If you have ever been in the Keohane Sports Center at around 4:30 on a Friday, you have probably heard some sweet Top 40 hits and the voice of Meryl Rosenberg ‘16 coaching her students through a tough spinning workout. Rosenberg’s class is known for being an intense workout, but more importantly, an exciting and empowering class. She plays a mixture of music including throwbacks, hip-hop, techno and even country. Rosenberg said her classes include “climbs, jumps, sprints, and intervals to switch things up.”
Spinning classes at Wellesley have been on the rise, with instructors like Rosenberg having to turn people away because there are not enough bikes to accommodate everyone. In the 2012-2013 school year, there were three spin instructors, with a total of four classes offered. Now, there are eight spin instructors teaching 13 classes. In addition to an increase in spin class participation, group fitness in general has attracted an increasing number of participants. In 2013-2014, there were about 1,000 participants each semester. The following year, there was about 1,600 participants each semester and in the fall of 2015, there were 1,800 participants.
What attracts so many participants to spinning? One factor may be the number of classes offered. With 13 spin classes being offered every week there are a variety of times that can accommodate the diverse schedules of the Wellesley Community. While this increase in the amount of classes can partially explain the increase in popularity, it seems likely that there is something more going on here.
Is the increased interest in spinning within the Wellesley community mirroring a larger trend in the fitness community around the country? The popularity of SoulCycle and Flywheel may play a part. Another advantage of spinning at Wellesley is that unlike SoulCycle and Flywheel, it is free, as are all recreational fitness classes. Often, you have to pay for classes or buy fitness passes, even at other colleges besides Wellesley. With the dramatic increase of participants and the surge of student instructors interested in teaching spinning, one wonders if there is something about the exercise itself that attracts so many Wellesley students and faculty.
Rosenberg thinks there is something about providing a group fitness atmosphere while still accommodating individual fitness levels that allows spin to be motivating and attractive to a wide variety of participants. She said, “I love that it’s a group class where people can support each other but aren’t in competition with one another.” Rosenberg added that “spinning was the first workout that kept me pushing myself the whole time.”
Leigh Hunt, a junior who has been the Student Fitness Coordinator for about a year, agreed with Rosenberg that spinning is attractive because it is a communal atmosphere that allows people of all different levels of fitness and ability to participate. Hunt also feels that spinning alone can be hard and that it can be boring. She said a group class “offers a more challenging workout, and, with an instructor telling you what to do at every step of the workout, music that guides you up a hill or through a sprint and a ‘team’ to exercise with, spinning can be a lot of fun.”
Rebecca Kimball who, in addition to her role as Director of Sports Performance and Fitness is also a Strength and Conditioning coach for Wellesley athletics and a Boston Marathon Finisher in 2015, agreed with Rosenberg and Hunt. She added, “It is specific to the person and relative to how hard you want to work your heart rate, your cadence and your level of intensity.” She also added that spinning is great because it is a low-impact exercise, which makes it very attractive. Unlike running where you are pounding your feet against a hard surface, spinning offers an easier workout on your joints while still improving your cardiovascular health.
Hunt had some additional ideas on why participation has increased over the past few semesters. She said, “a lot of the success of our recreational fitness classes in recent semesters can be attributed to the new equipment and the renovation of the KSC, which has made the fitness center, in general, a more welcoming place on campus.”
Kimball agreed, noting that the spin bikes were a recent purchase in 2013 and that along with the renovations of the KSC, something has definitely attracted a lot of new participants. She also added that having Monica Verity oversee fitness, wellness and recreation has really helped increase participation. Kimball added, “The social aspect has been great and our instructors are awesome at getting the word out.”
Additionally, the physical education requirements help draw recurring participants. Dorothy Webb, Keri O’Meara and Julia King are all teaching P.E. spin classes which help get students comfortable with spinning. Often, many students who take spinning to fulfill the P.E. requirement end up becoming regulars at recreational spin classes.
Whatever the reason for the increase of group fitness class participants, the trend has lead to nothing but positive results. Hunt has noticed “an increased focus on healthy living, which has encouraged students to get out and exercise.” If you are looking to try something new to get your heart rate up, Rosenberg thinks you should give spinning a shot. She concluded that “many people find spinning intimidating because they’ve heard what a crazy workout it is, but I challenge people to give it a try. It is truly a workout for all fitness levels that will leave you dancing on your bike by the end.”
If you are interested in checking out the spin class schedule, or just recreational fitness classes in general, you can find them at http://www.wellesley.edu/athletics/recreation/fitness/fitnessclasses.
Photo courtesy of Washingtonpost.com