The other week I finally got around to watching Whiplash, a quite frankly astonishing film about a jazz drummer. Now admittedly this sounds like it could be quite a specialist genre, but please don’t be fooled. This is less Band Camp and more Rocky, a tale of one lad’s journey from average player to genius, achieved through dedication and hard work (and of course montages): This guy literally plays until his fingers bleed!
The film is really made however ,by the band’s conductor / coach, with a thoroughly deserving Oscar winning performance from JK Simmons. This guys goes all out for his role, playing it like R Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket, shouting, berating and borderline abusing the band members to make them push themselves harder to get the best out of their abilities. In case of the main character in this film, he gets him to play faster and more accurately than what should be humanly possible.
A couple of days after watching the film, I found myself re-living it (to an extent!) with the launch of a new class at my gym, Les Mills Sprint. Now I have been doing various spin and RPM classes for over a year now and written about them a fair bit and thought I had done just about everything you can do on a stationary bike (steady). But this was something brand new, a much shorter, punchier version of riding, with a different focus.
In normal spin type classes you will ride for 45 mins to an hour, with average tracks being about 5 minutes long, alternating between sprints, hill climbs, endurance, intervals and so on. You usually get to slow down for a rest between tracks and can pace your training to complete the session.
This new style class is different. For a start, in what seems to be becoming a theme at my gym, it is only 30 mins long, and you are only actually putting in effort for about two thirds of this, and the rest you are doing virtually nothing. But when you are working, wow are you working hard. The class we did only had four tracks (that I can remember). A pretty tough heavy work out which left me feeling like I had been doing squats, a massive race track with some seriously fast and never-ending sprints, a relentless mountain climb for around 10 minutes, and some tabata (interval) training.
Given the short timeframe the aim is to be right up at maximum effort the whole time, so rather than a long session at 80%, this is 100% or nothing. And there is no escape, because as well as the instructor leading the class from their bike, they are supposed to get off and wander around the room, ‘encouraging’ you to work harder and improve your technique. And because this was a trial session we had two instructors, so double the trouble. Admittedly they did not take it quite as far as Mr Simmons in Whiplash, but in my mind it was as good as shouting in your fact to work harder, ride faster and given it everything.
It may have only been 30 minutes, but by the end it felt like I had been in there all morning, and for the first time in a while had proper jelly legs, giving rise to genuine concerns when making my way down the stairs from the studio.
But down to the important question: was it as good as RPM. I have to be honest, it was not quite as good. Partly as the music was not quite as good as normal, although that could change in a future release, and partly as it did not quite suit my goals. If you are pushed for time and want a class to burn maximum fat then it will be right up your street, but if you prefer to spend a bit longer at the gym or build off-season endurance for a longer event such as triathlons, you may prefer the more traditional spin classes. Still, it offers a decent bit of variety and I am sure I will be giving it another go after its proper launch in January to mix up my New Year training. Might have to get myself some earplugs for next time though!