Pop music explodes and my spirits soar as I push myself even harder, lit by blue spotlights in a studio where cameras shoot every angle. An audience of 70,456 is watching us – and we’re still growing.
I’m in my first peloton practice class that is open to the public at London’s newest studio. I am under the tutelage of superstar coach Leanne Hainsby and the class is broadcast live to tens of thousands of viewers at home.
The fitness platform skyrocketed in popularity during the pandemic, when we could only exercise at home. Everyone from Rishi Sunak to Sporty Spice declared themselves fans, and the glamorous coaches became a celebrity in their own right.
Critics have ridiculed the cost – her fixed-screen bike price from £1,345, plus £39 a month for access to online lessons. But the cult-like following of Peloton has grown and the company has gained a whopping 7 million members worldwide.
Of all the UK Peloton coaches, Leanne, 35, a former support dancer for Taylor Swift and One Direction, is the most well known. Pictured: Leanne Hensby (left) and Antonia Howell of the Daily Mail
However, when gyms reopened, Peloton’s stock price fell and sales of its bikes – which had previously had waiting lists – ground to a halt.
Perhaps summing up its faltering fortunes, Peloton has been blamed for the death of the character Mr. Page, of the TV show Sex And The City, who had a heart attack while riding a bike on the reboot of the cult show – And Just Like That – last December.
The company hopes that opening some of its classes to the public will spark interest — and so far, the plan appears to be working.
When bookings for £25 classes opened this summer, they sold out quickly, and there are waiting lists for the most popular appointments in the coming months.
Of all the UK Peloton coaches, Leanne, 35, a former support dancer for Taylor Swift and One Direction, is the most well known. Her toned physique and her 320k followers on Instagram are in contrast to the behavior of the girl next door. The pair, who work out with fellow trainer Ben Aldis, 29, have been Britain’s top fitness influencers. But call it celebrity at your peril.
“Because of the pressure we’re under, it would be very obvious if we were less of ourselves,” Lian says.
I’m in my first peloton practice class that is open to the public at London’s newest studio. I’m under the tutelage of superstar coach Leanne Hainsby and the class is being streamed live to tens of thousands of viewers at home.
I enjoyed the chance to meet the legions of fans who said it helped save their sanity during the pandemic.
“I want my interviewees to think: ‘Oh, you’re exactly the same,’” she says. Hopefully it’s motivating and inspiring.
“The difference with the members being in the studio is that there is the magic of being able to feel people’s energy.”
I’ve been on Peloton since February 2021. I’m obsessed with its trainers and take about five classes a week, so I jump at the chance of getting a front row seat (bike) on Leanne’s 30-minute Pop Ride, curious as to how the virtual experience might translate into reality life.
Can I push myself too hard when I know I’m in front of the camera? Is this just a return to the workout class, albeit with a modern twist?
Peloton headquarters in central London is part of a film collection and a fitness palace. It’s open to the public Friday through Sunday, when producers film cycling and walking (running) classes in glass-fronted control rooms. Attendees must arrive 45 minutes before class begins.
I walked into the changing rooms, filled with designer shower gels and Dyson hair dryers, to get my workout set. We are asked to wear ‘non-distracting’ clothing. Top clothing must be worn and clothing must be ‘family friendly’.
I pick some cycling shoes in my size off the shelf. They have cleats underneath that attach to the pedals and the rent is included in the class price.
When the doors open, we are directed to our bikes. Mine – the swallow – is closest to Leanne.
The excitement reached its climax at the time the security personnel were summoned. Impeccable in a crop top, leggings and makeup, she tests her mic, radiating in all of us as the digital clock counts down and the livestream goes live.
“This is a moment—for me, for you, for all of us,” rallies us, rockstar fashion, as we prepare to the music of Rick Astley’s I’ll Never Leave You. (To her credit, Leanne has never claimed to be gorgeous.)
I’ve been on Peloton since February 2021. I’m obsessed with its trainers and take about five classes a week, so I jump at the chance of getting a front row seat (bike) on Leanne’s 30-minute Pop Ride, curious as to how the virtual experience might translate into reality life
As the journey progresses, it offers “cries” to the names on the leaderboard – some with us in person, some at home after the live broadcast – whose contours are visible to the coaches.
When London Mama Bear, in the studio, is congratulated for completing 400 rides, we are rowdy. I wonder if I’m getting too American, but the camaraderie is contagious and any plans to not turn into a sweaty wreck are tossed out because I pedal harder.
I’m so busy thinking about how Leanne stays immaculate in the middle of a workout (later, she tells me she has a ‘sneaky fan’ who trained on her) that I miss her calling my name.
“Where’s AntOnTheBike?” ask again.
Waving my hand hysterically in cheerful confession, I almost lost my balance.
By the end, I didn’t hit the PR (peloton talking about the personal record), but I’m not far off.
Leanne is taken to the coaches green room for a “walk and fir” before meeting us for a photo shoot. Nobody refuses.
Since I’ve been traveling for 2 hours today, I’m not sure I’ll be a regular class when I can just ride my bike home. But for the sense of the occasion, I can definitely see the calling – and whatever the pessimists say, I’m betting I book classes for some time to come.
“My job is to make people sweat, but they always apologize when I push them for a hug,” she laughs, remembering a mother who brought her two children to the studio last weekend.
They know mom rides with Sparkly Leanne and they kept pissing me off – I guess they thought I was a real-life hero or a cartoon character brought back to life. It was a beautiful moment. They traveled for hours to get here.
Since I’ve been traveling for 2 hours today, I’m not sure I’ll be a regular class when I can just ride my bike home.
But for the sense of the occasion, I can definitely see the calling – and whatever the pessimists say, I’m betting I book the classes for some time to come.