability training modules through the YMCA, but above all I believe empathy is key. It’s not about pushing everyone to do 160 RPM. It’s about doing what you can. That’s an ethos I try to bring to every class.

Obviously I can’t get on a bike to demo the moves, so my focus is on verbal cues. Most of my participants have been coming to class for years, so they know exactly what I mean!

“I want to get as many people fit as possible, regardless of their ability. Indoor cycling is a huge part of that”

I also do a lot of going round the room, interacting with people individually. There are only 15 bikes and four krankcycles in the Aspire studio, so there’s plenty of scope to offer a personal touch and tailor the class to the needs of those in the room.

Programming-wise, it’s all about fitness cycling – an authentic approach to indoor cycling where you don’t do any moves you wouldn’t do on an outdoor bike.

impairments spinning instructor coach
Coaching is a great career for those with impairments, says Burns

How accessible is the fitness sector?

It’s better than it used to be, but there’s still a long way to go. I’ve tried to instruct at other clubs but they simply haven’t been accessible.

Krankcycles are also hard to come by in the UK nowadays, which is a great shame as it isn’t only wheelchair users they’re good for. They’re also good for people who’ve had knee or hip replacements. I believe every club should have one or two in their cycling studio.

And generally, I’d like to see more of the big companies – manufacturers, training providers, operators – showing that it can be done. That accessibility can be mainstream.

What’s your mission?

I want to get as many people fit as possible, regardless of their ability. Indoor cycling is a huge part of that: it’s low impact, you can adjust the workout to your level and it brings a wealth of fitness benefits. It’s a great workout for everyone.

Spinning instructor with impairments
Burns wants to work with big companies in the sector to drive accessibility up the agenda

What are your goals?

I’d like to open my own gym or PT studio, including indoor cycling.

I’d like to work with big companies to drive accessibility up the agenda.

And I’d like to become a Schwinn master trainer, so I can get more people with impairments qualified as coaches. It’s a great career. My advice: don’t think about it – just get out there and do it!

Cycle change

Monika Björn

Author | Lecturer | Menopause activist | Fitness trainer

Monika Bjorn portrait
Monika Björn wants to help clubs understand their perimenopausal members

The first thing to understand is that perimenopausal women make up a huge group of your members, yet even they don’t really understand what they’re going through. Nobody talks about perimenopause! Whether you’re an operator, instructor, woman – or someone who wants to support a woman – the first step is therefore to educate yourself.

For many women, the symptoms of perimenopause can be crippling: hot flashes might be the most famous symptom, but not all women will experience those. It’s also suddenly feeling old, experiencing unexplained muscle and joint pain, anxiety, brain fog, loss of self-esteem, frequent UTIs, lack of sleep… When you’re also trying to manage a job and maybe a family, it’s the perfect storm.

Monika Björn on the bike
A former Spin instructor, Björn changed her routine in perimenopause

In 2018, I published my first book on this topic, and in 2021 my second. As a yoga and former Spin instructor, I also created a one-day certification, Strong Throughout Menopause, to help instructors understand how to support this huge group of members.

“Although weight gain may push women to exercise even harder and eat less, that isn’t the answer”

Of course, every woman’s journey is different, but for those with medium to severe symptoms, training at high intensity several times a week will likely stress their systems even more. They won’t get the same endorphin rush, either, and may feel more tired between sessions. Although weight gain may push them to exercise even harder and eat less, that isn’t the answer.

My advice for women experiencing symptoms – and this is something clubs and instructors must understand – is that their bodies may now respond differently to exercise. Certainly for me – someone who used to instruct several indoor cycling classes a week – my results went backwards.

I recommend taking one variable at a time, starting with frequency. Keep active, but try doing slightly fewer cycling classes each week and more strength training; this is critical at this lifestage, including for weight management. If it still doesn’t feel good, experiment with intensity too, then duration. It’s about establishing your own very personal thresholds until you restore balance in your body and mind. Make peace with this: something is always better than nothing.

Woman stretching
Björn instructs yoga and also embraces it within her own training

Once you’ve restored your energy and found a way to navigate the perimenopause – potentially with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – you can experiment with building back up. But keep listening to your body and be brutally honest about what works and what doesn’t.

