Tag: Music & programming

Reinventing indoor cycling


Renata Jarz
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.”

Woman taking selfie in fitness room
“Younger women want to feel comfortable and have fun, doing things because they enjoy them”

User-centric programming

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.

Sclpt cycle programme
SclptCycle’s launch party took place at Holy Ride in Amsterdam

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.”

Growth plans

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.”





Debbie Koekkoek
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.”

SuperCycle is SportCity’s cycle studio brand, where the timetable already includes SclptCycle

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.”


Sclpt Cycle
SportCity is keen to attract more women into its cycling studios



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?”

Sclpt cycle class
BODY BIKE has been selected by House of Workouts to be the preferred bike for its SclptCycle programme

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.

BODY BIKE® top covers
BODY BIKE® offers all sorts of options to incorporate branding, imagery and colours to create a studio with a real wow factor

“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!”

Tim Graham

What’s the story behind Integrity?

In 2005 – aged 35 and not having exercised since my teens – a friend got me into group exercise at a big box gym. I loved it. By 2007, I’d qualified as a Body Pump instructor, and by 2009 I was instructing RPM too.

By 2010, I was looking for more of a creative outlet and got into freestyle classes, then in 2012 I decided to break away from the big box gym environment. I wanted more of a connection with the people in my classes: to know names and stories, not just faces.

I joined forces with a few friends – in fact, there were 15 of us when we started! – to create Integrity. The name is inspired by the word ‘integer’, which means a whole number, undivided, a thing that’s complete in itself. That’s how we see group exercise: a strong community where you all come together as one. A real club.

We launched in 2012 with some pre-choreographed classes – we were the first in the state of Victoria to offer Les Mills GRIT and SPRINT – and then, in 2017, started getting more creative, adding in things like TRX, yoga and MMA.

By 2018 – although we do still offer barbell and conditioning classes to meet member demand – we’d reined it back in to focus on cycling as our bread and butter, including another first: we were the first club in Australia to launch Intelligent Cycling.

Around 80% of all classes fall into the Rhythm category – “a nice, low-tech disconnect”

We’d also begun to offer more experiences, including rooftop rides and member road trips where we check out other studios and classes further afield. It’s all about building that sense of involvement, belonging and community.

What programmes do you offer now?

We run around 20 classes a week; if they sell out, we add more. Of these 20-ish classes, around 80 per cent are cycling, which I’ve recently categorised into four groups.

The first is Rhythm, which spans all our ‘intervals choreographed to music’ formats. We’re all qualified Spinning instructors, so that shapes some of these classes. But we’ve also signed up to A STATE OF RIDE (ASOR) which, although pre-choreographed, offers a reasonable level of flexibility.

The second category is Immersive, which includes Intelligent Cycling’s The Journey – where you cycle through a virtual world on the big screen – and our LIT! class, which I’ll tell you more about in a minute.

Thirdly, we have HIIT, which at the moment tends to be either intervals or time trials. We often use Intelligent Cycling here, too, putting the timer or performance stats on-screen. People love knowing what’s coming up next so they know how hard to push, plus we’ve found younger members in particular really engage with anything that involves a screen.

“Our members are hugely loyal. If you think about watching the soccer, with the home fans going mad behind the goal, that’s our members”

And finally, there’s a category I’m calling Competitive, which we’re still developing. We’ll definitely be bringing Zwift into the studio, though, creating an experience that uses our big screen as well as members’ phones. It could be power profile training – something we might even charge a premium for – or it could be more about social Zwift races. I don’t know yet. I don’t tend to design something and then build exactly that. My creative process is more like painting, where you start putting things down and then keep experimenting and building on what you’ve done until it’s finished.

Which are your most popular classes?

Around 80 per cent of our cycling classes fall into the Rhythm category. We offer the other stuff too – scattered throughout the week to hit different day parts and different members – because if you do group exercise for long enough, you will get bored and you’ll want some variety. But I think Rhythm formats – and, for that matter, cardio in general – have had a bad rap over recent years. It’s actually a really nice, low-tech disconnect – away from measurement and numbers and visual overload – and it’s still our main focus.

Our rooftop rides are especially popular, selling out every time. We only do them once a year though, at the beginning of spring, because taking bikes to the top of the tallest building in town is no small task!

Why aren’t all your classes freestyle?

You need experience to deliver a great freestyle class, and there are only three of us original founders left. For any new instructor coming in to the business, it’s great to have pre-choreographed content – ASOR – to learn the ropes. You can then move on to Intelligent Cycling, where you get to choreograph but don’t have to remember it all as the system prompts you, before progressing to freestyle.

Instructing a good freestyle class requires experience, says Graham

Intelligent Cycling, to me, is almost perfect, not least because you choose your own music. I carefully match music to the virtual world we’re cycling through. For the aerial world with the dragons, for example, I choose very cinematic music mixed with rap for contrast. For space, I pick space-themed songs mixed with futuristic techno music. For the dinosaur-filled jungles, I choose world music, bongos, digeridoos.

I’d like a bit more scope to dictate the content of the virtual worlds themselves, but the Intelligent Cycling team tells me I’m more creative than the average customer! Some of my ideas have landed, though – the road now sets on fire when you’re in the highest zone, for example, which was my suggestion – so I’m going to keep chipping away!

Your members also influence your music choice. How?

I’ve created something I call ‘Algorhythm’, which allows members to influence the music in class without directly asking me to play a specific track, which likely wouldn’t be right for a cycling workout.

Any member who uses Spotify gives me the playlists it suggests for them based on what they’ve listened to – Discover Weekly, for example. Algorhythm then puts all these tracks through an algorithm I’ve set up – a ‘what I think works for indoor cycling’ filter – which uses information Spotify can tell us about each track: its energy, dance-ability, how acoustic it is, how instrumental, how happy…

Off the back of this, Algorhythm automatically gives me a weekly shortlist of 100 songs in Spotify – songs that will appeal to members and that will work for indoor cycling. I listen to them and hit ‘like’ on the ones I want to use; I normally keep around 10 per cent. In this way, our members contribute to the music at the club just by listening to Spotify.

Over time, the AI behind Algorhythm also builds up libraries of my ‘liked’ songs that match specific criteria: high-energy, instrumental, 80 RPM intervals and so on. It means I can easily find exactly what I need, knowing the members have also recommended it and I like it.

Integrity’s highly engaged member base financially supported the club through lockdown

It’s transformed our approach to music and our younger members in particular love it – good news, as attracting younger members was a key driver. Older members are 50/50, but only because they miss tunes that have become familiar. They’ll get new favourites soon though – we only launched Algorhythm this year – because older tracks still get through. It’s purely about how a song feels. It’s nothing to do with genre, era or artist.

I can see us commercialising this system in the future. The filter would probably just need to be set up differently for each club, as everyone will have a different view on what makes for perfect indoor cycling music.

You’ve created your own AV system too. Tell us more.

I’ve always found lighting systems to be a backdrop or even a distraction in-class, but felt they could be so much more. I then had a dream about a class with fantastic lighting and I started looking into what I’d need to do to make it happen.

Most lights cost around A$600 each, but I found some for A$30 each on one of those bargain websites and bought 60 of them! I had them all on my kitchen table, trying to figure out how to use them, and found some equipment that allowed me to synchronise the lights to music.

