Get fit, get social

Sick of that same old boring gym workout? Tired of treading the same trail, day after day? To beat the solo training blues, try working out with a group – You’ll stay motivated, train harder and have fun doing it!


If you are like me, you may cringe at the thought of training for the sake of training. I would rather pick at my eyeballs with a rusted spoon than sit on stationery trainer, staring blankly at a wall while I work up a sweat. Don’t get me wrong, I love being active (my love handles may say otherwise though). But stick me on a piece of machinery that goes nowhere and I quickly loose interest.

Popping my cherry in the pursuit of a social exercise, I tried a spinning class at Virgin Active. Dubious at first, I entered the mirrored room. The single wheeled, stealth fighter’s, were lined up in battle formation. Their pilots ready for combat. I broke their concentration while I engaged the instructor on how to set up my bike correctly. “Hip here, lift saddle, forearm there,move seat back, lean forward, handle up. OK, you are ready for lift off. ” A skinny lycra clad wing-man whispered, “try not to pass out”. I felt like an Albatross amongst F16’s!

The instructor lead her squadron from mission control at the head of the class; deftly controlling music, microphone and bike, while drilling us through a sweaty workout, to the sound of bass blasting beats: Up cadence, down cadence. Increase,decrease resistance. Sit, stand, climb, sit, stand,climb. Push, push, push!

For 45 minutes the workout continued. My bike was an island amid a pool of perspiration. My wing-man slapped me on the back. “Well done,” he congratulated me as we came to a stop, “you didn’t fall over”. Grinning and gasping through my hypoxic fog, I glowed with satisfaction. The camaraderie and motivation in class was infectious. As I looked around the room, I realized that I wasn’t the only one not clad in tights, or built like a racing snake. Anybody is welcome and we left as equals.

I went back as often as time permitted and noticed a huge improvement in my climbing ability. The group session gave me more focus, support and ultimately made my training sessions more enjoyable. After all, if you not having fun, what’s the point?

Trail rides with other people have the same benefits. Conversation and motivating banter are part of the attraction. Laughing at your mates expense, as he gets a mouth full of dirt on a particularly hairy berm is just as appealing. You are free to joke, as last week you were covered in mud; caused by pulling front brakes by accident and going backside over brains, which had your friend in stitches.

More experienced riders will often point out where your riding style needs improvement. “Keep your inside knee up and push down hard on your outside pedal when entering a turn. And break before, not during the turn”, were two valuable lessons I picked up early on. Its a great feeling to share what you have learned with other beginners and watching them progress because of it. And which guy doesn’t secretly enjoy watching ladies in tight lycra go by. Unless, she’s smiles while passing you on a steep climb while you are desperately gasping air. But that’s even more reason to push yourself harder.

Trail and Tar has a group ride every Wednesday night in Tokai forest. Free coffee, showers, lockers and WiFi are available at the shop pre/post ride. Join their mailing list to get weekly updates and find out who bit the dust at the previous weeks outing:

Virgin Active has loads of different group training activities. Visit their website for a complete list and timetables:

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