Spin, Bend, Lift, Repeat

A new Bethesda spinning class, which combines yoga and strength training in a candle-lit studio, promises a head-to-toe workout and mental release. Our writer gave it a try.

If you walk into Velovoom, a new boutique spinning studio in Bethesda, a little bleary-eyed early on a Sunday morning, brace yourself: The walls are a shock of orange and white. The lively staff greets you with enough pep that you might start looking around for the coffee machine. And the gaggle of men and women chit-chatting like old friends can get you a little off-kilter for a moment.

But then you’re handed a pair of clip-in shoes and ushered to the lockers. A staffer helpfully points out your pre-selected bike in the workout room. Then all of a sudden, you’re settled in. You clip in to the bike and begin an easy warm-up. Upbeat music thumps from a speaker in the center of the room.

Velovoom started the same way so many other new fitness trends do: with one person’s urgent need for a lifestyle change.  

About two years ago, owner Marc Caputo was laid up at home with two herniated disks, recovering from sinus-cavity surgery and trying to grasp how the freshly destroyed economy would affect his business, a corporate-benefits company. Both his career and his health—he had gained significant weight while in recovery—had reached an all-time low.

As time went on, Caputo decided he needed to start shedding those added pounds, but he hated the gym and home workouts weren’t taking off the weight. Then, on a visit to New York, Caputo’s friend introduced him to indoor cycling.

“She took me to a couple classes at two different boutique cycling studios, and I liked the whole experience,” Caputo says. “I got as much of a therapeutic release as I did a physical one.”

Caputo came back to Maryland and tried out lots of spin classes at different gyms in the area but was hard pressed to find anything as motivating as the class in New York. After another trip—this time to Los Angeles—and a similar “ah-ha” moment at a cycling studio in Newport Beach, Caputo had made up his mind: Instead of settling for a mediocre fitness routine, he'd create a place where he could be in charge of the workout.

“I came back and thought, ‘There's nothing like this here,’” he says. “I’ve never looked back.”

Last Sunday, a 50-pounds-lighter Caputo cycled ferociously through two consecutive spin classes at Velovoom, which opened its doors mid-January. The studio’s publicized grand opening won’t be for a few more weeks, but word has spread fast, and fitness junkies are starting to pour in from all over the area to take a class in the Cordell Avenue basement studio. Caputo and his team are already talking about a second and third home in DC and Virginia in the near future.

The Velovoom workout is based on one main principle: that well-rounded health stems from being both physically and mentally fit. Classes are 45 minutes long and take place in a cozy, mirrored room. Two large candles provide the only light through most of the workout. Along with spinning, instructors incorporate light weight training and yoga. (The latter amounts to little more than a slow, meditative song mid-workout, and some yoga-like stretches at the end.)

The music is center stage during a Velovoom workout. A fusion of '80s pop and current hits are paired with more soulful tunes timed perfectly to transition between the cardio, yoga, and weight sections. Caputo says this allows spinners to connect to the routine on a more emotional level.

“For me, cycling is like a natural drug,” Caputo says. “It's 45 minutes to fight through whatever's challenging you. As crazy as it is, no one makes time for themselves anymore.”

Velovoom is one of the only workouts where people of all ages and fitness levels can come together in the same class. So far, a marathon runner, a 70-year-old woman, and Caputo’s 13-year-old son have all peddled away in the dimly lit studio. There's talk of starting a teenage girls’ class, designed for young women who aren't active in school sports and don’t feel comfortable working out in a gym.

Near the end of your 45 minute workout, the instructor tells you not to leave the studio that day wishing you had given more, so you crank up the resistance and pick up your pace. You emerge from the studio into Velovoom’s sunny outer room, sweat-soaked and exhausted, but feeling fully satisfied.

“Nike’s slogan is ‘Just Do It’; ours is ‘Just Do Something,’ ” Caputo says. "If you give yourself the ability to come in and try it with no judgment, I’d think it'd be very hard for someone to not find the mind-body connection.”

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