I also found a guy in the US – a lighting director in a church where they regularly had Christian rockbands with thousands attending – and he’d written his own software for the lighting. I bought it, and it allows me to send specific instructions to each individual light for every split-second of every song: when to pulse, strobe, what colour to turn and so on. We have around 5,000 data points flying around the studio for every split-second of music.

We created the whole system for A$3,000, plus A$2,000 for a new computer, with members funding it entirely with donations just because they knew it would be great. The tradespeople among our membership then helped me build it into the studio.

“It takes around 15 hours per song to choreograph the lights to the music, so we only do this for our LIT! class, which we treat more like an event than a normal class”

It takes around 15 hours per song to choreograph the lights to the music, by the time you’ve worked out what you want the lights to do, then programmed them to do that. So we only do this for our LIT! class, which we treat more like an event than a normal class, running it about once a month. We use the same soundtrack and lighting choreography for about six months, putting LIT! in different places on the timetable so different members get to experience it.

Integrety Fitness
Graham built Integrity’s AV system for A$3,000, all funded by members

I deliberately pick songs with lots of interesting elements I can attach lighting to – drops, fade and explode, cool sound effects, strong snare drum and so on – so the lighting becomes almost as important as the music. It’s a really immersive experience.

Tell us more about your community.

We’re tiny. We have 150–200 members visiting our 200sq m studio in the basement of a building, with classes typically catering for 15–20 people. But our members are hugely loyal. The way I talk about them: if you think about watching the soccer, with the home fans going mad behind the goal, that’s our members!

Most sign up to an unlimited class package, which at A$40 a week places us in the mid-market. And they get really into it. Some people come a couple of times a week, some six or seven, but our average is around four weekly visits per member.

Ballarat is hugely competitive for fitness, so it’s hard to get new people in, but we fill lower performing classes using a pay as you go model. Many of these customers ultimately convert to membership.

If people are new to cycling, I’ll spend some time one-to-one with them, getting them to sit on the bike and pedal while they chat to me. We’ll then talk about riding to a rhythm, standing in the pedals and so on, and I’ll tell them when they’re ready for class. Ours isn’t a huge club, so I don’t spend too many hours a week doing this, but if you throw someone straight into a class and they have a bad experience, they’ll never come back. You have to look at the potential lifetime value of each member. You have to invest in their future membership.

In the process, I get to know all about them, their families, their dogs! It builds community and is a good model for a small club like ours.

And when we’re in class together, it really is a community. Old or young, we’re in it together. Actually, I think our older members enjoy the energy the younger ones bring.

And we have managed to get younger people in. This generation is so swayed by Instagram, they feel they have to look perfect. We focus on providing a ‘pressure off’ experience – we’re clear you don’t have to be superhuman at Integrity – and we’ve gained a few what I call ‘refugees’ escaping that pressure they felt at other clubs.

How have you fared during COVID?

We’ve had five lockdowns now: one big one and then a series of shorter ones. The fifth ended today [interview conducted 27 July 2021] so we’re back to class tomorrow.

So far, though, we’ve been OK financially. All our members have carried on paying throughout – they’ve wanted to do whatever they could to support us – and we’ve had some assistance too.

Graham’s advanced lighting system was built on his kitchen table

On day one, we sent equipment out to everyone who wanted it, from bikes to barbells. Others were happy doing yoga, so only needed mats. And some wanted to buy their own bikes; I got them a good deal with BODY BIKE and put the bikes together for them, delivering them to their houses.

Days two to four, we set ourselves up to live-stream using a platform called dacast.com, where you can live-stream to a schedule in a password-protected area behind your website. That allowed us to take advantage of a six-month music streaming licence from OneMusic Australia, so we didn’t fall foul of any music rights – one of the biggest headaches with online provision. We’ve live-streamed our way through every lockdown.

“We’re clear you don’t have to be superhuman at Integrity and we’ve gained a few what I call ‘refugees’ escaping that pressure they felt at other clubs”

Then each time we’ve re-opened, members have come straight back, even when all we could offer were classes in the car park. Honestly, I think they’d come back even if we were just doing runs up and down the street! And when we were able to move back indoors, we were pretty much back to normal: our classes have always been small, so our capacity has been unaffected by COVID restrictions.

What are your plans for Integrity moving forward?

Everything we do works, but it’s bootstrapped. I’d love to streamline our AV so the systems are easy for everyone to use, not just me.

I’m looking into video mapping, potentially putting 3D objects – big spheres and things – into the studio to project video onto.

Members have come back to the club as soon as each lockdown has eased

And I’d love to get a bigger, high definition screen. We have a 4m projection system at the moment – the projector we got for free from a local school that was closing down – but I’d love to upgrade that system to make it even more immersive.

I also want to see how far we can take the immersive side of things. Each bike has a spotlight above it, so what if we could link our lighting to individual cyclists’ wattage or cadence? If we can, it paves the way for games during class where performance data controls the lights in a fun, competitive way.

We could have red versus green teams in a sprint, for example, where you have to sprint when the light above you turns white; your turn ends when your wattage drops too low and your light turns back to red or green. Or we could do ‘tug of war’, where if you aren’t pedalling hard enough you’re lost to the other side and your light changes colour to bring you into their team.

There’s so much I want to explore. I just have to find the time! And I’d love to see the rest of the indoor cycling sector follow suit. Why should everything be controlled by a few big global organisations? Let’s get creative as a community, trying new things out and seeing what flowers.

Mix & Match

When Barry’s, famous for its bootcamp classes, launched two Barry’s Ride cycling studio pop-ups earlier this year, it sent ripples across the sector.

With Peloton and other home bikes commanding more and more interest, some had felt the future of the indoor cycling sector might find itself squarely in the at-home space. But the arrival of Barry’s into the studio cycling market? That flew in the face of such assumptions and caused a frisson of excitement.

“I tried Barry’s Ride and it’s like if your favourite cycling class and HIIT class got married,” enthused one NYC-based fitness editor.

Cycling isn’t dead. Innovate and it could bring a new appeal to studio classes

Barry’s had successfully brought its tried and tested formula – cardio + ‘body part of the day’ resistance – to the world of cycling, with 25-30 minutes on the bike followed by 25-30 minutes’ floor workout, all wrapped up in the brand’s inimitable style.

“Cycling certainly isn’t dead. It’s increasingly happening at home rather than in-studio, but innovate and it could bring a new appeal to studio classes,” observed Jon Canarick, MD of North Castle Partners – investor in both Barry’s and Peloton rival Echelon – at the time of the launch.

It’s an understatement to say that much has happened in the months since those NYC and LA pop-ups. However, what’s also true is that the appeal of studio classes remains, even in this post-COVID era.

Studio capacity may be limited for the time being. Nervous exercisers may be sticking with at-home exercise for now. But demand for the live GX experience is very much there; speaking to numerous operators around the world, it is group classes specifically that are causing the headaches when it comes to demand vs currently-possible supply.

All of which is good news for the indoor cycling sector, and a reason to keep innovating. We take a look at just a few of the many other great examples of fusion classes on offer around the world.

