One dreary and moody not-quite-spring-yet evening as I scurried out of work with my head down in a hurried bid to dash through the Oxford Circus crush and reach my friend on time, I was halted by a glowing beacon of new shop frontage with clean branding and an enticing air of general wellbeing loveliness.
Psycle. Psycle presents itself as a low impact, high intensity total body workout on a bike, drawing on concepts popular in the US that are rapidly making their way over here as more and more people swap their brogues for cleats and get pedalling. It’s definitely been the buzz about fitness town – everyone from Vogue to the Evening Standard have been busy praising this 45-minute woop fest since it opened a few weeks ago. But is this anything new? Is it a passing flavour of the month or can it stand the test of time? I put on my very first pair of cleats (embarrassing as a cyclist, sure) and gave it a go.
Now, I love cycling, and I also love spinning. You’d think the two go hand in hand, but I’ve met many an outdoor pedaller who simply gaffaws at the thought of turning the pedals in a dark room to Eye of the Tiger, going nowhere. And there is a point to be taken here. Essentially you are indeed turning the pedals in a dark room going nowhere. Hopefully not to Eye of the Tiger (shoutout to 1982).
At £20 a pop per class, this is punchy. And oh so London. But the second you step inside the building you are overcome with a general sense of gorgeousness that, refreshingly, felt in no way intimidating. The staff were warm and friendly (and beautiful, dammit) and I actually made eye contact with other would-be cyclistas. EYE CONTACT! IN LONDON! IN AN EXERCISE ENVIRONMENT! Imagine.
What drew me most to want to try Psycle over other offerings about town is their emphasis on joining up the physical exercise aspect to the mind and wellbeing. Sweating in a windowless gym, or even pounding the pavements on a spring day is, to many, a form of torture that takes up several of our precious life hours and results in negligible shifts on the scales, or else a rather unsightly transformation from would-be athlete to a beetroot coloured, panting, grunting, sweating beastlike version of the self from 45 minutes previously. Cake and sofas or friends and pubs I can thus see, are much more preferable in comparison.
But after a long time grappling with my ill-perceived physical inadequacies, I now exercise because it makes me feel amazing. It helps me clear my mind, focus at work and I know my innards are in damn good shape, no matter how bloated I may feel on a given Tuesday after too much wine/a bad night’s sleep/a stressful day/a combination of the above. It also means my blood sugars are on the whole, much lower and my reliance on endless units of insulin is hugely reduced. For more on that head over to The Healthy Diabetic who has got it sussed to the point that he doesn’t require insulin. Exercise makes me feel like a kickass super human, but I can appreciate that taking two hours out of your day to stand in a room avoiding eye-contact with a load of sweaty strangers at 6am may not win over the tiny voices in your head telling you to stay the hell in bed FOOL.
Psycle knows about this 6am inner moral dilemma (dramatic much) and laughs it in the face. Their philosophy is that your state of mind is integral to how hard and how often you exercise, hence the general feeling of loveliness upon stepping through the door. This is something I now completely get, but it took me YEARS to realise this. And it’s something I have to be very careful about trying to convey, because to sceptics who simply see it as pedalling/jumping about/grunting in a room of sweaty people and nothing more, this joining the up of the physical and mental dots to make one big wonderful wellness outlook is all a little bit… cheesy.
For the class itself, Psycle have invested heavily in music curation – some of the tracks played during my workout haven’t even reached the Radio 1 playlist yet. This may seem unnecessary but in my mind it’s incredibly smart – how many people do you know that enter a gym without a playlist of choice? Given how many of us continually soundtrack our entire days with some form of music – commuting, working, drinking, cooking, clubbing – it makes a lot of sense, and actually it’s where Psycle stands out from its competitors who may not be playing Eye Of The Tiger, but the repetitive tinny house tracks of choice that are the same week in, week out are hardly the ultimate in motivation. At Psycle there are morning, lunchtime and evening class soundtracks, and I’m told they’re constantly changing in order to keep you guessing, and thus pedalling.
As we got stuck into the first track, the fair bit of whooping and cheering, plus the clapping, plus the synced-up lights that wouldn’t be out of place on a classier dance floor, made me feel firstly like I was anywhere but in a central London basement, but also conversely just a little *too* British to get stuck in (and as a pretty unashamed cheeser, that’s saying something). But then, with the help of the wonderful, wonderful music and a small dose of ‘get over yourself, Grieves’, I couldn’t help but smile. My legs were pumping, enjoying the novel experience of being on a bike with cleats, my head was bopping, and before I knew it I was clapping. Quietly yes, but I was clapping. And sweating. But the clapping and the bopping helped detract from the sweating. It was an energy that’s never been convincingly portrayed to me in any spin session to date, and it’s an energy that is difficult to avoid being swept along with, much less ignore entirely. Clever, clever, Psycle.
Ten tracks later, some handweights, bike press ups (yes really), a bit of actual choreography *gasp* and a serious endorphin-driven rush, I couldn’t believe that 45 minutes had passed. Programme Director Tim Weeks has the credentials to back all this up – he’s a former athlete and Olympic coach for those of you still not convinced. And for those of you who care less about the science but are alllll about the fun factor, he enlisted the help of Pineapple studios for the choreography. A fun exercise environment beneficial to my blood sugars, created by an athlete who knows his stuff when it comes to fitness, that’s all about great music, with a touch of the jazz hands?? HELL YES.