I find spin hilarious—it’s a laugh or cry situation. My favourite class is taken in the dark with an intense instructor who you can count on to yell at you just at the right moment (when you’ve temporarily sat down), and high-five you on the way out. It’s a love/ hate relationship—when you’re climbing a hill to The Weeknd it’s like pleasurable pain for the hamstrings, and when you’re struggling to walk up the stairs the next day you start to question whether that’s a good or bad thing.
Psycle has been described as “clubbing on a bike,” and if you’ve ever donned Lycra and cycled to 90s electro, you’ll know why. It’s high-energy, low-impact, and cathartic—and that’s why it can be so addictive. The problem is that doing only one kind of workout eventually becomes void (even if your heart is pounding and you’re drenched in sweat), and so the London-based studio will launch a new, curated programme of classes at its third studio, soon to open, in Shoreditch. Incorporating yoga, HIIT, spin, and barre, the schedule offers full conditioning for both the body and mind.
Psycle believes in 360-degree wellbeing, so a range of styles will be taught within each practice, allowing everyone to take what they need. Headed by Gemma Soul, yoga at Psycle will range from slower paced styles like yin and yoga nidra, to dynamic rocket and Jivamukti classes, as well as its own signature class, Yoga Fix. “Psycle HIIT is a challenging, highly effective and fun strength class that will push your boundaries and improve your strength,” says Becky Duffy, who will lead the HIIT programming. While barre classes, developed by Maria Eleftheriou, are created in a similar way to a Psycle spin class— “they are effective, immersive, have physical and psychological intention, create a journey, and are incredibly fun.”
We’re already huge fans of Psycle, so we jumped at the chance to sit down with CEO Rhian Stephenson and the new women at the helm of these categories to chat about self-care, what we can expect from this new holistic program.
PSYCLE CEO, RHIAN STEPHENSON
ON THE DECISION TO EXPAND BEYOND SPINNING
We always knew that spinning would be our core, but it’s always been on our mind to grow. Our mission is to inspire people to lead vibrant, happy, energetic lives, and we know that in order to be truly healthy, you need to cultivate balance. My experience of the fitness world was always quite one-dimensional – there would be one studio and one community that I absolutely loved, and the rest would fall short which meant I would either spend all my time in one place and not get the variety I need, or I would go around to different brands but not be as satisfied and not have as much fun or be connected in the community. Having a variety of disciplines under one brand and being able to strengthen the connection to community is the ideal outcome for us. We will continue to invest in and expand our ride proposition and we’re incredibly excited to build the other disciplines into the community.
Canary Wharf opened in summer 2015, so last year was about making that a success and preparing the business for expansion. We also had to spend a lot of time on market research and product development and wanted to go at a pace that felt natural and comfortable rather than rushed. The new disciplines really bring to life the idea of balance. In addition to the incredible cardio based ride workout, HIIT and Barre add elements of muscular strength and conditioning, and yoga adds flexibility, mindfulness and a restorative aspect. It gives people a chance to personalize their health and explore the different avenues of fitness.
It’s a great mixture of both business and residential local community and it’s near the workers of Liverpool street. It’s a great destination area with a wealth of cafes, restaurants, bars, shopping – pretty much our perfect mix.
We are pretty much always looking for locations but now that we have our next three secured, we’ll only look for longer lead sites and focus on growing the five we have. There are a variety of factors that influence our site choices including the building itself.
ON PUTTING A ‘PSYCLE’ SPIN ON HIIT, YOGA & BAR
I’m so excited about these classes. Our barre concept is completely different to anything you can currently find in London. We’ve taken inspiration from some of our favorite classes all over the world and created a concept that’s in line with Psycle’s energy and style. It’s less balletic, more music focused and incredibly challenging – the perfect class for people who want to increase strength, work their core, improve posture, and improve muscle tone quickly.
Our HIIT class is all about conditioning. There are no gimmicks – it’s back to basics training that will increase your markers of fitness in the most efficient way possible. It’s designed to blast your metabolism, improve functional strength and has fantastic hormonal effects. The class uses a variety of equipment but every class has a challenging, calisthenics aspect to it. We also have dedicated workshops which range from learning fundamental core skills to advanced training.
Designing the yoga concept has been quite a journey. We started by thinking about what the community really needs – and most people had the same things to say. Tight hips, tight chest, constricted breathing patterns, underdeveloped posterior chain (back body) and overdeveloped anterior chain (front body). At first, we thought this was only our community but the more people we spoke to the more we saw the same patterns. The reality of London life means that we sit a lot, over work, over worry, carry heavy bags, hunch over screens, have bad posture…. So, we started to think of a sequence that could fix all of this and still give you a strong practice as well as physical and emotional release that you crave from yoga. We consulted with some of the best yoga instructors in London, physiotherapists and even doctors to really understand the body and what came out was The Fix, our signature set sequence. The Fix is a dynamic practice that has 4 variations – hips, chest, core and legs – each of which spend a little more time on their set area so that you can really work into it.
