Reinventing indoor cycling
CEO, House of Workouts
”When Spinning started around 25 years ago, it was hugely popular and studios were packed,” says Renata Jarz, CEO of group exercise programming specialist House of Workouts. “But as the years have gone by it’s become skewed towards men, at least in mainstream clubs. It’s the same guys you see out on the roads, focusing on performance and metrics. It’s become a badge of honour to go as hard as possible in class.
“As the emphasis has moved in this direction, we’re seeing fewer new people coming in to the discipline. The boutiques are an exception – they’re doing well at attracting Gen Zs – but elsewhere, indoor cycling has become a love-or-hate class with the same regulars all the time. And those regulars are getting older. Younger people just aren’t gravitating towards it.
“If we want indoor cycling to thrive across the whole sector in the future, we have to do something to attract younger riders now. We need a new approach.”
This realisation led Jarz and her team to create a new programme – SclptCycle – that she describes as “a body-shaping programme that happens to be on a bike”.
She explains: “Whenever we create a new programme, our research always begins with the end user. And what we’re seeing quite clearly – both in the different cycling classes we’ve sampled and from member research at my own club – is that people don’t necessarily want to push themselves too hard.
“Younger women in particular… they want to do something, but the idea of a really tough workout stops them going to the gym at all. They want to move, but they also want to feel comfortable and have fun. They want to do things because they enjoy them, not because they feel they have to. For them, something really is better than nothing.
“They also want to feel successful from the word go. All the complex choreography we see in cycling classes… it doesn’t always work for people. It’s great for some markets – places like Amsterdam, for example – but not so good elsewhere. I call it ‘catwalk programming’. It’s up there as the exciting new concept, but it isn’t instantly ‘wearable’ outside of the big cities.
“I think that’s one of the big mistakes our sector makes: we lose sight of the consumer. People who love fitness design programmes for other people who love fitness, forgetting that this audience is relatively small.
She continues: “For SclptCycle, we took the essence of the catwalk programming – the fun, the dancing on bikes, the great music – and we modified it. We made it more accessible. We created an easy-to-follow class that’s about entertainment, fun, moving on your own terms and releasing stress, with a festival vibe courtesy of a great soundtrack.
“We’re very clear in our guidance to clubs: don’t launch SclptCycle with your regular Spin or Sprint instructors in the saddle.”
“We also made it a full-body workout by adding special tubular hand weights that you use while seated on the bike – but importantly, not while you’re pedalling. The grit inside the tubes shifts from side to side so it really works your core, not just your arms. They were designed for us by a Dutch physiotherapist and they’re great: we already use them in other House of Workouts programmes.”
A targeted audience
SclptCycle soft-launched at Saints & Stars in early September and has since been introduced at a number of clubs in the Netherlands. And the new programme is getting a lot of great feedback, says Jarz: “Younger girls and women love it. It isn’t just for women, of course – we’ve recently done a brilliant session at Nike HQ in the Netherlands, where men as well as women loved it. But we are unashamedly making women our primary audience, with branding and marketing that’s quite feminine. We’re deliberately marketing in a way that sets the right expectations, so we’re less likely to attract – and potentially then disappoint – hardcore Spinners.”
She adds: “Honestly, our sector needs to be a lot more diverse in its cycle programming. In all other group exercise disciplines, you’ll find more targeted classes. But in cycling, there still seems to be a belief that one class can fit all. It can’t. It shouldn’t even try. Not every class has to be for everyone.”
Quarterly releases of SclptCycle will encompass programming and music. “Instructor standards have sadly dropped over the last 10 years, as everyone now expects to be qualified in just a couple of days,” says Jarz. “Pre-choreographed programming helps ensure a consistent class experience.”
Alongside these quarterly releases, which all SclptCycle licence holders will receive automatically, House of Workouts will also sell special, limited edition classes via its app.
A new breed of instructor
Speaking of instructors, says Jarz, the secret of SclptCycle’s success will be very careful recruitment. “It doesn’t matter how great a programme is,” she explains. “If you market it wrong and use the wrong trainers, it won’t be successful.
“If we want to attract our intended audience to SclptCycle, hardcore has to go out the window. The whole thing has to be presented right.”
With this in mind, two-day, in-person instructor training workshops focus on fun and participant happiness rather than data. “We turn instructors into entertainers, teaching them to deliver our classes with a wink and a smile,” says Jarz. “Some people get it quicker than others, but we have tools up our sleeve to help people understand this is a new approach to cycling and they should leave all their preconceptions behind.
“We’re also very clear in our guidance to clubs: don’t launch SclptCycle with your regular Spin or Sprint instructors in the saddle. They will be too set in their ways. Bring in and train different types of people to coach this new class; you can always introduce your existing cycle instructors later, once they’ve experienced SclptCycle and are open to this new way of teaching.”
SclptCycle will be live in around 50 clubs in the Netherlands and Belgium by 1 January 2023, with BasicFit also set to introduce the class to its cycle studios in January.
“In the longer term – maybe six months to a year – we may make SclptCycle class content available digitally too, but for now it will only be available as a live class,” says Jarz. “That contact with the instructor, that social aspect… particularly for a programme like SclptCycle, that’s so important.”
THE EARLY ADOPTER
GX manager, SportCity
”We see SclptCycle as a great fit for our SportCity brand,” says Debbie Koekkoek, group exercise manager for the Netherlands-based chain of 113 health clubs.
