13/10/2014 13:59 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Are Exercise Fads Really Good For You?

The SoulCycle juggernaut is spinning its way towards these shores – it's the fitness buzz of the moment, adored by celebs like Victoria Beckham, Tom Cruise and Lady Gaga, and it's on its way to London.


So if getting hot and sweaty on an exercise bike in a nightclub, while being exhorted to 'reach for the stars', growl and whoop, sounds like your bag, you're in for a treat.

The combination of spin, disco and motivational therapy might sound like a peculiarly American phenomenon, but it's actually already here in the UK in the form of Psycle.

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Rhian Stephenson, Psycle instructor and Canadian former athlete describes Psycle as, "... a place where people can come together and experience something truly unique."

She says a community has built up around the classes and people are inspired by the collective group.

People want to push themselves, progress, and they want to have fun. It's hard to do that on your own. Places like Psycle allow you to feed off of the collective energy of the group - you inadvertently push yourself harder which gives rise to an incredible sense of accomplishment.

Rhian assures us this isn't just a fad – it's only the beginning of a new way of life.

"One of the main barriers that prevents people from exercising is the lack of emotional attachment," she says.

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"This is more than a workout - it's an experience that is emotionally and physically supercharged. You get to rock out to incredible, curated playlists - you move, you laugh, you sweat, and you end up pushing yourself harder than you can imagine but still leave the studio thinking how fun it was... It's not a fad, it's a way of life. This is the future of fitness."

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This isn't the first fitness craze, and it certainly won't be the last. Aerobics, step, pole dancing, Zumba... they have all tried to promise us the Holy Grail of burning a Domino's meal deal worth of calories while making us feel awesome and happy at the same time.

I asked the co-founders of SoulCycle what makes it different from any other spin class. Julie Rice says:

SoulCycle is a movement. We reinvented indoor cycling and created an exercise experience that is joyful.

Now, I can definitely see the appeal of exercising in the dark. I don't particularly want everyone to see my sweaty beetroot face, thanks.

The trouble is, SoulCycle has yet to reach these shores, and Psycle is based in London. For us non-Londoners, it's not easy to tap into the latest fitness craze.
However, all hope is not lost – I discover there is a spinning class with music at our local fitness centre.

Even better, it's run by a local celebrity, former Navy sailor Sam Boatwright, who found fame in 2012 when he ran 50 miles every day for 50 days.

This is our kind of celebrity. None of your Hollywood actresses and designers here. Oh no.

Unfortunately, this spin class is not in the dark. I wish it was. Then it would be harder for Sam to spot that I'm not exactly turning the resistance on the bike up quite as high as I should be. Also, I really don't look my best.


The workout room is definitely not as luxurious as a Psycle studio, and there are no changing rooms with high-end bath and body products on offer. There's a vending machine in the corridor, which I suspect is not gluten or sugar free.

The music is banging though – and we ride with it, building up to the spectacularly gruelling climbs. After five minutes I am sweating like a dog. And it's relentless. By the end of the class, my eyes are pretty much shut anyway, so it doesn't really matter that the lights are burning bright. And I don't really care what I look like any more.

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There's not much in the way of spiritual guidance – although Sam's motivational cries of "GRIT YER TEETH AND BURN" are remarkably effective.

I definitely feel a sense of euphoria at the end – mainly because the torment has finished. Also, the endorphins are rushing and my legs are shaking. I feel like I did something that was very, very good for me and have a lovely, smug, glow.

So if you don't live in London, or you can't afford Psycle or SoulCycle prices, do give your local fitness centre a try. You might discover a Sam of your own.