ON HIRING THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO HEAD UP THE NEW CATEGORIES
The new concepts have a mixture of old and new – and they are all incredible! We always hire based on a specific set of principles, so because we have so many instructors that were already experts in their field before we even found them, we didn’t have to look far to find talented and passionate people. We wanted to ensure that each concept had a dedicated team, so if we didn’t have someone who was an absolute expert already in house, we recruited.
The fact that our instructors have become influencers in their own right happened organically. We never hire based on Instagram followers or influence, we hire people who we know will be incredible coaches and passionate leaders. We also want people who really care about what they do and want to be a part of a positive, supportive and fun community. If someone isn’t committed to that we can tell early on and they won’t be the right fit for us.
THE POWER OF COMMUNITY
Community is at the heart of everything we do for so many reasons. Firstly, the need for social connection is inherent to who we are, and we don’t always get enough of it. It’s essential for emotional health and it has an undeniable effect on physical health – being a part of a healthy positive community has a knock-on effect in so many other aspects of life. The driver for me was also very personal. I was bullied at primary school as a child and what had the most impact on me was being a part of the swim team. Sports team are an incredible place to build confidence and feel truly connected to something, and I think that’s what is special about finding a fitness community as well. On top of that, London can be lonely! It’s huge, it’s busy, and it’s hard to see all the people you want to and still have time to fit in health and fitness. Working out together crates fantastic bonds. It’s fun, it makes everyone feel good, it’s often a central point where you can meet and do something great for your body before moving on to dinner, drinks or even just home afterwards.
We’ve had some amazing stories from riders, and most of them have nothing to do with weight loss (although we have those too!). We’ve had countless people write in about how riding and being a part of Psycle has helped them through incredibly challenging times in their life – from serious issues like divorce, break ups, illness and family death to building confidence to leave their jobs, or negative relationships. On the flip side, we have amazing stories about people who have never worked out before and trained with us to run a marathon, or do an ironman. We had a 55 year-old couple who were overweight and heavy smokers who between them, lost 3 stone and quit smoking – the stories are inspirational and they’re endless! And it’s not just the riders, a lot of the team have a Psycle story as well. I taught the day my grandmother died and I was overwhelmed with how much love and support I got from the riders – half of whom I didn’t even know. Our chairman wrote us an amazing letter about how being around the team and coming to classes helped him through his mother’s death. Our instructor Laura fell in love with endurance training through teaching and challenged herself to do a triathlon – she has now qualified for team GB!
THE BIGGEST CHANGES IN THE WELLNESS SPACE SINCE PSYCLE LAUNCHED THREE YEARS AGO
It used to be purely associated with weight and had a lot of negative connotations. If you ate or drank something bad, your punishment was the gym. Now, so much information has come out that celebrates all the incredible benefits that exercise has on pretty much every aspect of your life – mood, concentration, happiness, confidence, concentration, skin, body composition, hormone health, libido, immune system, disease prevention, it’s anti-ageing effects. The list goes on. There’s also been a real shift around body image – heroin chic is not cool, strength is sexy, and so many more body shapes are celebrated. The focus on health has taken away the pressure or judgement that used to be associated with exercise and now people can connect and interact in a more fun, authentic and exciting way.
MARIA ELEFTHERIOU, HEAD OF BARRE
HER IMPRESSIVE PRE-PSYCLE JOURNEY
I have danced my whole life and was lucky enough to have an exciting fourteen-year-long career in the dance industry. I trained at the London School of Musical Theatre and began work on stage in the musical La Cage Aux Folles followed by Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. I was a dancer in the film Maleficent and also worked many fashion shows including fashion shows including Marks and Spencer/Adidas/Christian Louboutin. Over these years, I also assisted leading London choreographer Lyndon Lloyd including work with Cee-Lo Green, Paloma Faith, Rod Stewart and MUSE.
THE TRANSITION FROM DANCE TO FITNESS
Fitness to me was something I’d always done alongside dancing to keep my body in shape and I’d often run to build stamina for long rehearsal days. I became very ill in my 20s with ulcerative colitis and had to take a year out. Over that year, I lost a great deal of muscle and strength. Within my recovery, the only thing I found to build myself back up gradually and sustainably was strength and weight training. I began to love working with my own body weight and resistance. I really started to understand how the body reacted combining cardio strength work and eating well after the trauma my body had gone through. After a year, it was the strongest I had ever felt and the best I had looked in a long time. I got really into my fitness and the science of changing and strengthening the body. Dancing was still my main priority but I knew I had found something that gave me the same adrenalin and motivation that walking into an audition or rehearsal room. After a trip to New York about 7 years ago, I walked into my first barre class and I was hooked! I left the class thinking that it was the most challenging, exciting kick ass class I’d ever done. When the first boutique barre studio hit London, I auditioned and gained a place on their training program. It began as a side job to my dance career so I was busier than ever trying to balance the too. At the age of 30, I knew that I had found my “thing” and wanted to make this my career.
