If we’re honest with ourselves, every workout is a competition against our inner athlete to see how far we can go and how long we can sustain that effort. At The Pursuit, the latest spin class to hit Houston via the new Equinox River Oaks, members are encouraged to go one round higher by competing against each other in a 45-minute high intensity race against time that ends in an incredible adrenaline rush and—hopefully—bragging rights.
The ingenious and one-of-a-kind format debuted at Equinox clubs nationally in 2015 to rave reviews and so far the response in H-town has been equally positive, says Corey Jones, group fitness manager and my instructor when I took on The Pursuit: Build last week.
At first glance the dimmed studio looks like your typical indoor cycling class with rows of tiered bikes arranged in an arc facing an instructor podium, but it doesn’t take more than a few seconds to realize this is not your average spin session. That’s because in here it’s about more than getting sweaty and raising your heart rate, it’s a dare to smash previously held feelings of ability in a supportive yet competitive environment. After the instructor challenges the class to a group distance goal, which is cumulative throughout the adventure and combines the distances reached by each participating rider, the fun—or pain, depending on your perspective—begins.
“We cue this as going high intensity and being breathless, you want to knock on the door but not go in,” says Jones.
Through a series of games displayed on a large screen against the front wall (three games for The Pursuit: Build and five games for The Pursuit: Burn), riders can compete individually or in groups. For example during the Three Peaks game, the goal is to complete three sets and subsequently surpass the previous mileage achieved. Each bike’s number is tracked digitally and is visible to the entire class via Connected Cycling consoles that also track workout statistics accessible by a phone app; participation in the group competition is optional but strongly encouraged and Jones says most people who opt out the first time eagerly take part the next time around. However, true first-time riders might want to opt out so they can focus energy on learning the concepts instead of the competition.
Regardless of individual or group play, the energy is the same and the drive to conquer is a palpable force. This is what sets The Pursuit classes apart from other indoor cycling experiences, which are effective and challenging but in a different way. According to Jones, the accountability of being on a team creates a different experience from traditional classes. The desire support your team and the class overall is a powerful motivator that just isn’t present the same way in other classes.
When I ask how intense the workout is supposed to be on a scale of 1–10 with 1 being a cakewalk and 10 being “OMG I’m dying,” Jones says it should fall between an 8 and a 10: "It’s tough. It’s really tough.” But that doesn’t mean it’s restricted to the super fit. “I’m a firm believer that you create your own experience. To me your fitness level can change, so your hard effort today may be better or worse tomorrow. I don’t want people to think ‘Oh, I’m not good enough to do this.’ Maybe if you aren’t, you will be if you come in and you try it.” After all, the class was designed by Equinox trainer and fitness expert Jeffrey Scott to give members a program that made them work harder, stay engaged, and also have fun with data-driven success.
As always, consult your physician if you are concerned about your health or injury status prior to taking the class. While anyone who can cycle is welcomed, it’s important to recognize safety limitations before beginning a program. Jones also cautions against taking The Pursuit more than two to three times per week, as its threshold training format is more intense than other classes and he recommends a day between classes for recovery. Equinox is a members-only fitness club but non-members have opportunities to attend as guests of members or during special open events. Classes are very popular and can be booked 26 hours in advance—Jones adds that waitlisted riders often get a bike, so don’t be discouraged if the class you want is full.
“I know some riders that race and they say this is the hardest they ever work on a bike,” says Jones. “Even if you don’t want to, it makes you when you’re in the moment and in the room with other people. I think even if you weren’t even into it that day if you come in here and you’re present and that game is on, it drives you.”