Open for Fitness: We Took a Cycle Class at YMCA Honolulu
Spin classes are all the rage. We put our pedal to the metal for an early-morning workout at the Nu‘uanu Y.
Editor’s Note: Stacey and Katrina are at vastly different fitness levels (and ages) but both enjoy working out. We thought it’d be fun for the two of them to try new or interesting workouts together each month. This month, they tried the cycle class at YMCA Honolulu’s Nu‘uanu branch.
Photos and videos: Katie Kenny
WHAT IT IS
We asked two of the YMCA Nu‘uanu’s staffers, Healthy Lifestyle Director Katherine Hall and Lifestyle Associate Program Director Lindsey Amina, for recommendations for classes that work well for a wide range of ages and abilities. They suggested (and joined us for) Cycle, taught by instructor Lee every Monday and Wednesday at 8 a.m. The one-hour class is a cardio-heavy way to build muscles in your lower body with intervals of sitting, standing, higher resistance, sprints and even jumps.
HOW WE FELT: BEFORE
Katrina: Energized and ready to roll! I’d never taken a spin class but occasionally ride a recumbent bike, so it wasn’t some scary foreign exercise. I had a good sleep, woke up early, drank some green tea and had breakfast. I barely worked out this past month, so I felt like I needed to go hard to catch up.
Stacey: Excited. A lot of rom-coms nowadays show the leading lady (the one who has it all, including a body from a Victoria’s Secret catalog) shredding calories at SoulCycle. She makes it look so fun and easy. I want that experience.
A big bottle of water and a towel are musts for this workout.
Before class began, we had to fill out waivers and get our bikes adjusted for height. Lee said the seat should come up to your hip when you’re standing next to it. You can move the seat and the handles forward or backward for comfort. You should be able to grab the handles lightly with your wrists straight and your ribcage elevated. Lee also made sure we were pushing the pedals with the balls of our feet, not down through our toes, and showed us how to increase the resistance by turning a knob. Screens on each bike show your watts (cycling power) and RPM (revolutions per minute).
Katrina: Oh my god. I was literally 2 minutes into pedaling when I wanted to stop. Lee told us to aim for 75 to 85 RPM on resistance level one, which is akin to riding on a flat street. I started out around 75 and then dropped down to the 50s and 60s. I blame the hard, uncomfortable seat.
Stacey: Soooo, I was late. My Spacey Stacey brain thought the class was at YWCA. When I arrived, the Tour de France had already started. But Lee hopped off his bike and adjusted my seat level for me. I joined the race.
We did our best to match Lee’s pace.
Stacey: When I started, we were basically freestyling for a bit, trying to make our RPM reach above 72. This was pretty easy—for the first minute! I remembered looking at the clock that was right in front me. It was 8:10. How was I going to get through 40 more minutes? My quads were burrrrrning! Oh, fun tip: DO NOT WEAR SHORTS TO A CYCLE CLASS. There’s a lot of friction with every move. My inner thighs were on fire.
Katrina: I couldn’t figure out how to keep the proper position without leaning my weight forward on the handles (is my torso too long for this?), so I kept letting go and pedaling upright. Occasionally Lee would tell us to increase our resistance, but I was convinced I’d turned mine too far already since it doesn’t click or anything to let you know what level you’re on, so I discreetly turned it down and kept it at the same level the entire class. I was barely surviving on a flat street!
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Stacey: Next, we moved on to sprints. Thirty seconds of hell, and Lee started counting down: 24, 23, 22, 21. We know how to count, Lee!!! Dammit. Then he started cheering everyone on by their individual names. “Go, Miss Stacey!” “Go, Miss Katrina!” That was really nice. Now I feel bad for my evil thoughts. Then, break! I’d never been so happy to sit on a bike. Just sit, no pedaling. Fifteen more seconds of heaven.
Katrina: Haha, Stacey was the only one who stopped pedaling completely. Everyone else just slowed down and had some water. We took a few deep breaths together and then moved into rhythm riding, just trying to match the beat of the music. At one point Lee aimed for 300 watts but told us to try for 150 and above. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain more than 120 so I stopped looking at my numbers. Once we went back to rhythm riding, Lee instructed us to pedal standing up. This wasn’t too bad at first (anything to get me off that seat) but it still felt like I was putting pressure on my shoulders when I shouldn’t have.
Lee kept our spirits up by chanting, “Go, miss Stacey, go, miss Katrina!”
Stacey: I knew hills were coming. Heavy sigh. Lee instructed us to turn up the resistance to four. I felt like I was going up Wilhelmina Drive. I did that for about a minute, then secretly turned down my resistance to Diamond Head Road. All the while, Lee was still cheering us on, encouraging us to keep goin’. I felt like throwing up. The girl next to me must’ve seen the agony behind my crazy smile—she started reassuring me that it’s always hard the first time and I was doing great. I love everyone in this class.
Katrina: When Lee told us we’d be doing jumps, I had no idea what that meant for a stationary bicycle, but this turned out to be my favorite part. We alternated between pedaling sitting down and standing for eight counts at first, then four. Since they were such short bursts, I could handle. As soon as I started to get sore in one position, we’d move on to the next.
Stacey: Home stretch, three full minutes of burning rubber, racing to the finish line at 80 RPM, then we were done. I was done. It was 8:45 a.m. Thank the lord we didn’t go all the way to 9.
Stacey: We stretched all muscles, including calves and quads. That felt incredible. Lee was still boosting our workout (and self-esteem) with words of encouragement. He’s awesome.
Katrina: He really is! He talked the entire time, pushed harder than any of us and never seemed out of breath. He taught me some new stretches, like when you stand behind your bike with your forearm resting on the seat and lean forward. We took a few more deep breaths together, then wiped down everything and put our bikes back against the wall.
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Stretching: the best part of any workout.
HOW WE FELT: AFTER
Stacey: This was the hardest class I’ve done in this series. Never once did I think I was going to barf during a workout, until now. Unlike the movies, I didn’t come out looking all refreshed and perfect, I came out looking busted. But, with all that said, I would do it again. It worked different muscles in my legs and it’s easy on the knees, which is great for a person who had two knee surgeries. I sweated a lot, so I know the cardio was intense and I burned calories. However, the biggest reason I would come to this specific class again is definitely the people. They were a ride-or-die crowd cheering each other on. And it made this class an amazing race.
Side note: My crotch is still in recovery along with my thighs. Katrina and I are now taking suggestions on cushiony bike seats or heavily padded bike shorts.
Katrina: I don’t think I got the full benefits of the workout because it was so difficult for me to keep up on the cardio side. Lee said that cycling is the next-best cardio workout after running, which I hate, and this wasn’t much easier. When we were supposed to increase resistance or ride faster, I kept a fairly steady slow pace. It definitely worked out my lower body, but I think I need to build a better cardio base before attempting intervals to work the different muscles. The staff told us that it can take 10 classes before you really start to get into it. But I definitely burned a lot of calories—even my knees were sweaty.
From left: Stacey, Lindsey, Katherine and Katrina with Lee (kneeling).
The Nu‘uanu branch is located at 1441 Pali Highway, (808) 536-3556, ymcahonolulu.org
Visit ymcahonolulu.org/schedules for the group exercise schedules, including tai chi, yoga, cardio, Zumba, kickboxing classes and more.
Membership ranges from $28 to $146 per month. Members can bring in friends or family for free to try out the Y, and some insurance plans offer discounts.
One-hour cycle classes take place Monday through Thursday at 6 a.m., Monday and Wednesday at 8 a.m., and Wednesday at 12:30 p.m.