Rachel Grunwell

Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Fitness Challenge: TopRide (called Spin elsewhere)

Each week intrepid reporter Rachel Grunwell will try out a new form of exercise to bring you the lowdown

Rachel Grunwell tries the Top Ride spin class in the vault at Configure Express gym. Photo / Kellie Blizard
Rachel Grunwell tries the Top Ride spin class in the vault at Configure Express gym. Photo / Kellie Blizard

What is it? Riding a stationary bike, to music, in a class, guided by a coach.

What's needed? Workout gear, water-bottle.

The experience: I'm following in Lady Gaga's footsteps. When the Mother Monster was in Auckland to do a concert recently she did a TopRide class at the Configure Express gym on Queen Street.

Word is some burly minders first sussed the joint and then helped the singer enter via the emergency exit.

Stephanie Mataroa took the class that day and admits she was pretty nervous about her playlist. But no, she didn't play any Lady Gaga tracks.

Stephanie says Gaga arrived all glam, but she honest to God can't remember what she wore; All she could concentrate on was "not passing out".

What Stephanie recalls though is the bodyguards waiting at reception during the workout (it's a women's gym, you see) and that the singer was "super friendly", and "intimidatingly fit".

It's nice to know Gaga wasn't Born This Way; She works bloody hard for her bangin' bod.

TopRide classes are in a small, dark, red-lit room called the vault. Here the music, and sweat, is contained. On one wall, is Gaga's signature and a red-lipstick kiss.

I mount a bike at the back and then get off it. I've not got second thoughts. Honest. I just need to adjust the saddle height.Then I fiddle with a knob that controls resistance to suss how it works.

Coach Nanci Ona-Murphy kicks off the class and within minutes she's yelling instructions, kicking our butts into gear, spurring us on.

So I rev into action and do as I'm told. I mean, imagine what she might do if I don't? She's at the shouting point already.

"All I want you to think about is how hard you're going to work, because it's RACE DAY!" Nanci says enthusiastically.

She asks "is it anyone's first TopRide class?" I tentatively raise a hand and Nanci comments "oh, you're in for a REAL surprise. But don't worry, you don't need co-ordination for this!"

While we're peddling, Nanci tells the class, "I want your legs to feel VERY UNCOMFORTABLE".

So we're in a hard gear, going slowly for a bit. My heart races.

It's about now that I regret not being a nerd and sitting upfront. I've just spotted that's where the fans are.

Nanci spurs us on to try and "beat" the person in front of us. Why didn't I sit at the front!

She adds, "go fast right to the end, GO!", and "check your neighbour's speed" ie catch up! A neighbour half-smiles at moi. I wince back.

Nanci takes pity on us for a bit, telling us to loosen off the gears. I gulp down water. My throat is dryer than a desert. But the break is over as Nanci soon commands, "turn your dial up. You're going to GAS IT ALL THE WAY HOME!"

I cycle like a lunatic in an imaginary race, trying to overtake the riders beside me.

I sit up, down, up, down, peddle slow, hard, fast, and then I'm hunched over my handlebars.

Nanci decides to split the room in two so we can "race each other".

When it's my turn to sprint, I peddle so fast that I'm so flaming red hot that I might catch alight (I'm a competitive tart okay!).

But when I'm wishing Nanci to dream up a relaxing downhill stretch, she shouts "climb that hill! Chase up to the person in front of you!"

My legs are on speed. I peddle my arse off. Literally.

I glimpse the shoulders of the cyclists in front and they're all beaded up in sweat, glistening like glazed Christmas hams. I feel dazed. I might pass out.

But Nanci tells us to push even harder, we're nearing the end of the "race", and shouts "you've got 15 seconds left to shine! YEEEEEEE HAAAA!"

I'm immersed in this madness and keep up with the pack.

Finally the race ends, thank God. I've just been taken to The Edge of Glory.

How much? Sign up for a 12-month membership at Configure Express on Queen St is $24.95 weekly (with a first payment start-up admin fee of $49.95.)

Worth it? Incredible workout in just 30-minutes. Brill for the legs, butt and heart.

Try it: Configure Express Queen St gym, 105 Queen St, Auckland CBD, configurequeenst.co.nz

Rating: 9.5/10

- Herald on Sunday

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