Death of the spin class

Now before I get too deep into this one, you will want to know that I have been a group fitness instructor and specifically a spin class advocate since the age of 19 (now 30). Not only with the current trend of the fitness industry, but also more advanced knowledge of how to train properly, could it be a time where we see no more spin classes and even a reduction of HIIT classes?

An interesting proposition nonetheless, especially with what I have learnt and experienced over the last decade.

I am sure this one will raise a few eyebrows from the fitness people following, however within gyms there has been a noticeable decline in attendance towards spin classes directly for the past 7 plus years. Like many things, everything goes in and out of fashion and popularity, but if we dig a little deeper and into my personal experience it is not just because people want a new flavour, we are seeing signs that people are sick of working out in a pitch black room, pushing as hard as they can, getting yelled at (sorry I mean “motivated”) with very little in return and the same could be said for the ever so loved F45 and HIIT classes. Can you imagine going to work, but yet not getting paid… this is what it feels like to do a regular HIIT, spin class as part of your training. Lots of effort and work but little in return in the specifics of results. If it was so beneficial wouldn’t we see all our fitness instructors showcasing an ideal body composition….? Unfortunately this is not the case.

Now let’s take a step back, the majority of people that join gym’s and the beloved fitness challenges (F45) are looking for weight loss and/or better daily energy, you aren’t seeing athletes attending these types of training sessions (I wonder why haha). One of the main focuses for a gym is to integrate their new members into the club, with the hope they will stay longer, get the results they want and keep paying, which makes sense as all gyms are looking to make money. As a long term manager within a variety of fitness club locations, this integration tool was always a key to seeing great club performance (“more joiners, less leavers”). So in hopes to keep members engaged and happy, the idea of integration is to set them up with a group fitness class (or something similar) like the spin class to get them working out, give them structure, general guide and they meet other like minded people, which makes sense. It is no doubt that when you train as a part of a group the person is more likely to stick around and also more likely to workout harder with the group environment (competition and sheep mentality) kicking in. Over the years of being a spin instructor and gym manager, the numbers attending were noticeably declining and this was occurring in every gym. The decline is numbers was at the point where some spin studios were already getting removed from clubs. Now there can be a lot of contributing factors to these shifts in attendance, but what if people were deciding to go elsewhere because of the lack of results, lack of improvement and just the repetition needed to push harder, go hard or go home dogma it had. Again, you don’t go to work each day for nothing, you do it for a reward which is the dollars, same thing with your workouts, there is no point doing it if you get nothing from it. Potentially this is what many members were feeling towards the forever fun, hard and intense spin classes. Putting all this effort in and still struggle to see weight loss and/or improved daily energy.

This was virtually my exact experience, I had to take a sit back and see what I was doing. Many moments repeating something like this to myself, “I am doing all this training, pushing as hard as I can and I still can not lose the weight and see consistent fitness improvements….what is wrong with me?”.

Although I was repeating this to myself for many years, I never changed a thing. I didn’t know how to workout more, harder and/or eat less than I already was to see better weight loss and energy throughout the day. Until, I was forced to stop.

I strictly remember early one Thursday morning taking a 6:15am spin class with a group of about 25 attendee’s. I remember this one class so clearly like it was yesterday, I set up the class, gave them the run down of what would happen and when they were expected to rest and work. In the peak moment of the class with the highest level of intensity I could feel everyone’s effort. In an effort to get even more out of the participants, I remember taking a moment off the stage to enter into the crowd and give some individuals a little more attention just to see if they could work even harder (because you know harder is better right?). I gave one member a little look and asked “you got any more?”, to which I got a blank look on his face in return. Fast forward to the end of the class, stretches were done and all but one person was left in the class.It was the same member I got the blank look from. He approached the stage, where I was packing up and starting to talk about the class, giving me some relatively good feedback but finished his comments with “If you say we have to work harder to get better results and weight loss, why are you still overweight?”. I can confirm that my face was completely blank and I was utterly speechless. All of my worst nightmares as an instructor basically came true, a member calling me out on why I was doing all “the right things” but yet still overweight. I was getting paid to train (instruct group fitness classes) and I was still overweight. This is what forced me to stop, and I am forever thankful of this one member having the balls to call me out. Safe to say I had no response to this man and basically curled into a ball. Teaching spin classes and any group fitness class was never the same after this moment and to be honest I am so glad it hurt as much as it did. Leading people to be healthier and fitter but yet couldn’t grasp my own weight and health goals was not right. At least this is my opinion and I still agree with this, if you want to help people you need to be able to help yourself first.

With years of contemplation, deeper research aiming to figure out why I and many others were stuck running around in circles with these types of training sessions. It slowly dawned on me, maybe, just maybe we were all working out too hard, too frequently, what if everything my previous coaches taught me about working out hard, discipline “no pain, no gain” was completely wrong and a horrible way to think about one’s health and performance. Especially for busy, overworked, over stressed, overweight and time poor people which is whom these classes are catering for.

If this was to be true, it would mean I would be calling bullshit on every group fitness instructor who preached regular high intensity training for weight loss goals and better daily energy.

I get it, it’s fun, energetic and it feels like it’s doing something”. However just because you can “feel the burn” does not mean your body will respond the way you want.

It sounds good, looks good and it’s quick. It’s energetic, the instructor typically looks fit and healthy (key word here is typically) and people buy into what they are preaching (not knowing most fitness professional nap for hours in the middle of the day lol). The high, fast pumping music gets you amped up and blood pumping allowing you to get motivated even when your body is telling you it needs more sleep and/or rest. The group environment allows the competitive nature in everyone to come out and attendee’s will work harder in a group due to the energy and sheep mentality in the room/class. Typical human nature, we like to think when something is good for you, more of that good thing must be better, and so we saturate ourselves with it.

When the goal is weight loss and better daily energy, the reason these types of workouts typically do not last long term is because you are compiling stress. The general person that attends these classes are already overweight, aerobically inefficient, over stressed from work and family life and generally have horrible food habits, this with regular bouts of intense training create the wrong hormetic zone on the body to see favourable adaptations. Applying excessive amounts of stress like regular intense training will end in higher levels of stress hormones and chronic fatigue making it almost impossible to lose weight and particularly keep it off.

What you want to do is be super specific with these goals and actions. If you want to lose weight, you need to focus on your quality and quantity of nutrition, this is what will impact your weight loss results. There is no way around it, exercise is a tool for weight loss, however used wrong (regular high intensity) this tool will backfire (chronic stress, fatigue and constant cravings).

If you wish to have better energy throughout the day, becoming aerobically sound will not only improve your bodies ability to cope with life’s stress but also allow you to move around throughout the day, without getting fatigued and breathless.

So if you have weight loss goals, or goals that revolve around having more energy throughout the day, you will want to train in a way that will allow this to happen and not potentially make it worse. Training at a comfortable intensity allows you to apply the appropriate progressive overload, using volume, consistency and time as your tools for sustainable success with weight loss and/or better daily energy.

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