Lyrics from Young the Giant’s “My Body Tells Me No” blast from overhead speakers into a room filled with 12 sweaty cyclists. The riders power through an endurance burst in tandem with the beat: “My body tells me no, but I won’t quit, ‘cause I want more. It’s my road, it’s my road . . . .”
For Sima Tamaddon, the instructor and owner of the studio perched on a platform at the front of the room, the song may be more than just a motivation for riders. Both Tamaddon’s body and her doctors quite literally told her “no” after a serious car accident while she was in college in 1999 left the athlete thinking she’d never walk without assistance again. Yet here she is, 12 years later, leading a morning cycle-yoga class and pedaling away as if she were born on a stationery bike.
Cyclestudio, Tamaddon’s new space in Alexandria, opened about two weeks ago. It incorporates spinning and yoga into a boutique fitness atmosphere that preaches the importance of a balanced life along with the benefits of a kick-butt cardio workout. The studio offers separate yoga and cycle classes or combinations for those eager to see the benefits of fusing the two disciplines.
“These two class formats are my two favorite things,” Tamaddon says. “Spinning gives me an amazing sweat and I can feel strength and power, but then the yoga brings me back.”
Classes are held in an open room under an exposed-beam ceiling, which helps counter that claustrophobic feel many spin rooms have. Up to 20 people per class sit atop state-of-the-art CycleOps bikes (the bikes feature a 50-pound free wheel, which give riders more bang for their buck than bikes with a gear system). Class attendees face a panoramic mural of an open, mountainous road, heading slightly downhill.
Three to five classes are held each day between 6 AM to 7 PM, and the Web site’s Cycle Concierge lets people reserve spots online. The studio offers different levels of commitment: a single class ($20), five or ten classes to a month, or a year of unlimited workouts. On opening day, one customer had enough early faith in the program to sign up for the year.
“That was a moment where I really felt like, ‘Okay, there are people who really believe in what you’re doing,’ ” Tamaddon says.
A native of Alexandria, Tamaddon graduated from UVA in 2001 and moved to New York to work for Deutsche Bank the summer before 9/11; she quickly realized she wasn’t happy with investment banking. After a two-year stint working for Saks Fifth Avenue, moving to another clothing company, and running a house-to-house yoga business called Soul Surgery, Tamaddon was ready for her own space.
She wanted to share with others how vigorous exercise and therapeutic yoga can change one’s life outlook. She assembled a team of 13 instructors and began encouraging them to explore the positive effects of combining the two disciplines in their own workout routines. Currently Tamaddon is the only instructor at her studio who teaches on both the bike and the mat.
Before the start of her cycle-yoga class, she walks around the room helping the students set up their bikes. During the workout, she gives individual corrections and encourages each person to move at his or her own pace.
“It’s not like you’re running in a pack,” Tamaddon says. “If you need to sit down, then do it.”
During a sequence of “jumps” as legs begin to tire, there’s a moment in which the class resembles a bag of jumping beans rather than synchronized riders, each popping on a different beat.
After the endurance ride, Tamaddon turns down the music and tells the class a hill is coming: “It’s a good hill—don’t worry,” she says.
“So then it’s a downhill?” a tall, athletic man in the back row calls out. He gets a laugh.
After 45 minutes on the bikes, drenched exercisers summon what energy is left and head to the yoga mats, where a series of downward dogs, chaturanga pushups, baby cobras, and planks test each person’s strength and flexibility. Finally, the playlist switches to Jeff Buckley’s slow, haunting cover of the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah,” and a dozen bodies lie with backs to the floor and towels covering their eyes, heaving deep breaths of accomplishment.
Throughout her workouts, Tamaddon emphasizes the importance of finding a dedication—an idea or person to motivate you. For her, it’s her four-year-old daughter, Lila. Tamaddon, a single mother, says Lila has been her pint-size muse during the creation of Cyclestudio. Tamaddon’s goal for the future of the space is making Cyclestudio feel more like home: “I would love to create an environment where people know each other. I try to learn everyone’s name, I try to know why they’re here and what their goals are because everyone is different.”