FIRE Fitness – Malaysia

“To create a powerful boutique experience, you have to offer something unique, something clients won’t be able to find anywhere else. With this in mind, 80 per cent of our signature classes are fusion: STRIDE (treadmill running + weight training and bodyweight movement); STRIKE (boxing + weight training and bodyweight movement); RIDE YOGA; RIDE HIIT; and FIRE BARRE (ballet-inspired class with HIIT exercises). Then there’s FORCE, which focuses purely on strength and conditioning.

“Our RIDE YOGA classes – of which we offer four a week, alongside 12 RIDE HIIT classes – combine the thrill of HIIT cycling with the calm of yoga and all the associated benefits of flexibility, such as injury prevention.

RIDE YOGA goes beyond the physical: it’s the yang and yin of the indoor cycling genre

“A standard 45-minute cycle class will focus on building cardio fitness and calorie burn. A 30-minute RIDE class with a focus on HIIT, followed up with some power yoga, can achieve the same calorie-burning benefits. But RIDE YOGA goes beyond the physical: the mental benefits of pushing yourself on the bike, followed by the calm focus of yoga, is a perfect combination both physically and mentally. I like to call it the yang and yin of the indoor cycling genre.

“RIDE YOGA has been very successful in bringing new audiences to yoga: athletes who previously focused solely on their fitness and strength, never considering that they might enjoy yoga, which is such an amazing way to channel focus and calm and build flexibility. Our trainers are well-versed in catering for all experience levels, and it’s been exciting to see people who joined a RIDE YOGA class with zero yoga experience going on to join full yoga classes.

“Our classes are unapologetically geared towards results, which is ultimately what our clients want. They aren’t easy, but our trainers are highly motivating and it’s a very contagious environment to be in.

“All our RIDE YOGA classes are at 100 per cent capacity, with waitlists. Yes, right now we are managing a PC (post-COVID) capacity of 75 per cent, but even prior to COVID the classes were at 100 per cent. It a very time-efficient, results-focused workout – in 45 minutes you train cardio, strength, core and flexibility – plus every workout is different, which keeps it interesting for clients.

“We would love to add more RIDE YOGA classes to the timetable; the challenge is finding cycling instructors who are also qualified yoga teachers.”

Tracy Minnoch-Nuku
Creative Director, FIRE Fitness

H2L Studio – Pennsylvania, US

“Before COVID, almost half of the cycle classes on our multi-discipline timetable were combo classes: Cycle+Core, Cycle+TRX, Cycle+Bootcamp, Cycle+Yoga HIIT and Cycle+Power TRX. We even added a few ‘triple threat’ classes: Cycle+Bootcamp+Core, for example, with the last few minutes dedicated to core work.

“We scaled these classes back a bit when we re-opened, but everyone’s asking for them back, so I imagine we’ll get back to a similar level in the not too distant future.

“We start all combos with a 30-minute cycle class. It’s a great way to get everyone warmed up before moving to the next room for the second portion: 15 minutes for core; 20 minutes for TRX and Bootcamp; 30 minutes for Yoga HIT, to include some relaxation at the end.

“And then all the combos end with a good stretch. Our goal is for people to leave feeling they got a good, intense workout, but also relaxed and refreshed rather than exhausted.

“We love normal cycle classes, don’t get us wrong, but the combo classes really are a ‘bang for your buck’ kind of set up. You get some good cardiovascular work and some intense but intentional muscle toning work, and you’re still out of the door in 60 minutes or less.

When you sandwich things together in shorter, less intimidating sections, it encourages people to try new things

“These classes are very popular among those who can’t make it to the studio as often, because they get two workouts in one. And generally, people love them because they feel they’re really getting their money’s worth.

“That’s important, because today’s clients are looking for instant gratification: they want to feel what they worked on when they walk out to their cars. They want that intense burn. Combo classes are great for this.

“It’s also the case that some people simply don’t enjoy 45 or 60 minutes of the same type of activity. In our combos, right as they are thinking: ‘OK, how much longer do we have to cycle?’ you have them off the bikes and onto the mats. Clients always say they like these classes because they never get bored. By combining two modalities, you keep their interest for longer.

“We get the people who don’t normally cycle too, as well as the people who usually only cycle. When you sandwich things together in shorter, less intimidating sections, it allows you to show what else you are made of and encourages people to try new things. And of course, everything can be modified for newcomers and made more challenging for veteran clients.

“The only downfall of these combo classes, at least in our set-up, is that you’re taking up two spaces during some of the more popular slots. However, our clients don’t seem to mind: they plan their week around the timetable.

“If you have a lot of local competitors, adding combo classes can be a fun way to make your studio stand out. You become a one-stop shop.”

Courtney Farinelli
Studio manager, H2L Studio

Club Soulgenic – Jersey, British Isles

“We’ve deliberately given our fusion class its own trademarked brand: Gearsngloves.

“The class is a combination of boxing and indoor cycling, with two instructors in the class: our ‘double trouble’ concept! One instructor leads the boxing, the other the cycling.

“Although boxing and cycling are obviously quite distinct genres, we retain the same atmosphere throughout the class thanks to the interaction of the class instructors and the music.

“The 50-minute class consists of a five-minute warm-up as one group. Participants then split into two groups, with one group boxing and one group cycling for 20 minutes. They then switch and do the other discipline for 20 minutes, before coming back together as one group for a final five minutes of core and stretching.

“It’s a seriously high-energy class, with a funky playlist and big results – all using MYZONE to track performance – and it’s absolutely exploded. It’s our most popular class by a country mile.

Gearsngloves runs at nothing less than 90 per cent capacity, even though it’s twice the price of our other classes

“The physical benefits are huge: boxing for the upper body and cycling for the lower body, with a great combination of cardio and strength/power. It’s targeted at the fitter population of our club and people who want a challenge, and our members have told us it’s the perfect workout. Plus it’s fun: the variety and the fun factor is 100 per cent a winning formula.

“We offer seven Gearsngloves classes each week, one a day, as part of a wider timetable of around 60 classes including ‘normal’ cycling classes. Gearsngloves runs at nothing less than 90 per cent capacity, and when the classes run at peak times, they have a longer than average waiting list. This in spite of the fact that Gearsngloves is twice the price of all our other classes.

“We now want to take Gearsngloves out of Jersey into a major city in the UK. We think, as a standalone boutique concept, it has serious potential. We also think community will be prized more than ever after all of our experiences of lockdown.

“We know where we want to find a site, but I don’t want to say too much yet. We are open to an investor coming in with us for this and may eventually offer it as a franchise option.”

Dr Glenda Rivoallan
Founder, Club Soulgenic

Fusion @ home

What COVID-19 has taught us all is how to exercise from home.

In the process, we’ve developed a taste for digital fitness. We’ve had our eyes opened to the quality and quantity of exercise content in this online world. We’ve experienced brands’ top instructors. We’ve found ourselves pleasantly surprised by the experience.

Fitness was always moving in this direction – even pre-COVID, on-demand fitness was experiencing huge growth – but the crisis has unquestionably accelerated things. Most operators now acknowledge that a digital facet to the member experience is a must: not a replacement for the live experience, but a positive complement for the days when life/work get in the way of your gym visit.

