In an age where our free time seems to be disappearing at a dismal and demoralizing rate, squeezing in a workout has never been more maddening.
But to the delight of our listless quads and post-holiday midsections, we've found a compromise: Pelo's 30-minute Cycle30 class.
Pelo is French for group (no doubt the Bay Area's cycling enthusiasts knew that already), and the indoor sessions are as communally uplifting as they are a test of our endurance.
The Marin-rooted cycling company's quaint Polk Street studio (they also have a location in San Rafael) is a refreshing departure from the motivational-poster, Apple store vibes of SoulCycle; black walls and tangerine-hued accents here set an overall calming and welcoming tone, as did the free pair of biking shoes that were offered to us since this was our first time. (Shoe rentals are $3 per visit after that.) Once inside the warmly lit studio, we were in for a cardiovascular treat as, on this day, our instructor was also the co-creator of Pelo, Alan Roberts, a multifaceted man and former drummer who, after touring with the likes Lenny Kravitz, Madonna, and Bette Midler became a nationally ranked competitive cyclist.
You'd think this might be intimidating, but he made us feel right at home."I want everyone who comes through our doors to know their measurements, so they're aware of how to be positioned on the bike," he told us, just before calculating our unique femur-to-tibia ratios.
"Every rider's body is like an individual instrument, and needs to be tuned correctly to perform its best."And so, with our shoes clipped into place, we began our 28-minute high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout with a three-minute-or-so warmup to "get the blood flowing." Then, we were off to the stationary races.
Roberts' comfortable cadence carried our group of seven early-morning, mostly female riders through a series of strenuous HIIT exercises. Each sweaty set included bursts of roughly 45-second paces through both seated and standing high-RPM intervals, followed by a minute (or longer) brisk break. Depending on the intensity level of the given interval, we were encouraged to either increase or decrease our bike's resistance (via "the little red knob") to get the most out of our precious time.
Roberts also believes that organizing workouts solely around one's heartbeat is flawed. "[Your heart rate] is inconsistent, at best. A big meal or early-morning coffee can raise it, for example. This makes it nearly impossible to build truly effective workouts around it."
So, in lieu of pinging heart monitors and incessant Apple watches, Roberts' and his crew of Pelo instructors have riders focus on their Pelo Power Zones—that is, the actual power you're generating as a rider, as determined by sensors on the bike and then displayed as feedback on widescreen TVs behind the instructor.
"Keep it in zone three, you've got this! Look at your Power Zones, not your bike screens." And that's just what we did, in the same time we could have watched an episode of Will & Grace.
Eventually the RPMs lowered, our bodies settled, and we stepped off our bikes—shirts drenched, metabolisms burning, and feeling aligned with another French expression: carpe diem.
//Cycle30 classes are "5 credits" ($14) each; new members get three classes for just $30. Classes are available at Pelo's Marin (171 3rd St., San Rafael) and SF (2325 Polk St, Russian Hill) studios; pelofitness.com.