Again taking myself as an example, from previously being able to train as hard and as often as I liked, I dropped down to 20 minutes of steady-state cycling three or four times a week when my symptoms were at their worst. I never excluded indoor cycling completely. I just changed how I went about it for a while. In fact, it took me a full year to establish a new training schedule that worked for me – and even now, a few years on, I only do HIIT cycling once a week.

“My advice for women experiencing symptoms is that their bodies may now respond differently to exercise”

Alongside this, I do heavy weights training, yoga, short running sessions and a lot more recovery. And this sits at the heart of my advice to clubs and studios: get educated and create special courses for this huge group of customers – courses where strength training, recovery and education are key elements alongside something like indoor cycling, done in moderation and in a way that fully supports women at this stage of their lives.

Tracy Minnoch-Nuku

Menopause podcast host | Fitness speaker | Author

Tracy Minnoch-Nuku portrait
Tracy Minnoch-Nuku speaks to leading menopause experts on her podcast

I’m a 53-year-old, perimenopausal woman who’s still teaching indoor cycling classes with waitlists, but I’m the first to recognise that 45-minute classes won’t suit every woman at this stage of her life.

“I’m a strong believer in adopting a new mindset in perimenopause, stepping back from short-term, aesthetic goals”

And that’s OK: I’m a strong believer in adopting a new mindset in perimenopause, stepping back from the short-term, aesthetic goals most women have laboured with for decades and instead focusing on what we need to do to stay healthy in the long term, so we can continue to do all the amazing things on our bucket lists.

With that in mind, strength training comes first. Lean muscle mass is linked to longevity, as well as giving you the strength to do all the things you want to do. Weight training is also about bone density, joint strength, heart health, brain health, a confidence boost.

short haired middel aged woman in cycling clothes on bike
Sprint training takes just 20 minutes, of which only 10 minutes are work, and “it’s easiest and most effective on a bike”

However, I’m also a firm believer in the right cardiovascular activity being hugely beneficial both physically and mentally, and indoor cycling ticks all the boxes: low impact at a time of joint pain, with the community and the music bringing an added feelgood factor.

“The right cardiovascular activity is hugely beneficial physically and mentally, and indoor cycling ticks all the boxes”

For many women in perimenopause, a long, high-intensity workout isn’t going to work, but through my Sexy Ageing podcast, I’ve spoken to some of the world’s leading experts and am a big advocate of Dr Stacy Sims’ approach. One of the top physiologists when it comes to the menopause, Dr Sims recommends sprint training during perimenopause. This is the approach I’ve incorporated into the programmes in my app, alongside strength training.

It takes around 20 minutes, of which only 10 minutes are work. There’s a five-minute warm-up, 10 minutes of intervals – start with 30 seconds on, 30 seconds recovery, and build up to 40/20 – then five minutes’ cool-down. You could certainly do it on another piece of CV kit, but I believe it’s easiest and most effective on a bike, so that’s what I use in my programmes.

Woman working out
Minnoch-Nuku still instructs waitlisted indoor cycling classes

And the benefits are really important for women in perimenopause, 80 per cent of whom will become insulin resistant. It’s this that causes weight to creep up, because the body isn’t as efficient at breaking down glucose. So, any exercise that can help with insulin resistance – without putting too much impact on the body – has to be worth considering.

Definitely do it in the morning, though, so the cortisol spike has come back down and you’re able to sleep at night.

The last thing, which nobody ever wants to talk about but I’m going to: if dryness is making being on a saddle uncomfortable, there are moisturisers and oestrogen gels that can help. You don’t have to let this stop you doing the workouts you enjoy.

Dr Lou Atkinson

Schwinn master trainer | Health psychologist

Dr. Lou Atkinson portrait
Dr Lou Atkinson focuses on supporting positive health behaviours

Menopause and perimenopause is a topic that brings together both sides of my professional expertise, and is something I often discuss with indoor cycling instructors and studio owners.

Supporting positive health behaviours is my primary focus, helping women stay active throughout this lifestage, and there are two important aspects. The first is physiological: how indoor cycling can be affected by the symptoms of perimenopause, and vice versa. The second is operational: how clubs and coaches can make indoor cycling classes accessible to this group.