Imagine today is one of those days. You were hoping to do a cycling fusion class at your club, but now you can’t make it. How do you replicate that at home – or indeed in any other non-instructor-led environment, from office spaces to hotel fitness suites to unmanned gym floors?

SWITCH is the perfect tool for digital ‘fitness snacking’, enabling DIY fusion classes

Where do you go for an expert-led workout that fuses cycling with a second, complementary floor-based class – and potentially even a third, combining cycling with, say, strength and stretching – all within the 45 minutes you’ve allocated to your workout?

Step forward Body Bike SMART+ SWITCH. With its 21-inch, 180°-rotating touchscreen, this new indoor cycle allows users to flip easily between cycling workouts on the bike and floor-based workouts in front of it – all led by top instructors from around the world.

Created in collaboration with digital fitness expert Wexer, SWITCH’s screen comes pre-loaded with over 600 music licence-free, on-demand classes. There are 100+ cycling classes, but also hundreds of other workout possibilities spanning everything from yoga to stretching, strength to HIIT, meditation to dance.

Around 60 per cent of the virtual cycling classes are 30 minutes or under; over 20 per cent of these classes come in at 20 minutes or less. Floor-based classes follow suit – and in fact, there’s a great selection of even shorter classes too (10 minutes and under), from stretching, foam rolling and meditation to short format strength and conditioning.

With shorter format classes already emerging as popular options among users, SWITCH is the perfect tool for digital ‘fitness snacking’, enabling DIY fusion classes that still deliver a polished, professional experience.

Music maestros

When creating playlists for your workouts, what music rights do you need to secure?
JJ: We have to clear both the publishing and master rights. The underlying composition – lyrics, sheet music, melody and everything else that goes into writing the song – is the publishing side. The master rights belong to the label – the record company that paid the artist to come in and make the recording.

I look after the major labels and have relationships with Sony, Warner and Universal. We request tracks in batches and the labels give us feedback: yes, no, maybe but there are additional side artists who need to be cleared. We feed that back to the programme directors, they make a few more track suggestions if needed, and we keep working through until we have a confirmed track list.

It can take up to nine months to work through a contract for one song

KF: In addition to the major labels, we also touched about 295 independent labels last year. To some of them, I just send two or three emails a quarter, each with a list of songs, and they let me know if they can clear them – and that’s it done. But in this age of streaming, I’m often liaising with people I’ve never spoken to before, right through to “I’m the person making my music in my bedroom and I’m repping myself”. That’s quite cool – they’re always excited that their music is being heard and happy to make some money from it.

But it can be hard to get hold of people, as well as to work through the inevitable language barriers when you do get hold of them. At times, I even have to start from the beginning, explaining what group exercise is and where music fits in to that. It can take up to nine months to work through a contract for one song.

What’s your approach to selecting music for each new quarterly release?
JJ: Around 12 weeks out from filming, the programme directors will provide us with their wish list of songs.

KF: Taking BODYPUMP as an example, we need 12 songs for each release, but we might start with a list of 40, working out which label they all belong to.

JJ: That can be tricky: there might be one label that controls the master, but we also need to get permission from the featured artist.

KF: Or there might be one label that controls the song in North America and another that controls the song for the rest of the world. We have to speak to both labels, because we need our instructors across the globe to be able to use the same song.

JJ: There might be a few songs we immediately know we won’t be able to license, which can be for a number of reasons: banned artists, uncleared samples that we know the label won’t approve, bootleg remixes from YouTube that are free to download but not an official, licensable song.

KF: That said, the labels sometimes keep working away at it behind the scenes. There was one song we eventually got into BODYPUMP – Company, by Baauer – that we had requested about three times. We could never use it, because it had an uncleared sample, but about a year later the label came back to us to say they had cleared it. We don’t always still want a track by then – they don’t always stay fresh and we might have found an alternative – but it just shows that things do sometimes come good.


If you use a track across lots of programmes, do you just pay once?
JJ: Sadly not. If we’re using a track in two different programmes, we have to pay twice – there are no bulk purchase discounts in music. If anything, negotiations are harder the second time around: they know we’re super keen, so we often struggle to get a track at the same price we purchased it for originally.

Do you ever get approval for one programme and not for another?
JJ: It can happen from time to time. Sometimes artists may not be willing to grant rights across multiple programmes, while some may have requirements that one programme meets but another doesn’t, so we will be restricted to just the one.

KF: We keep a comprehensive list of limitations, so we can let the programme directors know straight away if they can or can’t use a song or – if they’re going to use it – what they can and can’t do with it.

Les Mills music experts Josh James and Kendall Farmer

What are the original tracks that feature in your playlists?
JJ: Les Mills Originals are pieces of music that we commission. We work with music producers to develop these tracks and we control the rights to them.
Sometimes artists approach us with their music; if they fit our requirements, we purchase them and develop them as LMOs. Sometimes we need to create tracks for very specific requirements: to accompany a particular move, for example, or where we need added features such as voiceovers or countdowns in the track.

Once all this is done, is there anything left for the clubs to negotiate?
JJ: There is, yes. For all the licensed, original artist recordings we use in our live class playlists, we secure the necessary rights to include the music on those playlists. However, individual clubs will still need to obtain a Public Performance licence from the relevant local societies to play the music in their club.

Essentially, to play any music in their facilities, clubs need to take care of two different licences: public performance of the master, and public performance of the musical composition. It’s down to each venue to secure the correct public performance licences.

How much do the licensing rules vary from country to country?
JJ: From our side of things – negotiating the publishing and master rights – the process is pretty standard. We’ll be dealing with different people for different countries, but the principles are the same.
However, Public Performance licensing for fitness facilities varies from country to country. These licences are issued by local copyright collection societies, so how clubs and facilities are charged depends on where they are in the world. In some countries, there’s a single fee that covers both the public performance licences, but in some situations, it’s charged based on a club’s floor area or number of classes.

The secret is to find tracks that are unique to the essence of the programme

Another example: in the UK, a club will need to obtain a public performance licence from both the local society representing the record labels (PPL in the UK) and the local society representing the publisher/writers – that is, the owners of the rights to the lyrics/composition (PRS in the UK). In the US, on the other hand, the requirement to obtain a public performance licence in relation to original artist recordings does not exist – the only requirement is to obtain a public performance licence from the societies representing the publishers/writers.

Clubs and facilities should make sure they are aware of what’s required in their location, and be in touch with their local society or societies to ensure they are covered.

The final thing to mention here is that all of this applies to our live class playlists. For Les Mills Virtual, we only use cover recordings that we own. This means that, for our virtual classes, a club needs only obtain a public performance licence from the local society representing the publisher/writers.

What do you love most about your job?
JJ: Lots of things!

I love it when, from time to time, our programme directors come to us with a track wish list and I ask myself: ‘How on earth are they going to make that work?’ Then, a few months later, that track will be playing during my workout and I have that ‘a-ha’ moment when I experience how it works with the choreography and I can see all the other participants around me enjoying it too.

I’m also grateful to be able to work for a company that influences people’s lives in such a positive way.

How do you create the perfect cycling class playlist?
Glen Ostergaard, programme director for the Les Mills cycle classes RPM and SPRINT, is the master when it comes to creating the perfect cycling class playlist.