“We’re an all-inclusive operation in the value segment and we want to make sports and fitness accessible and enjoyable to all.
“Live group exercise is an important part of what we do, and that includes our fantastic SuperCycle studios – our indoor cycling brand – where we offer freecycle classes and Les Mills RPM across the board. Some clubs also offer Les Mills Sprint.
“Compared to five years ago, though, we’re seeing indoor cycling lose ground to other types of class – mind-body, for example, which is booming across our estate. Then you look at how well the indoor cycling boutiques are doing, filling their classes throughout the day. I want more for our SuperCycle studios!
“There’s definitely a male bias among our indoor cycling regulars at the moment, so we wanted to find something that could attract a new audience, getting more women into the studio. We’re proud to be the first sports club chain to introduce SclptCycle to the Dutch fitness market.”
“I’m not normally an indoor cycling fan, but this is different. You almost forget it’s a cycling class!”
A true fusion class
Koekkoek continues: “I’d been searching for something new to introduce to our SuperCycle studios and I heard about a new programme: SclptCycle. I went to a trial class at House of Workouts and was immediately very enthusiastic about it.
“I’m not normally an indoor cycling fan, but this is different. You almost forget it’s a cycling class! Our other cycling classes are all about cardio. SclptCycle is a total body workout. It’s a total experience.
“Having done boutique cycle classes where you use light weights while pedalling, I was surprised when in SclptCycle we suddenly turned up the resistance as high as possible – so we couldn’t pedal – and picked up the resistance training tubes. I know these tubes from the BRN classes we already offer at our clubs – another House of Workouts programme – and they give your upper body and core a seriously good workout. I think it’s brilliant to introduce them into the cycling studio. It ensures SclptCycle is a true fusion class, not just about the bike.
“And that’s why I love it, and why I believe it could be just what we’ve been looking for: the concept that brings more people, and especially women, into our cycling studios.”
Time to think different
“By the end of 2022, SclptCycle will be available in multiple SportCity locations,” says Koekkoek. “Classes will be led by SportCity instructors who haven’t previously been indoor cycling instructors. They currently teach classes such as BRN or BodyShape and they’re all enthusiastic about teaching SclptCycle. I truly believe their regulars will follow them into the cycling studio.
“Because the way we’re talking about SclptCycle, it will appeal to a new audience: it’s a party on a bike, a full-body workout, a calorie-burner. It’s a class where you use the bike as just one of the tools to achieve a fantastic full-body workout that’s also great fun, with great music and great lighting.
“If it turns out our regular cyclists also love the class, with its 45-minute format complementing the 60- and 30-minute classes already on our timetable, that’s a positive outcome too. But it is something a bit different and I fully expect it to bring new people to group cycling.”
Uffe A Olesen
CEO, BODY BIKE International
”BODY BIKE is thrilled to be selected by House of Workouts as the preferred bike for its fantastic new SclptCycle programme,” says BODY BIKE CEO Uffe A Olesen.
“As soon as we met with Renata and her team at House of Workouts, we knew this was something we wanted to be part of. Their passion is so infectious. The way they see things so fresh and exciting. Their desire to do things differently so creative and inspiring.
“And over-arching all of this is a wonderful, overwhelming sense of fun in everything they do, including this vibrant, positive, life-affirming new indoor cycling programme. It feels like no coincidence that SclptCycle has come out of party-loving Holland! Who wouldn’t want to be part of this?”
He adds: “With so much stress and negativity in all of our lives right now, SclptCycle is a programme the world really, really needs. It isn’t about stats. It isn’t about pressure to perform. It isn’t about comparing yourself to others in the room. It’s about happiness, escapism and fun”.
“I believe it has all the ingredients to be the next global fitness phenomenon.”
“There’s an overwhelming sense of fun in this vibrant, positive, life-affirming new programme”
Working in synergy
Olesen continues: “Beyond the SclptCycle programme, there are also lovely synergies between BODY BIKE and House of Workouts that make our partnership very natural.
“Both of us are based in Europe, where we build things that last; our shared passion for indoor cycling is matched only by our mutual determination to achieve the highest possible quality in everything we do.
“Renata wanted a bike that would provide an exceptional ride class after class, year after year. BODY BIKE delivers on that.
“Our companies both have strong environmental and social agendas too, including a focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace: we both employ people with disabilities in our manufacturing processes. Meanwhile, BODY BIKE Smart+ OceanIX is built using plastic from recycled fishing nets – we’re working on other sustainable products as we speak – and House of Workouts’ weighted tube, the other piece of equipment used in SclptCycle, is manufactured using recycled aluminium. The plastic will soon be recycled too.
“It feels like no coincidence that SclptCycle has come out of party-loving Holland! Who wouldn’t want to be part of this?”
“Those tubes are available in all sorts of colours and can be branded or have slogans put on them – yet another opportunity to have fun when delivering SclptCycle in your club. Meanwhile, BODY BIKE’s covers are available in 10 colours and can accommodate all sorts of branding and imagery to create a studio with a real wow factor.
“Together, BODY BIKE and House of Workouts want to bring new life to cycling studios by making indoor cycling fun again – through the programming, the environment, the marketing, the instruction, and of course the ride.”
BODY BIKE and House of Workouts will be together at FIBO 2023, offering a chance to see SclptCycle in action. “Make a date for 13–16 April, Exhibition Centre Cologne, to visit a very special stand indeed,” says Olesen. “Hall 6, stand A13… Meet us in the woods!”