“With the menopausal body losing collagen and muscle mass, the low-impact nature of indoor cycling is beneficial”

On the first point, with the menopausal body losing collagen and muscle mass, the low-impact nature of indoor cycling is beneficial. Cardiovascular exercise is also a mood enhancer, and indoor cycling especially so: a social group exercise experience, often with music and a party vibe. This is significant, as many women suffer from low mood, anxiety, depression and stress during (peri)menopause.

woman holding yoga matt
Regular strength-based workouts, including bodyweight training, are key as women age

On the flipside, there are some challenges: menopausal joint aches and pains can make indoor cycling hard for some, while genitourinary issues can make being in the saddle uncomfortable. And of course, this is an activity where your core temperature rises, which may not be comfortable there and then if you’re already suffering from hot flushes.

There is some evidence that exercise can help manage hot flushes over time, although as usual with women’s health, it’s under-researched.

The key with indoor cycling is that you’re in complete control of your workout. If you have joint aches, fatigue or sleep disturbance, you simply adjust your intensity while still being part of the same class experience.

Woman with sports cap in indoor cycling class
Indoor cycling lets you adjust your intensity and still be part of the class experience

Alongside this, strength training is vital for this group. I advise clubs to create fusion classes – around 25–30 minutes of cycling followed by 15–20 minutes of bodyweight or free weights training off the bike – so women get everything they need from one class.

“There is some evidence that exercise can help manage hot flushes, but as usual with women’s health, it’s under-researched”

And beyond that, simply be aware of the hot flushes, the aches and pains, the longer recovery times, the brain fog your members might be experiencing. Have empathy. Remove any stigma. Foster peer support within your community. Reassure class participants that individual wellbeing is more important than everyone doing the same thing – that it’s OK to adjust their intensity. Trust each woman to make the choices that feel right for her mind and her body. Give clear instructions, repeating messages in different ways. And don’t be afraid to coach individually where appropriate.

RPM 100

The Los Angeles Convention Center played host to LES MILLS LIVE in July – a high-energy event where, in front of a huge audience of ticket holders and Les Mills community members, the global group exercise giant filmed its latest releases, including the 100th release of RPM.

RPM100 presenters on stage at the live event in LA
Glen Ostergaard (wearing a cap) has designed every RPM release since #26

“We celebrated RPM100 in style,” says Les Mills programme director Glen Ostergaard. “We had 175 BODY BIKES in the room, a great crew on-stage, the event was sold out, and everyone was really into it and there for the right reasons: to celebrate and have fun.

“Through music and language, the class wove a wonderful journey through the history of RPM”
Glen Ostergaard – Programme director, Les Mills

“Through the music and the language we used, the class wove a wonderful journey through the history of RPM, from its very beginnings to where it is now and where it might go in the future.

crew on stage on les mills rpm100 live event in los angles
“We celebrated RPM100 in style, with a great crew on-stage,” says Les Mills’ Glen Ostergaard

“We honoured the late Mike McSweeney, who sadly passed away last year, but who created RPM and designed the first 25 releases. We recognised some of the key presenters over the years, many of whom were in the room. We acknowledged the current generation of presenters on-stage. And we spoke about the generations to come: our own children who one day will take the baton from us. There was a lot of feeling and warmth in the room.”

He adds: “Musically, the warm-up track in RPM100 is the same as in RPM1: Raincloud by Lighthouse Family. You then go on a musical journey, gradually moving through the eras until you get to the sounds of today. There’s a retrospective feel while still using mainstream tracks that everyone will know. And this wasn’t just for LA: this is also the RPM100 playlist for clubs, while the RPM100 class on LES MILLS+ will use footage from LA.”

participants at the les mills rpm100 live event in los angles
The sold-out class had an energy and enthusiasm that “encapsulated why we love what we do,” says BODY BIKE CEO Uffe A Olesen

Celebrating together

He continues: “For me personally… Well, it wasn’t about me, but RPM was the programme I started with – I’ve designed it since release #26 – and it was great to still be there and be part of it.

“It was great to have BODY BIKE onboard too: I love the bike, and the BODY BIKE team really helped us make the event something very special. So a big thanks to them, and to all the organisers who made this a fantastic celebration and a really nice moment for the programme.”

presenters at the les mills rpm100 live event in LA
The RPM100 class on LES MILLS+ will use footage from LA

“BODY BIKE was honoured to partner with Les Mills International to power the cycling sessions at LES MILLS LIVE LA – SPRINT, THE TRIP and RPM100 – with 175 limited edition Smart+ bikes designed exclusively for the event,” says Uffe A Olesen, CEO at BODY BIKE International.