Asked what he believes it takes to put a great playlist together, Glen’s response is that it all comes down to having the mental space and time to be creative with each release: “The secret is to find tracks that are unique to the essence of the programme, and there’s a bit of secret science to it. At the very basic level, the songs need to be uplifting and fun, and from a variety of musical genres.”

With that variety in mind, Glen doesn’t have one personal favourite type of music: “I always love the music I’m working with for the current releases, as that is what’s freshest, most current and what I find most inspiring at the time.”

Glen Ostergaard

I got Rhythm

It’s Friday 25 October and I’m at David Lloyd Derby – a club of which I am, in fact, a member – to take part in a pre-launch masterclass for Rhythm, one of the operator’s new signature cycling classes.

I’m looking forward to it. Of the two new classes – Rhythm and what will, come next year, be called Cyclone – Rhythm is the one I’m guessing will best suit my indoor cycling preferences. I’m expecting something SoulCycle-esque, focused on music and the feelgood factor.

I’m also looking forward to it because this isn’t the first time David Lloyd has launched a club-in-club, boutique-style concept. I’m already a huge fan of Blaze, its heart rate-based HIIT offering: think darkened room, music and lighting synced to the workout, three rows of eight stations – treadmills, weight benches, punch bags – and specially trained instructors. It’s superb and, if not wildly dissimilar from other boutique offerings out there, it’s available as part of my membership. That gets a big thumbs-up from me, and it seems from other members too: Blaze has 22,000 unique users every month across the 63 clubs currently offering it, with an astonishing 99 per cent of users ‘very happy’ with their instructor in member satisfaction surveys. Perhaps little surprise, then, that David Lloyd Clubs has recently announced plans to open standalone Blaze studios too.

So, I’m expecting good things of the new cycling classes, both of which are due for imminent launch at the Derby club; it will, in fact, be the first club in the country to launch both Rhythm and Cyclone at the same time.

Into the saddle

As I walk in to the cycling studio, it’s clear it has had a refurb and a new AV system since I was last in there: the sound is great and the new lighting, I’m told afterwards, is Stages Flight intensity lighting.

More of Stages Flight in a moment… For now, it’s all about Rhythm.

From the outset there is, as I expected, something distinctly SoulCycle-esque about the set-up, from the helpful welcome and assistance from a bubbly instructor, to the darkened room and candles on-stage, to the music already pumping out to create a party vibe.

And I have to say SJ – the former dancer turned master trainer running the class – is exceptional in her direction and motivational skills. There’s an infectious enthusiasm, a great balance between encouragement to push and encouragement to let it all go, and a flow between bike and floor-walking that felt really natural. Let’s hope the instructor auditions uncover similar superstars for Derby!

while there is a bit of choreography going on, it isn’t so much as to make me feel unable to do it.

But once the class really gets going, differences start to emerge – and they are differences I rather like. First of all, while there is a bit of choreography going on, it isn’t so much as to make me feel uncoordinated or unable to do it. There’s no watching in awe as front-row regulars do double-time tapbacks while I have to settle for pedalling to the beat. That does two things for me: firstly, I feel more motivated to keep going; and secondly, it allows me to focus more on my workout.

And this is the other big difference for me: the workout. While this is a rhythm-based class, I feel like there’s a greater emphasis on performance than I’ve found in some other ‘party on a bike’ rides. We’re talking intervals, hill climbs, pushing the resistance right up to your own personal 100 per cent at times. Annoyingly I’d left the belt part of my MYZONE at home, but others using theirs were, at the end of the class, surprised to see how much of their workout had been in the yellow or even red zones – surprised because it had still felt like fun.

So the programme gets a thumbs-up from me. If I had to be critical, there is one element I think I would remove: the hand weights track. In Rhythm, you stop pedalling for this – a good call – but in that case, does the workout even need it? For me, it was a fantastic cycling class. While I appreciate the hand weights track was there for active recovery before the last big push, I think I’d have preferred to have another great cycling track – and this from someone who’s far from a cycling purist.

But that’s just my opinion. And of course, once Rhythm has been fully launched, if I do feel I want more cycling I can always opt for a 55-minute class instead of this 45-minute one; incidentally, 30-minute formats will also be available.

david lloyd derby indoor cycling conceptRhythm roll-out

Marie Graham is David Lloyd’s product head for cycling. She explains: “We’ve created the concept, product, programming and instructor training for Rhythm, as well as the ongoing education, and it will be a David Lloyd signature product that’s available only at our clubs. By the end of 2019, Rhythm will have launched in 25 clubs in the UK and Europe, with plans to roll it out to a further 23 clubs throughout 2020.”

a cycle class can be an emotional, musical journey, but it can also be stats- and performance-based.

But what David Lloyd has sensibly done is steer away from being a one-trick pony, complementing Rhythm with a performance brand – Cyclone – under which it will be offering a range of stats-focused, power-based classes.

“The ultimate goal is to get more people into the cycle studio, and that means getting past people’s misconceptions of what a cycle class is,” says Graham. “It can be different things: it can be an emotional, musical journey, but it can also be stats- and performance-based. Our two new products reflect this.”

Neither is Cyclone a ‘one size fits all’ format, instead offering a range of options from which instructors can choose: HIIT, aerobic training, endurance training, and even advanced performance-based rides.

Importantly, as with Rhythm, these classes are designed to be inclusive and achievable, not just for elite athletes. Cyclone will allow riders to book a specific bike, so people’s FTPs can be pre-loaded onto their consoles, and that means workouts are personalised: everyone will be challenged to hit the same zones, but the wattage needed to achieve this will differ from person to person.

“Our approach ensures we can cater for all interests within cycling, hopefully growing the number of people taking part,” confirms Graham.

david lloyd derby club new indoor cycling concept rythmA cyclone is coming

The story with Cyclone isn’t quite as clear-cut as Rhythm, in that the 14 clubs that have been piloting the concept actually have Stages Flight at the moment, not Cyclone. It’s only when Cyclone is launched in 2020 – to these same 14 clubs, as well as to a further 36 by the end of the year – that the programme will become ‘Cyclone powered by Stages Flight’.

Graham explains: “Stages Flight is available globally; we currently offer it as a class in 14 clubs and have taken some great learnings from it. But we wanted to take it a step further, launching our own David Lloyd product. The result is Cyclone powered by Stages Flight.

“When Cyclone launches next year, it will have the same performance-based approach as Stages Flight – with a bespoke version of the Stages software – but there will be an important difference.

“Stages Flight does not currently come with any pre-choreographed ride profiles; Flight comprises the digital platform, screen and stats interface in the studio, with riders’ results saved into a Stages Flight account. Instructors receive training on how to build ride profiles, with access to a small library of examples, but from here they essentially build their own freestyle classes. It’s really down to the individual instructors to take all the science and get results for members.

boutiques claim no big box operator can do it as well as them; david lloyd is doing a pretty good job.

“What we’ve done is create bespoke, choreographed, quality-assured ride profiles that will be white-labelled to David Lloyd Cyclone. Our system will consist of bespoke music and video libraries, with instructors able to choose from libraries of categorised rides – 30-, 45- and 55-minute formats – to best suit their members’ needs and fitness levels.

