We all have a few “motivational” songs on our workout playlist that we might be embarrassed about (think: Ace of Base, Kris Kross, or early Britney Spears). But when we need to dig in, these are the first songs we’ll play. We just don’t usually sing them—loudly.
That is, unless we’re in Peggy Dyer’s “Guilty Pleasure” cycling class at Breathe Yoga & Cycle. On a recent Sunday cycling class, she was belting out Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” while her students’ legs furiously churned on stationary bikes. “It has to be fun or why the hell would we do it,” Dyer says. She dreamt up the “Guilty Pleasures” idea to keep riders in the aerobic zone—a level of exertion where you can hold a conversation—because “if people can talk, they can sing,” she says.
During the one-hour class, she plays requests, from Katy Perry pop to Meatloaf love songs. The goal is to keep RPMs in the 70s, 80s, or 90s. (Coincidentally, songs from those decades work well for spinning too, says Dyer.) She doesn’t play techno or death metal unless the songs are borderline pop, but won’t shy away from songs with “giant swear bombs.”
Like any cycling class, you work on power and cadence, increasing and decreasing resistance, “hill climbs,” and getting out of the saddle. Unlike the usual class, you get to practice jazz hands, perfect your YMCA moves, and realize you know more Justin Bieber songs than you want to admit. Dyer also closes the class by handing out lemon-scented hand towels to help riders calm down and transition out of the workout.
Singing aside, she hopes to combat body dysmorphia and help people to have a positive body image. Dyer, who has a “non-typical body type” for a fitness instructor (she also teaches yoga classes), hopes her appearance lessens intimidation and serves as an inspiration to riders. “I want people to come and have an experience where they can walk away and feel better,” she says. She considers her class a success if people are “sweating and smiling.”
Dyer’s class regularly sells out and attracts a wide array of riders from 20-somethings to 70-year-olds. Expect to work your quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and vocal chords. “I just find it incredibly fun and freeing,” says Rachel Bakst, a Dyer follower. “I always leave with a smile on my face—relaxed and ready to take on the world.”
We’ll be back again to witness Dyer synchronizing spinning moves with the “turn around” line from “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” And, you’re welcome. You’ll be singing that tune in your head for the rest of the day.
Tip: Request songs that are four minutes or less with a workable beat.
—Image courtesy of Shannon Hudson