“This was a fabulous milestone for the most famous indoor cycling programme in the world”
Uffe A Olesen – CEO, BODY BIKE International

“These were an incredible few days and I was so excited to attend in person, connecting with fellow indoor cycling enthusiasts and feeling my passion fuelled by the exceptional presenter team. The energy and enthusiasm in the room perfectly encapsulated why we love what we do.

presenters at les mills rpm100 live event with diverse ages
The special RPM class honoured Les Mills presenters across the generations

“The filming of RPM100 was a particularly special moment, fuelled by great memories of the friendly and charismatic Mike McSweeney. This was a fabulous milestone for the most famous indoor cycling programme in the world.

“Our thanks go to BODY BIKE APAC director Lee Smith for his hands-on commitment to the event’s success, and of course to Les Mills for choosing to celebrate this epic milestone with us.”

participant image of the les mills rpm100 live event
The latest releases were filmed in front of an audience of ticket holders and Les Mills team members

Cycling Sophie

What’s your cycling background?

I was a professional cyclist when I was younger, in the German national youth team from the age of 16, competing on the road, in the velodrome, on mountain bikes.

I also embraced indoor cycling, starting out as a participant in 2011 before becoming an instructor in 2017. Then something happened that made indoor cycling even more important to me. In 2018, I had a serious bike accident outdoors, breaking my arms and my knee and only surviving because I was wearing a helmet. I lost the confidence to cycle outside.

Cycling sophie in orange top
Sophie Joline Fischer turned to indoor cycling as her go-to after a serious accident

Indoor cycling became my go-to workout. It’s the time when I switch off and forget about the world. There’s nothing I enjoy more, and it really doesn’t take much effort to get on the bike once you have one at home. I aim to share that passion with everyone who cycles with me.

“Even if you’ve never done indoor cycling, don’t ever worry that you won’t be good enough to do my classes”

At the moment I’m not teaching live, in-person classes – we moved house recently and there aren’t any cycling studios nearby – but I’d like to in the future. For now, alongside my main job as a teacher, I pour my passion into Cycling Sophie – my online platform.

cycling sophie mirror image
Production quality is a big focus in each of the new workouts uploaded

What inspired Cycling Sophie?

In the pandemic, people who had previously done my live, in-club classes were writing to me and asking for help in staying active during lockdown.

We, my business partner Jan and I, looked at the existing online cycling content and didn’t find anything that inspired us. We had a vision of free-to-use indoor cycling workouts that would cater for all different levels – beginner, intermediate and advanced – with workouts ranging from 15 to 90 minutes, and where my passion would really come across.

“Indoor cycling is my go-to workout. There’s nothing I enjoy more, and I aim to share that passion with everyone who cycles with me.”

We uploaded our first piece of content to YouTube in January 2021, with a goal of changing how people feel about indoor cycling. Certainly in Germany, it’s always been seen as a tough workout where the room is full of men in lycra. I wanted to change that and spread my love of indoor cycling to new and younger audiences.

photo gallery of cycling sophie in indoor cycling class
The free-to-use workouts span both rhythm and performance-based cycling

What do you offer?

We offer rhythm and performance-based cycling, but music is key to every class so it never feels like a chore. Once I’ve decided what I want to achieve with each class, who my participants will be, what they need and what techniques will support them, I move straight on to music. I always have a good mix of genres – hip hop, rock, Latin, K-Pop and so on – as well as different beats and cadences.

We also train using Myzone heart rate zones in every class, so it really is just about you and your body. Even if you’ve never done indoor cycling before, you don’t ever need to worry that you won’t be good enough to do my classes.

cycling sophie portrait gallery in fitness studio
Sophie is a teacher, and she aims to spread the love of indoor cycling to younger audiences

We upload two new workouts a month to YouTube, mostly in German. Although we started out producing English language content for a global audience, now only one class in every four is in English. That’s one of our biggest USPs: our production quality stands out, as does the quality of the workouts, but it was when we started focusing on German language content that our YouTube user numbers soared. There just wasn’t anyone else doing this for indoor cycling in Germany, and the demand was high.

All our content is currently free, although you can support us financially if you’d like to.