“Our product and programming will be powered by the Stages Flight IT platform in the studio, but will not be available anywhere else and our members’ ride results will be saved to our David Lloyd Cyclone account. Because this is ultimately our vision: wherever we can, we want to create premium concepts that aren’t available anywhere else, and that people therefore have to join David Lloyd for.

“By the end of 2020, we will have 51 clubs offering both Rhythm and Cyclone, with the studios rebranded as Cycle Hubs. It would be fantastic to see these programmes continuing to expand across our 116-club estate in the future.”

More than ‘good enough’

Sadly, I couldn’t make it to the Flight/Cyclone masterclass, but if it’s delivered as well as Rhythm and Blaze – and if David Lloyd’s own instructors can match the on-stage presence of the likes of SJ – it looks as though the operator might be on to a winner.

After years of boutiques claiming no big box operator could do it as well as them, it’s interesting to see that David Lloyd is doing a pretty good job. Frankly, when all these classes are included in my membership, even ‘nearly as good’ would arguably be good enough. My view, certainly from my experience of Rhythm and of course Blaze: they’ve already done better than that.


Rick Crawford

“Across the fitness sector, the advent of the boutique studios has forced big box gyms to up their game,“ says Rick Crawford, head of fitness at Nuffield Health, the UK’s leading not-for-profit healthcare organisation. “The boutiques threw a spotlight on the weaknesses of the larger operators, highlighting where they simply weren’t up to scratch when it came to group exercise.

“In terms of cycling, for example, it’s no longer enough to have a group of bikes in a traditional studio. That isn’t what people want. What people are looking for now is an immersive experience.

“In fact, thanks to the boutiques, this isn’t just what they’re looking for. It’s what they now expect. If we don’t have the right product in our gyms, our members want to know why.“

Experiential gym floors

He continues: “All that said, our innovation in this area hasn’t been a knee-jerk response to the boutiques. Cycling has long been our most popular group exercise class at Nuffield Health: across our 112 consumer clubs, it accounts for around 15 per cent of all classes – that’s over 2,000 group cycle classes each week. Within this, we’ve always placed huge importance on staying ahead of the game.

“We were one of the first operators in the UK to introduce the concept of wattage onto gym floors, for example, working with Wattbike. Now everyone has it, but when we started five or 10 years ago, people were joining our clubs especially for this. Cycling as a whole was enjoying a boom, driven by the likes of Team GB’s Olympic success, and there was suddenly a demand for science to be brought to indoor cycling: wattage, marginal gains, technique to maximise power. A new generation of indoor bikes that far more accurately replicated the experience of riding outdoors only added to this momentum. And what we were doing at Nuffield Health met all those needs, allowing cycling enthusiasts to train with us in a way that complemented what they were doing outdoors.“

gym floors aren’t just about equipment. they’re about experience and social connection

Nuffield Health’s gym floor model has since continued to evolve, as Crawford explains: “We’ve made ongoing investments in transforming our fitness spaces, adopting new layouts that encourage people to find the experiences that best suit them. 

nuffield health nucycle“Within that, there’s a big focus on creating different zones: cycling, rowing, running. We did our first ever zone – which was a cycling zone – around seven years ago and now we’re creating them in every club we can, because gym floors are no longer just about equipment. They’re about the experience too, and about social connection. People don’t want to train alone any more.

“Each cycle zone holds between three and eight bikes – typically Wattbike or Technogym’s Skillbike – and can be used for individual training. However, the primary focus is small group training, with typically three or four instructor-led sessions on offer every day. These classes are built around the training modalities of speed, stamina and power, with all of the data from the bikes projected onto a big screen.“

He adds: “To work to their full potential, the zones need human interaction. That’s why small group training is so key. But the other vital aspect is the need to offer a variety of class types to appeal to different members. Gym floor classes are a great way to get new people to try cycling, so while all the technique and data-focused classes appeal to cycling enthusiasts, we also offer things like HIIT classes for those who just want a workout that will burn through the calories.“

You can’t just do one standard cycling class and expect it to appeal to everyone

A segmented offering

This diversity of class offering has also extended into Nuffield Health’s group exercise studios, by way of its NuCycle portfolio of programming. Originally launched in 2017, NuCycle will be available in around 40 of Nuffield Health’s clubs – both consumer and corporate – by the end of 2019.

“Cycling needs to do fitness, performance and exertainment,“ explains Crawford, as an introduction to the NuCycle concept. “You can’t just do one standard fitness cycling class and expect it to appeal to everyone. You need a breadth of classes for different types of customer.

“Based on customer research, we came up with six distinct programmes that were not only deemed ‘cool’, but that were also inclusive – very important for an operator like Nuffield Health, where 45 per cent of the membership is aged over 55 years. 

“All six programmes are available in all clubs with NuCycle, and start with NuCycle Edge at the performance end of the scale. This class is all about data, efficiency, power, heart rate, competition.

“Then there’s Les Mills’ SPRINT, a 30-minute HIIT class on a bike that’s ideal for anyone looking for an intense workout in a shorter timeframe. Les Mills’ RPM is also in the mix, catering for members who want a traditional fitness cycling class.

“And then we have NuCycle Rhythm, which is most easily explained by comparing it to SoulCycle. We turn off all data, all power monitoring, and there’s no hint of competition. Instead, it’s all about fun, great music, an enjoyable 45–60 minutes of cycling. It’s entertainment. This is where the growth is, attracting new audiences who just want to have fun.“

He continues: “The final two classes are NuCycle Baseline and NuCycle Escape. Baseline is there to onboard beginners, getting them familiar with the product – it’s a great, inclusive way of getting people started. But equally importantly, Baseline involves a fitness test. If you’re going to do training that’s based on power, intensity and threshold, you need to do a fitness test to know where you stand. Baseline is therefore worth doing periodically too, to see how you’re progressing.

“Finally, NuCycle Escape is virtual cycling: virtual classes led by an instructor, as well as Les Mills’ immersive experience THE TRIP. This is a great category for so many reasons: you can run it all day if you need to, which means far less dead time in your studios; it attracts beginners because it’s less intimidating; and in our corporate sites especially, where people might be on shifts that mean they can’t come to live classes, it means members get to train with the world’s best instructors – even at very much off-peak times.

“Interestingly, we’re finding Escape also helps us fine-tune our schedules. At one of our big corporate sites, for example, we found so many people coming in for a 3.00pm cycling class that we’ve now turned it into a live instructor-led class.“  

nucycle cycle class nuffield healthWhat’s in a name?

Linking all of these distinct programmes together, the NuCycle umbrella brand is important, says Crawford: “It’s not often that Nuffield Health allows for sub-brands to be created, but the business absolutely saw the value of this when it came to NuCycle. 

“In a way, it goes back to the boutiques. It was important to create an identity for our cycling offering, with a coolness about it that would stand out in the market.

Nucycle is definitely one of the coolest things we’ve done over recent years

“And NuCycle is definitely one of the coolest things we’ve done over recent years – not just the programming, but the studios too. We’ve worked with AV specialists to install fantastic sound systems, plus lighting that responds to the music and the workout intensity. Design has gone far beyond the traditional wooden floors and mirrors too, with inspiration coming from all sorts of unusual sources. Some of our studios make you feel like you’re cycling on the road, for example, with hi-vis strips running down the walls and dark floors that look like tarmac.

