Riding The New Workout Wave

by Scott Rogers
Photography by Lori Brooks

Riding a stationary bike isn’t always the most enjoyable of experiences. You’re sitting in one spot, cooped up indoors, without the wisp of the summer breeze in your hair, unable to experience the pleasures of the great outdoors. The classes can sometimes be monotonous. But a new take on indoor cycling that promises to up the fun ante is coming to Peoria this fall, thanks to the efforts of a few local enthusiasts.

Shaping an Idea
The first of its kind in Peoria, LOOP Cycling Studio is set to open at Metro Centre on September 1st. LOOP is an indoor cycling experience that involves intense conditioning, fat-burning interval training, strengthening exercises and stretching, all set to a rockin’ soundtrack.

The LOOP concept comes in part from the boutique spinning studios of New York City. While the term spinning has been appropriated by gyms throughout the country, these cycling classes rarely represent the true spinning experience, which expands on the methods of the typical indoor cycling class, combining motivational speaking, a boutique environment and fun music to create a unique experience.

And LOOP is “far from a plain old spinning class,” says its conceptual founder, Eric Brinker. “It’s an experience with attention to both body and soul.” The president of Metro Centre, Brinker has been a cycling enthusiast for some time. Having experienced the spinning studios of the Big Apple, he longed for a more sophisticated cycling workout here in the River City.

One day, while working out at a local gym, Brinker happened to run into Jeff Wolffe, a former fraternity brother at Bradley University. At first, he didn’t recognize Wolffe, who had recently lost 50 pounds, having embarked on a personal mission to improve his health and fitness. Along the way, he decided to put his training and knowledge to use for others, becoming a certified fitness trainer through the International Sports Sciences Association.

Impressed by this remarkable transformation, Brinker pitched him the concept for a boutique indoor cycling studio, and Wolffe jumped at the idea. Now LOOP’s fitness director, Wolffe brought his wife, Corinne, on board to serve as customer service manager. Next, they enlisted the help of Rich Pestien, owner of the outdoor sporting goods retailer Bushwhacker, who offered advice on bikes, shoes, equipment and general maintenance. Pestien provides the bikes for the studio, as well as LOOP-themed merchandise, including cycling shoes, bandanas, biking attire and more. “[It was] such a natural partnership for us,” noted Brinker. And the LOOP team was in place.

The LOOP Experience
The LOOP workout is as fun as it is intense. Time flies by like the wind while participants follow inspiring instructors and feed off the room’s contagious energy. As riders saddle up, they find themselves pedaling to the beat, while the instructor urges them onward with a smile. Light hand weights are utilized to provide a unique aerobic workout—“like yoga on a bike.” At various times, the instructor will signal riders to grab these weights, leading them on a series of arm movements throughout the ride. Wolffe created this method himself, noting that it will tone your upper body muscles without safety risks.

LOOP offers three main classes, each designed to meet participants’ fitness needs by pushing their bodies to the absolute limit. LOOP 45 is the standard class, an intense, full-body workout that lasts for 45 minutes and burns between 400 and 700 calories. The next step up is LOOP 60, which lasts for an hour and burns 600 to 1,000 calories per ride. The final offering is LOOP Train, which doesn’t involve a bike at all, but is a personal training program geared toward the fitness goals of the individual.

One item that every rider needs to enjoy LOOP is cycling shoes, which lock the feet onto the pedals of the bike, offering a more secure position and maximizing the workout’s effectiveness. Its stiff soles help riders pedal more efficiently and with more powerful strokes. These will be available at Bushwhacker at a discounted price for LOOP riders, and offered for rent at the studio.

More Than a Studio
Nestled on the lower level of Metro Centre between Bard Optical and Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, the studio is an integral part of the LOOP experience. A step inside reveals several gleaming rows of high-end Schwinn indoor cycles. To the left is the check-in desk, where Corinne Wolffe will offer whatever assistance you may need, from amenities like towels and snacks to earplugs for those who wish to turn the soundtrack down. Across the hall, restrooms are stocked with the finest in complimentary boutique spa products.

The studio is painted a soothing dark maroon and kept at a nice, cool temperature. A mirror covers the front wall, while the back wall’s black-and-white mural of a long country highway beckons you to ride off into the horizon. The lighting is kept low, with overhead lights dampened, while candles flicker near the front of the room, enhancing the ambience. On the far wall opposite the entrance, a motivational text encourages you to turn off "the little voice that says you can't or shouldn't or won't do it" and "leave the world outside."

The setting implies a kind of witty cool, intent on grabbing hold of the little person inside of everyone that yearns for some fun and taking them for a ride. It possesses the same charm radiated by its creators—the enthusiasm with which they have developed the studio manifests itself in every nook and cranny. Far from the dull fluorescent lighting of many gyms, LOOP feels like it really could be a home away from home for its patrons.

Building a Community
Beyond whipping its customer’s bodies into shape, LOOP intends to provide an environment that encourages them to develop relationships. Whereas the traditional gym environment often fosters isolation—with legions of iPods and headphones cutting off the outside world—LOOP hopes to demystify the process of exercise and form a bond with its cyclists. “We want to build a community,” says Brinker.

Corinne Wolffe, customer service manager, is in charge of the overall LOOP experience. Besides looking after the needs of LOOP riders, she is developing the social component of the business, defined by a strong online presence that further extols its values and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. The LOOP blog will feature a variety of lifestyle tips on everything from what to eat to how to burn calories more efficiently, all with the unique sense of humor and fun that serves as the studio’s calling card.

To further develop this sense of community, LOOP will offer specialty rides, cranking up the fun on select dates throughout the month. They consist of Happy Hour, a LOOP 45 ride followed by beer and pretzels; Generation LOOP, a teens-only ride; and All-Request rides, in which the riders select the music played during class. Also in the works are LOOP Yoga, a half-hour ride followed by a half hour of poses; LOOP Core, a 40-minute ride followed by 20 minutes of abdominal work; and LOOP Camp, an exclusive boot camp workout.

Brinker and Wolffe are quick to point out that the LOOP workout is not intended to be one’s sole form of exercise. They don’t encourage riders to drop their gym memberships; rather, they want them to consider LOOP in a different light. “This isn’t just a class,” says Brinker, “it’s a ride and an experience. It supplements what you do in your normal workouts.”

“This is an excellent supplement to a well-balanced strength training regiment,” adds Wolffe. “You don’t come just for the workout; you come for the experience—and you get a great workout while you’re there.”

“You don’t just come and ride,” proclaims Brinker, “you sort of live LOOP.” a&s

Bookings for LOOP sessions are available now, online at loopcycling.com. One ride is $12, five rides will cost $50, ten rides are $90 and 20 rides are $160. Unlimited rides are priced at $125 per month.