As we pack away the BBQ and throw on extra layer or two, it’s clear that the ‘back to school’ feeling isn’t just for the kids. After the indulgence of summer parties, holidays and copious late nights, many of us see September as a chance to regroup, refocus and get back into a healthier routine. It’s a pattern that spin instructor, and co-owner of Push Spin, Ben Rankilor knows well.
He says, “Autumn has a great vibe for people getting back to the gym. We notice it in particular with our 9.30 class, taught by my partner Melly, because it’s designed to fit around mums. When the kids are off school it’s really quiet but, as soon as the kids go back, it’s immediately packed again. For time-poor parents it’s a great class because it’s after the school drop off and it’s the same time every day. They can come in, do 45 minutes and leave.”
Unlike running or many other cardio based classes, spinning doesn’t impact on the joints, making it suitable for people of all ages and abilities. The difficulty of the class is completely determined by the individual, allowing for experienced spinners and beginners alike to take part in the same class.
Ben says, “As you get older you can’t keep running on the street because your knees, back and ankles get worn out and more prone to injury from the impact. With spinning you can still do hard exercise sessions but, because the foot is in contact with the pedal all the time, you don’t have that slamming impact that you would have when running on the concrete. We have members who are in their 70s, who are spinning with us and exercising really hard – but they wouldn’t be able to run. It’s a great community feel because you could be in the same class as someone who is much older and everybody would be getting the same feeling out it. Nobody is left out and I think that makes it very popular.”
On the whole, cycling as a sport has seen a massive rise in popularity over the past decade, most noticeably amongst middle aged men (they’ve even earned themselves the label of MAMILs – Middle Aged Men In Lycra). According to Ben, Britain’s Olympic successes in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 games have been a huge driver, along with Bradley Wiggins’ Tour De France win in 2012. As a former Team GB Triathlete himself, Ben is no stranger to the world of competitive cycling.
“I initially participated in the London triathlon for charity, a bit like how people do the London marathon. In 1996 I was working as a fitness instructor, someone came up to me one day, thrust a voucher in my hand and said, ‘you should do the London triathlon and raise money for a children’s hospice.’ I trained for it, did a lot of running, a lot of cycling… I wasn’t a great swimmer but I improved with practice. I did the London triathlon and really enjoyed it – I just got into it. The more you do something, the more it becomes your identity. After 3 or 4 years of racing I plucked up courage to enter my first Team GB selection race. It went well and I managed to qualify for an age group Team GB place, which was great. Over the next 5 years I raced for the Great Britain age group team in Australia, Mexico, Canada and Holland before trying my hand at 70.3 and Ironman racing (long distance triathlon) in Germany and Switzerland.”
Now aged 46, Ben predominantly uses his expertise to train and motivate others. Along with partner and fellow spin instructor, Melly Eveleigh, Ben launched the Push Spin studio inside Clements Place Arcade a couple of years ago. Melly also has experience in competitive cycling, herself an Ironman racer and qualifier for Team GB. Since starting Push, their venture has grown from strength to strength, with the couple having just invested in a £30,000 studio refurbishment, including 25 brand new bikes that will arrive in October. With no contract and no join fee, members can either choose to buy a pack of 10 classes for £70 (with a 3 month expiry) or go unlimited for £39.99 a month. Ben says,
“We do a free trial for people, where we meet them half an hour before the class and we show them how the bike works etc. Even if someone is completely new to exercise, spin is a great place to start.”