“It all comes together to create a fun, flexible environment that allows our instructors to deliver great classes.“

Speaking of instructors, has Nuffield Health found the types of instructor they recruit changing in response to the new class formats? “Certainly different instructors perform better in different types of class,“ agrees Crawford.

“Edge, for example, requires someone who’s very technique-focused and data-savvy, while Rhythm needs the instructor to be an entertainer. We’re proactively going round our teams looking for highly interactive individuals, who we then train up to be cycling instructors for our Rhythm classes.“

He adds: “I’d actually love all of our fitness staff to be teaching group exercise, whether small group training or studio classes. In my view, while personal training is still important, the days are gone when you could say ‘I only do one-to-one’. One-to-many is the way things have to be now. All trainers need this skillset.“

nucycle rythm classLimitless potential

So how has NuCycle performed so far? “Exceptionally well,“ says Crawford. “In all the clubs where it’s launched, we’ve seen our Net Promoter Scores rise, the number of leavers fall and the number of new joiners increase, with great feedback from staff and members alike. But it’s not just about member satisfaction – we’ve also seen cycling class occupancy levels go up by around 14 per cent.

“Unsurprisingly, then, all the other clubs in our estate are keen to have NuCycle too. We’re looking at how we can roll it out to as many sites as possible over the next few years.

“It’s also entirely possible that we’ll expand the programming choices within NuCycle. There’s so much we could do here, and this is only going to grow as the fitness demographic continues to segment, with ever more diverse needs that have to be met. Provided we’re able to tap in to a large enough group of members, with a compelling proposition that’s relevant to them and that delivers good outcomes, I see huge scope to launch new classes.

“I can easily see how we might introduce a meditative NuCycle class, for example, targeting emotional wellbeing – this is a huge focus for us at Nuffield Health, where we will have an emotional wellbeing expert in every club by the end of next year. We could have NuCycle Recovery. We could have a joint pain class. We could have a NuCycle class for those with diabetes. We could do something even more targeted around active ageing, as cycling is great for this audience: non-weight bearing, fun and social.“

He adds: “With our medical expertise and direct links to Nuffield Health hospitals, we could work with physios to create programmes for pre- and post-operative patients too. This is where live streaming technology could even come in, putting our classes direct into patients’ homes. 

“While we aren’t currently looking at implementing these ideas, there are so many possibilities. I’m always looking for the next thing to ensure we keep up with customer demand across all segments of the population.

It’s all about content nowadays, making your content available digitally

“In fact, as a charitable organisation, one of Nuffield Health’s key principles is social impact: how we can reach more of the people who need us. And in this respect, in this digital era, it’s all about content. Not everyone wants to come to a gym, so you have to look at how you can make your content available digitally. Of course, there are only so many new initiatives you can introduce at any one time, but this is definitely something I would like to do.“


The perfect playlist for indoor cycling

Kim Lahn is perhaps Denmark’s leading expert when it comes to music for indoor cycling. Now aged 47, he was just 14 years old when he began working as a DJ. At the age of 18 he became a radio presenter, and when he turned 20 he started making his own music and remixing for others.

His first experience of an indoor cycling studio was, he says, frightening yet addictive at the same time. The music was loud, the instructor was demanding, and he sweated like he had never sweated before. But nevertheless, he really enjoyed it – and it proved addictive enough that he had, by the age of 30, become an indoor cycling instructor.

As an indoor cycling instructor, Kim’s key focus has always been – and remains – the music. He prepares new music for each training session, driven by a passion to create soundtracks that help him deliver the best possible workout each time.

He explains: “I always have the same three goals for all my sessions. First, it has to feel as though the time flies by. Second, it has to be efficient training. And third, 10 minutes after the training session has finished, I want the riders to want more.
He adds: “My favourite moment is when I look someone in the eye and I can see they are pushing themselves to the limit, but they are still smiling and singing along. It doesn’t matter whether there are 10 or 300 people in the class – it’s the same great feeling.”

“It’s my experience that music helps me achieve all three goals.”

Mix it up

Most indoor cycling instructors dream of putting together the perfect playlist that everybody just loves – so how do you go about this?
“Unfortunately, there’s no set recipe for a successful playlist,” says Kim. “Discussing what good music is, is rather like discussing favourite colours; it’s very hard to argue why blue is a nicer colour than red.
“There are, however, some useful rules of thumb that can help you create a popular playlist.

“First of all, studies show that the music we listen to when we are 14 is the most important in our lives – the music that means the most to us. If the majority of the people joining your class were born in the seventies, for example, they will most likely prefer music from the mid-eighties. If you prefer remixes because of their more distinct beats, no problem: many of the eighties hits have also been remixed.

“Another good idea is to think like a DJ. If everybody in the room were there to dance instead of cycle, what kind of music would a DJ play to fill the dance floor? Well, that’s exactly the music you should play to fill the cycling studio too. Mix old and new tunes and different genres – rock, pop and dance. Everybody’s taste in music differs, and your personal taste is probably also very different from your riders’, so make sure there’s something in there for everyone.”
He continues: “I do believe the best playlist is one the instructor likes. They have to put their heart and soul into a class, as well as connecting with the riders, and this is easier if the music actually touches him or her and evokes feelings in them.

“However, if you’re a skilled instructor with a good musical understanding, I believe it’s possible to use all kinds of music for your cycling sessions.”

Stay on the beat

So what are Kim’s tips for using the music tracks you’ve chosen for your class?
“Have you ever taken a Step class or a Zumba class and been asked to dance off-beat?” he asks, before answering his own question: “Probably not.”

He continues: “Music and rhythm are equally important tools in a cycling studio. Music comes in so many different speeds, from 30-40 bpm (beats per minute) to 3,000 bpm – and with
all those different beats and speeds available, you really should be able to find music that matches any number of revolutions per minute on the bike.”

And if cycling in time with the music helps riders feel more at-one with the workout, it also distracts them from the exertion by allowing them to enjoy the tunes. Kim explains: “Music – and verbal cuing that goes with the music – make the session fly by faster. The more natural and on-beat it feels, and the more the riders truly feel the music, the easier it is to forget oneself, the pain and all the hard work.”

His final piece of advice: “You also need to be familiar with the music you use. You have to know when the music peaks, when the beat drops and when it slows down. This will ensure you’re able to use the music effectively, not only to push the riders but also for relaxation.”

8 Top tips

Kim offers a few final pieces of advice to take away:
1. There is no easy way to perfection. It takes a lot of hard work to become an even better instructor and create even better playlists.
2. Learn to match your music with your ideas and the pace of your training session.
3. I spend 10–20 hours each week listening to music, finding new inspiration and new tracks.
4. I keep a close eye on international music charts.
5. I subscribe to different DJ podcasts.
6. I follow a number of users on Mixcloud and SoundCloud.
7. I use the Shazam app whenever I hear something new on the radio, at a concert or in a TV ad.
8. I check out DJ set lists.

So immerse yourself in a world of music, know what music your members enjoy, and have some fun!