You’ve partnered with Wexer…

Core Health & Fitness got in touch to say they were interested in working with me. Core owns Schwinn, but it also owns digital fitness brand Wexer, and I’m delighted to say that Cycling Sophie is now live on Wexer Virtual – the in-club system – and Wexer Mobile.

cycling sophie indoor cycling influencer
Sophie brings great expertise as a former pro cyclist with a masters in physical education

It’s really exciting, because it gives us a chance to reach people who cycle in clubs and who might not have come across Cycling Sophie yet. We’ve started with 30 workouts on the Wexer platform and will regularly add new content.

What are you most proud of?

Cycling Sophie is about to reach 1 million YouTube clicks and we have around 11,000 subscribers to our channel – men and women from Germany but also around the world, from the UK to the US, Australia to Russia to Mexico. We also have 2,300+ followers on Instagram. I’m hugely proud of how many people we’ve reached already.

“Focusing on German language content made our user numbers soar. There wasn’t anyone else doing this for indoor cycling.”

I’m also proud of how many lives we’ve changed. I get messages on a daily basis – and I try to reply to them all – thanking me for providing such good content for free. It’s what inspires me and the team to keep going.

cycling sophie hitting 1 million subscribers
Cycling Sophie is about to reach 1 million YouTube clicks and has 11,000 subscribers

We’ll continue to offer free content, so everyone has a chance to access indoor cycling and feel the passion I feel for this beautiful sport.

What next for Cycling Sophie?

We’ve just moved up to a new level with YouTube, so we can now also offer a paid-for membership. We’re aiming to launch this by the end of this year or early next, and it will unlock another two pieces of content each month. There may even be different levels of membership if you also want tutorials, nutritional advice and so on, and potentially resistance workouts too.

photo of cycling sophie
Sophie brings the positive energy of indoor cycling to those on the other side of the camera

Because I believe that’s key to the future of indoor cycling: we need to focus on fusion workouts, combining indoor cycling with resistance training. You simply won’t get results through cardiovascular workouts alone.

We also need to support people in adopting a more rounded approach to health generally. I have a Masters in PE and English philology and I want to draw on all of this, as well as my own experience as a cyclist, to communicate – in a way that’s really easy to understand – how you can combine nutrition and different exercise disciplines.

“Cycling Sophie is now live on Wexer – a chance to reach people who cycle in clubs, who might not have come across us yet”

Longer term, I also dream of having my own indoor cycling studio, but for now I’ll focus on channelling my passion and expertise to the people on the other side of the camera – whether they’re at home or using my content in the gym – to bring them the positive energy of indoor cycling.

The Saudi game changers

How did you come to work together?

RB: As a university student, I lacked a real sense of purpose in life and decided to run for student president. I never expected to win, but I did, and as part of the duties I attended a seminar where Fatima was guest speaker. Her words were captivating. There and then, I said to myself: ‘One day, I’m going to work with Fatima.’ From that moment on, I followed her – I pretty much stalked her! – and my determination paid off. Within a year, we were working together.

FB: She was very persistent, coming to the gym and the classes I was teaching. This was in 2012, when women weren’t really allowed to go to gyms and there were no proper female gym permits. There was just an underground scene, with people running women’s gyms in learning centres, computer centres and so on. They’d operate under the banner of ‘beauty’, which there were permits for, and I’d teach classes.

“In 2012, there was just an underground scene, with people running women’s gyms in learning centres, computer centres and so on”

When I met Rasha, I’d just started my Tima Love Life apparel brand and Rasha was offering to help for free. She was soon helping with sales and design, then became full-time brand manager. She’s now CEO of our fitness studio brand, Studio55.

closeup of woman spinning with beach in background
Batook says Spinning taught her so much about how to overcome personal challenges

Tell us more about Tima.

FB: I have to rewind to explain how it came about. I had become very vocal about the situation in Saudi Arabia. I used Twitter as my platform, talking about how important fitness was for women – how it helped them feel better about themselves and how vital it was to addressing obesity levels, which were far higher among women than men. Women simply didn’t have the freedom to move outdoors in the way men did.

I knew all this from my own journey. When I first discovered Spinning™, I was obese. I went to a facility where Spinning was the only option and managed just 10 minutes. It was too hard and honestly, I found the concept of cycling a bike that went nowhere a bit crazy.