ON WORKING WITH HIGH PROFILE WOMEN
I’ve seen so many women on different journeys. Some have come to see me before they have a big event, fashion show or wedding coming up. Some are there to build their confidence after having children or to work on their mental strength. Everyone has a goal and that’s where we start. I often find the drive of someone’s performance when they’re training. Subconsciously they’ll indicate what’s going on in their outside world and everyday life. The beauty of barre and strength work is it’s so physically challenging that they have to tap into their mental strength and become mentally resilient. It’s arguably the most critical trait of any performer or individual, and it should be nurtured. The more we work mental strength, through holding positions, working every plane of the body, comfort zones and mental boundaries are broken.
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR BARRE PRACTICE
We feel barre achieves great results on its own. Taken daily or a couple of times a week due to its low impact, high intensity nature. Barre is also a great compliment to other forms of fitness. I combine and rotate barre 3-4 times a week, 3 cardio and HIT session and 1 weekly yoga. This is when I see my best results.
HOW TO PUSH THROUGH IN THOSE CHALLENGING MOMENTS
It’s your journey, and there’s no denying the first class will be challenging, but look one week ahead. By your fourth class, you’ll already feel taller, more connected to your body and have already exceeded your own expectations. There’s no rush. A strong productive mind and body takes time. Set one goal for yourself every session.
ON THE MIND-BODY CONNECTION
The small movements make us much more aware of what is going on in the body. We are working so hard in that focused group of muscles, our attention is solely on what we are feeling, experiencing and making the most of the now. It helps us forget about problems outside of the room.
MARIE NAPIER, HEAD OF SPIN
ON WORKING AT PSYCLE FROM THE BEGINNING
I was one of the first instructors on the schedule. What initially attracted me to Psycle was the full body workout on the bike. I had been teaching indoor studio cycling for a few years and I was always getting into trouble from the group exercise manager for riding to the beat of the music and incorporating upper body movements. I mean, that is quite hilarious given that it is exactly what we do at Psycle London.
WHAT HER ROLE AS HEAD OF SPIN INVOLVES
I train and develop the instructors to insure we have consistency across the board. I also develop our workout and learning material, to make sure our riders are always progressing. I’m also heavily involved in the recruiting and training for all new instructors, putting them through their paces in our Psycle Academy.
GEMMA SOUL, HEAD OF YOGA
My main practice and teaching is Vinyasa yoga. For those who don’t know it, Vinyasa is a flow based yoga class, aligning breath and movement through sun salutations and specifically chosen yoga poses, creating a meditative and creative style of yoga practice. This practice allowed me to dive in deep, connecting breath and body gave me an opportunity to get lost in the meditative movement, which actually let me find more of my true self, paving the way for a more authentic life by decluttering ‘the stuff’ we consciously or subconsciously hold onto and believe in. I love classes that have intention, little snippets of earth shaking inspiration that leave you feeling expansive and really ready to bring yourself to meet and embrace the fullness life has to offer.
GETTING TO KNOW YOUR BODY BETTER
When you start practicing yoga, you begin to realise the parts of yourself you had either forgotten, neglected or didn’t even realise were there, physically, mentally and spiritually. Having time where your focus is aligned solely on you and how you are moving and responding on the mat is a gateway to knowing and understanding yourself better. These practices can lead to enlightenment not just on the mat but off the mat too. For me, spending this time on the mat, enabled me to unpick all the untrue stories about myself and start to see myself more clearly and tap into my true authentic self.
ON MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION
I truly believe that these practices can happen at any time, anywhere in your day. It could be taking a moment to fully appreciate a beautiful day, or a moment in your work day to check where your thoughts have gone and if they are helpful. Meditation for me started with playing the piano and running, a chance where I could free my or focus my mind to one task. Meditation does not have to necessarily be sat down in a lotus pose for an hour. My general wellbeing has improved tenfold by having awareness of myself, my actions and reactions in any given situation and realising that I ultimately have a choice.
MAKING SELF-CARE A PRIORITY
Incorporating quiet time into your busy life is a practice, right? We always will have an excuse why we don’t have time. It is important to prioritise a manageable amount of time for yourself. First of all, try quiet time when you wake up (before looking at your phone!!) and before you go to bed. These times can be a wonderful time to check in with yourself either before a busy day to set yourself up well or to let go of the day before sleeping.
Psycle Shoreditch and the new classes launch on Monday July 24