Working out is both expensive and time-consuming. With a tight budget and a tight schedule, young professionals in Boston need quick, down and dirty, honest reviews of gyms, studios and fitness classes in the city. In the Happy Hour Athlete series, BostInno will attend classes and write first-impression reviews about our experiences – from what to wear, to what the music was like, to who you’ll be working out next to. We’ll also tell you where to get a drink after getting your sweat on.
“Please arrive 10 min. prior to pick out your shoes,” read an email from The Handle Bar team before my first class. Shoes? Why would I need to pick out shoes? Am I going shopping or cycling? Confused, I obliged without asking question, showing up 20 minutes earlier than instructed just in case I was indecisive about my footwear.
Upon entering the new Handle Bar studio, “clean” was the first word that popped into my head, an easy win in the brownie points department considering what places that attract perspiring humans have the potential to smell like. A friendly receptionist (who I later realized was Jess Bashelor, the owner of Handle Bar) helped my friend and I get fitted for our shoes, which essentially just meant telling her our size and trying on a pair of super nerdy velcro shoes, designed specifically for indoor cycling bikes.
After nervously pacing the small Handle Bar hallway and chugging water in preparation for our ride, we were ushered into the bike studio, where Jess helped us adjust our equipment to fit our body types. Then, minutes later, the window shades were drawn, the music was cranked, and we were off.
Happy Hour Athlete’s First Impression
Classroom: 30 bikes, arranged in a semi-circle around the elevated instructor’s bike. Full-length mirrors line most of the walls, and it’s very dimly lit. Bonus: all the bikes come with studio-supplied towels. Trust me, you’ll need ’em.
Where to Sit: Preferably facing a mirror, so that when you’re told to keep your shoulders back, you can see if you’re actually doing so. I’m also pretty short (OK, very short), so I grabbed a prime seat in the front row for optimal instructor viewing.
Who You’ll Be Sitting Next To: A 20-something female. At our Sunday night class of about 15 people, more than half were ladies just like me, wearing Lululemon spandex and grooving along to Justin Timberlake. There was just one gentleman, an older man who apparently loves riding to Justin Timberlake, too.
What to Wear: The tighter the better. Your focus throughout the class will be on the bike, and you’ll want comfortable garments that won’t ride up, bunch, contribute to chaffing, or anything else that’s uncomfortable. If you have long hair, pull it back, unless you’re into the sweat-soaked look these days.
What You’ll Do: Pedal. The instructor will take you through different types of movements and paces, from sprints (essentially, pedaling super fast) to jumps (standing up out of your seat) to everything in between, all without getting off the bike.
What You’ll Hear: Lots of mash-ups, ranging from Top 40 hits like Selena Gomez and Robin Thicke to old school Michael Jackson jams. On top of that, continual encouragement from the instructor via a microphone. Oh, and the occasional grunts from classmates who were either loving the music or hating the workout.
Who Will Teach You: The instructor for our class was Elise Petersen, a 7-year cycling veteran. She was energized, prompted us to challenge ourselves throughout the ride, and called us out (nicely) when we weren’t. I also appreciated that she was just as sweaty and out of breath by the end of the workout as the rest of us were.
Level of Difficulty: On a scale of 1 (a couch potato could do it) to 10 (it would be hard even for Bo Jackson), the workout was a 6. That’s not to say it wasn’t hard, but it’s all about what you make it. You control your bike’s resistance, so if you’re feeling like an extra-tough workout, you can crank it up as much as you’d like. (The opposite applies if you’re feeling lazy).
Cost: $20 per class and $2 for shoe rental.
Length of Class: Generally 45 minutes, some are an hour.
Location: 141 Dorchester Ave. The Handle Bar easy to get to, located just off the Red Line’s Broadway T stop in Southie. There’s ample street parking for those of you driving.
Would I Do It Again? Yep, I’d ride again. The awesome music kept me pumped up, combined with the frequnecy in which we changed sets made the hour class go by very fast.
Where to Reward Yourself: The Franklin Cafe is just across the street, ready to pour you a Mai Tai. Head there immediately following your evening ride.