However, I soon realised it was a mental challenge I needed to overcome, and that if I overcame it, I would overcome it in all other parts of my life too. Spinning gave me that epiphany. It wasn’t about weight loss any more. It was about understanding myself and how to stay consistent – pedal stroke after pedal stroke – and it taught me so much about how to overcome personal challenges. I fell in love with it and wanted everyone else to experience it too.

So, I really championed fitness for women, but what surprised me was the negative feedback I got from other women. I’m not fully Saudi – my mother is Tibetan – and I was educated overseas, and I was accused of trying to corrupt young Saudi girls with my ideas. The whole system was so deeply engrained… even my family asked me to tone it down.

“We built a case to get legislation approved for women’s gyms. I expected ‘we’ll discuss it’ but straight away it was a ‘yes’”

I was ready to give up, so my friends came round to cheer me up. They were talking about cheering me on wearing Tima T-shirts – Tima is what my mother calls me, an abbreviation of Fatima. And at the mention of T-shirts, something clicked. If there’s one thing Saudi women love, it’s clothing and fashion, but at the time there was nothing in the sports apparel market that really fitted their bodies, which weren’t as active then.

I realised this was my way to connect with and speak to women. I’d just done a Piloxing course and the amazing female founder introduced me to her apparel lady in Brazil, who connected me with another lady whose factory taught women from broken homes to tailor. I always find businesses run by women have more of a mission behind them! I knew I’d found my supplier, and we launched our first apparel line in 2013.

Batook was given permission to open a women’s fitness studio and told Bubshait: ‘OK, I think we have to do this now.’

What happened next?

FB: Rasha was managing Tima and I had a full-time job, doing everything else on the side. And then suddenly all the underground gyms were closed down.

I was approached by the Young Saudi Business Women of Eastern Province Association to reach out to the Minister of Sports. We set about building a case to get legislation approved for women’s gyms and fitness facilities. We presented him with the facts and the numbers and showed there was a market – and, indeed, a real need – for it, and he said ‘yes, do it’.

I had expected the response to be more along the lines of ‘we’ll discuss it’, but straight away it was a ‘yes’. I asked him why, and why it hadn’t been done sooner – why licences had been granted for men’s gyms, but not women’s – and he told me: ‘Because nobody asked.’

So then it was over to me. He gave me a licence to make a start while government figured out the full legislation. I came back to Rasha and said: ‘OK, I think we have to do this now.’ So I quit my full-time job and we began to work on our studio concept.

And you launched Studio55…

FB: We launched our first studio, Studio55, in the city of Al Khobar in 2015. Although we had our licence from the Minister, the municipality still wanted to challenge us, so we opened in a hotel that had a licence for a female gym.

RB: The space was tiny, just under 200sq m, into which we fitted two studios – one for yoga and strength and one for Spinning. It was challenging, but it was packed full of energy. Studio55 became a place to connect with other women of all ages, share ideas, learn about fitness, take part in outings and hikes, retreats and charity events. It became a safe place for women to share and bond and grow, and even become instructors themselves.

“I asked why it hadn’t been done sooner – why licences had been granted for men’s gyms, but not women’s – and he told me: ‘Because nobody asked’.”

FB: We were adamant that we would have home-grown instructors, taking our team overseas and bringing in international trainers for education every year.

Studio55 launched in 2015, in a hotel that had a licence for a female gym

RB: Back then, it wasn’t the norm to have female Saudi instructors. At the beginning, one of our instructors didn’t even want anyone outside the studio to know she was doing it. She felt it was somehow shameful, a profession for expats, not Saudis. Now everyone is doing it. I feel as though we created a new movement.

“Studio55 became a hub of what indoor cycling had enabled in me: self-realisation and the chance for women to understand their own potential”

FB: Traditionally, women have followed the set path of high school, graduation, nice safe job, marriage, children. Today, that doesn’t have to be the case. Women can take a stand and follow their passion. Rasha is a perfect example, as is one of our instructors who became a professional boxer – and whose father now finally supports her decision.

Studio55 became a hub of what indoor cycling had enabled in me: self-realisation and the chance for women to understand their own potential. In Saudi culture, women have clearly defined roles in the family: daughter, sister, mother, aunt. Taking an hour for themselves is so empowering. The whole studio… it’s brought about a positive snowball effect of empowerment.

four girls arm in arm in front of the sea
Studio55 is a place to connect with other women of all ages – a place to share and bond and grow

Is cycling a big part of Studio55?