Usefull resources

  1. The Official UK Top Singles Chart
  2. House music, charts and online shop
  3. DJ tracklists
  4. Charts and online shop – all genres
  5. Leading EDM record label, Spinnin Records
  6. Best free SoundCloud downloads
  7. Drum and bass inspiration: Search for ’UKF Drum & Bass’ on Youtube
  8. “Perhaps the world’s best mash-up artist,” according to Kim – “Happy Cat Disko”

Johnny G the inventor of spinning

What did the indoor cycling sector look like before Spinning came out?
The sector simply didn’t exist before Spinning. When I came up with the idea, I had to design and build my own bike, which I did by hand. This was in 1987 and there was nothing like it on the market.

How did you come up with the idea of Spinning?
I was a professional athlete and cyclist, and I’d done the Race Across America twice – the longest, most gruelling cycling race in the world, stretching for 220 hours with just 18 hours’ sleep.

I was passionate about cycling and I wanted to share some of the principles I’d learned on the road with people working out in a gym environment. 

But as I say, there was simply nothing like Spinning on the market, so when I came up with the idea I also had to work on everything around it – the bike, the concept, the patent applications, the programming, years of testing the classes, finding and training instructors. I did all of this myself, essentially creating what is now known as the Johnny G Method.

Race across america Johnny G spinning

I then joined forces with Schwinn in 1994 and we built the Johnny G Spinner by Schwinn, which was launched at IHRSA San Francisco in 1995. It received an overwhelming response from all the operators at the show.

Over the years that followed, the bike evolved cosmetically – including when Spinning moved from Schwinn to Star Trac – but essentially the mechanics, the method and the programming remained the same.

What is the essence of the Spinning programme?
The programme is pretty robust, based on my martial arts training as well as the training I developed on the road. It was very effective as a competitive cyclist, and when I brought it indoors it was equally effective.

Importantly, my programming always had a mind-body component. Of course, the stationary bike is a tool to get yourself in good physical condition, but I honestly believe anyone can do the physical part. It’s the mental side of the programme – the philosophy – that’s key, because the body follows the mind.

Engaging the mind allows us to express and develop ourselves as human beings. This approach has proved very popular over the years: by 2004, we had trained 70,000 instructors around the world, in many different languages.

It goes back to what Bruce Lee once said: that movement without philosophy is mechanical, but movement with philosophy becomes art.

How has the broader indoor cycling market developed over more recent years?
It’s become a very competitive sector, both from a supplier and an operator perspective. Most recently, we’ve seen the boutiques – SoulCycle, Flywheel and so on – popping up everywhere and creating a successful niche. I’ve been very impressed by the indoor cycling studios I’ve seen around the world. I feel people have got it down to a science.

We’ve also seen Peloton taking gym training and moving it into the home. Technology has moved things on dramatically in gyms too: colour zones for heart rate training, leaderboards, tracking progress, virtual cycling and so on.

I’ve seen choreographed classes, leaderboards and graphics and movies, different environments, different inspirations… Some people like stats, leaderboards and competition and there are apps and studios that cater for that. Others like singing, dancing, partying, entertainment. Others prefer stillness, darkness, candles. It’s all out there and that’s great. The more avenues we explore, the more people will get involved.

But although the ways in which cycling is delivered and expressed and packaged are multiplying, it still basically comes down to the same thing: riding a stationary bike, getting a sweat on, and playing on imaginary terrain.

Provided this is delivered with sanity and variety, putting thought into the different styles of training – from strength rides and hills, through HIIT and time trials, to recovery rides – it’s a great, safe, non-impact way to get results fast while working at your own level. This is why indoor cycling isn’t a fad. It’s a staple, and indeed a way of life, for many people.

Do you think full-service health club chains can compete with the cycling boutiques?
I do, because of the numbers of people they’re servicing. If you look at the bigger chains, they have hundreds of thousands of members – far more than the boutiques.
There’s a perception that boutiques are the powerful ones, but boutiques are brands. That’s where their power lies: brands can be very powerful, and a boutique chain with 30 or 40 clubs is a strong statement.

But in terms of sheer numbers, it’s all about the mainstream clubs. This is where the financial power lies. And this is where the majority of people will still get fit.

For any clubs that want to up their game, I’d suggest focusing on education and training, making sure the programming is as good as it can be, investing in great equipment and instructors and creating special events to keep members engaged and reaching to achieve more.

Spinning club programme

What’s your view on the shape of the indoor cycling market right now – is it getting close to saturation?
I had an interesting conversation with someone the other day who said it isn’t about new members any more. It’s about recycling the same population within gyms and making sure we have the programmes in place to take care of people as they age. There has to be something programme-wise for everyone.

That will be the next big trend I think, not just in indoor cycling but in fitness generally. As people age, we need to help them take care of their bodies so they’re in as good a condition as they can be for their age. A lot of the programming now is suited to younger people, but what about programmes – stretching and so on – for someone in their 70s? How can we support someone’s 75-yearold body so it’s functioning and performing to its own maximum potential?

So we need to look at longevity of training. We also need to look at the mental side of fitness – the peace of mind it gives you, the sense of empowerment, the ability to deal with the emotional activity of life. The focus needs to be on helping people grow as human beings so they’re fitter, healthier and happier.

What have you been working on recently?
I have two big projects at the moment. The first is the Johnny G Spirit bike, which is being manufactured by Dyaco. I believe there are still untapped opportunities in the indoor cycling market, so we’ve put our hearts into developing a bike like no other.

The Johnny G Spirit bike includes some new innovative features: a battery-less generator, for example, and electronic shifting. You don’t turn a knob to increase and decrease resistance. Instead, our electronic system is very specific and quantified, so you’re able to accurately replicate your training. We have a console too, which has been designed to clearly focus the mind on five key metrics: resistance, time, distance, watts (power) and heart rate.

I will keep pursuing this hobby and passion of mine for as long as it keeps
giving me and my family joy.

This focus on distance and time links in with my other project, Ride of Truth. This is an eventbased programme for cycling enthusiasts, where you come along for five hours and do lectures and workshops, you take part in various cycling training methodologies – hills, endurance, intervals, recovering and so on. But crucially, you do a time trial. This is at the heart of the event.

Importantly, Ride of Truth isn’t about having an instructor in front of you telling you what to do. Instead, you’re given a goal and a challenge and you go for it. So, for example, we know that fitness enthusiasts – if they push themselves and ride at a good pace – will cover 5 miles in 20 minutes. We might therefore give someone the goal of riding 5 miles in 15 minutes.

We therefore have a performance aspect based around time and distance. But we’re also tapping into the emotional aspect of being a human being; self-development starts when you taste challenge, adversity, when you have to face yourself. It’s very liberating.

In fact, this is why we’ve called it Ride of Truth: because at our events, everyone has to face their own ability, the intensity they can handle, their power to focus their mind. It’s about tenacity, courage… all the things that make athletes athletes. It’s about exploring not only your physiological limits, but also where you can take yourself in terms of self-motivation and inspiration.

Finally, what role do you personally intend to play in the future of indoor cycling?
I intend to keep pushing and moving fitness forward. I’m passionate about what I do, and I want to keep inspiring people of all ages and mentalities, sharing fragments of information with those who are like-minded and who are looking for mentorship – people who are looking to excel and who want to reap the best of what health and fitness has to offer.

Ultimately, I’ve grown over many years – both as a professional athlete and as a human being – and I love what wholesome, mindful activity can do for you.

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