FB: It’s the core of what we do, what we stand for and why people come to us and are referred to us. We deliver it in a very different, very thoughtful way and people get hooked on it as an experience they can’t get anywhere else.

RB: All our classes are delivered at a very emotional level. There are physical benefits, of course, but our USP is the emotional layer – the way we feed the soul. Ride55 brings the outdoors indoors, although our approach is as much meditative and mental as it is physical. Rhythm55 is faster and more choreographed, pushing your heart rate up.

We do offer other classes, as well as personal training and EMS. We have Fusion55 classes, which combine Spinning with off-the-bike exercise. We have Fitness55, under which sit classes such as functional training, strength, yoga, stretching and so on. All have our unique Studio55 style, whereby a member can get the same experience in any of our studios. But indoor cycling is why people first come to us.

studio 55 owners in front of their sign
Studio55 has brought about a positive snowball effect of female empowerment, say its founders

FB: I have to give thanks to Barbara Chancey, who I met at a conference many years ago. She helped us create an experience that’s unlike anything else in Saudi, although we’re happy to share what we now know. Barbara understood what would work for us and helped us formulate our customer experience from pre-entry to exit. She introduced us to suppliers, to other studio owners around the world, to a booking system so members can book a specific bike and it’s set up for them before they arrive. She’s our go-to.

What’s happened since you launched?

FB: From 2015 to 2017 it was still a struggle, because even though we had a licence, the municipality wanted to close us down. Then in 2017, Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud – now Saudi ambassador to the US – was brought in to the Ministry of Sport to set up a female division. She began scouting for other women who could help, and approached us.

It was challenging. I remember going to one meeting with the Ministry of Education about mandating PE in girls’ schools, and the argument put back to us was a concern that girls would have to wear pants. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. But the Princess is an incredible woman and we learned so much about how to speak to those who really didn’t understand why women should be allowed to exercise.

Indoor bike closeup
When COVID closed the studio, bikes were sent to members’ homes that same day

By 2019, our Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud had made some really big changes, including removing people from ministerial roles who weren’t aligned with his Vision 2030 [a Saudi government programme that aims to create a vibrant and more diverse society economically, socially and culturally].

In the space of a few years, we moved from ‘girls shouldn’t wear pants’ to ‘girls should compete in the Olympics’. Women are now doing executive programmes and leading businesses. It’s impressive to see how rapidly and dramatically Saudi Arabia has changed in such a short period.

RB: From a Studio55 perspective, in early 2020 we relocated to a larger site in Al Khobar, finally with a legitimate licence. We were due to have our grand opening on 8 March. Then COVID hit and we were forced to close on 1 March.

We acted quickly. Our members had already told us Studio55 was like a home for them – a place they couldn’t imagine their lives without – so we went online that same day and sent bikes to our members’ homes. And of course, going online also meant we reached women across the country. We had messages from women in small villages telling us they could feel our energy through the screen and loved what we were doing.

And now?

FB: We had opened a second studio in Jeddah before COVID, but that’s now closed. We had to cut our losses during the pandemic. However, we still have our studio in Al Khobar and are opening in Riyadh by the end of 2023. In this new location, we’re also looking to experiment further with our fusion formats, formalising a class structure that brings together strength and CV in an interesting way.

“Maybe one day we’ll expand beyond Saudi. It feels like other countries might also benefit from what we do: female empowerment for women everywhere”

Next, we’ll look to grow into tier two cities. We’re looking at the city of Qassim, for example, which was once the most conservative in Saudi. I’m blown away by how open and innovative it is now, but women there still don’t have anything like Studio55 yet.

RB: There’s a huge opportunity to connect with these women, creating communities that empower them in the same way we already have elsewhere. And this is such a new thing in Saudi – it’s only been possible for a few years – that there’s so much room to grow.

Fitness space with indoor cycling bikes and fitness remedies
The first Studio55 is located in Al Khobar, with a Riyadh studio also opening this year

FB: The ball really is in our court now, and we have to play it – us, and the generations that follow. Ours is the generation that took the bullets. The younger generation now need to keep showing up.

And maybe one day we’ll expand beyond Saudi. Whenever international trainers experience Studio55, they tell us they’d love something like it in their countries – the UK, Australia, the US. In Saudi, our hand is forced: we have to be women-only. But it feels like other countries might also benefit from what we do: female empowerment for women everywhere. 

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