For me, fitness normally involves heading to the gym and texting on my the phone for 30 minutes while my feet rotate on the elliptical. So when a colleague invited me to her high-tech spin class at IMAXShift in Brooklyn, I saw it as an opportunity to actually workout, then use my inevitable soreness as an excuse to skip faking it at the gym for the next week.

I had never gone to a spin class before, but even if I had, the experience would have been unparalleled to that of what IMAXShift offers. The group cycling studio gets its names from the IMAX screen that faces multiple rows of bikes. While pedaling, music is blasted from speakers and the giant screen projects a video compiled of coastlines, outer space, and animated tunnels that move along with you and the beat. This teleports you from your bike into the images on the screen, creating a virtual reality-like workout.

To my surprise, the dreaded 45 minutes of class flew by as I traveled through the virtual world on my stationary bike. I felt renewed. I had come into the class exhausted after a long day of writing and came out with energy to do more. I went home that night and came up with new ideas to write about the following day, this article included.

“I’m personally not a fan of the SoulCycle disco vibes, although motivating, it has this strange techno culture that I am not super into.”

I felt my creative energy increase after this high-tech workout more than my normal routine at a run of the mill gym, and wondered if other creatives did as well. So, I spoke with some people who worked creatively and also attend high-tech fitness classes. 

On a daily basis, Ali Eisner works on projects that require creative input, problem solving, and critical thinking to achieve the best solution. She’s a product manager at a digital design firm in Manhattan, and a fitness addict in her spare time. She’s tried all of the fads from running to spin, and is currently obsessed with boxing, which she first tried back in college.

Among the workouts she’s bounced between include FlyWheel and Mile High Run Club, both high-tech fitness classes. Though there is no screen displaying intergalactic scenery like at IMAXShift, Flywheel is a group cycling class that instead utilizes performance data and exclusive in-stadium technology to allow the riders to track themselves and compete against others in the room. Similarly, Eisner reports that at Flywheel, music is an important part of the class, and also what inspires her when she’s doing something creative.

Perhaps a more widely known indoor cycling studio with several locations throughout the U.S. is SoulCycle. Though popular, it has also been described by some as a cult. Illustrator and Product Designer Leah Schmidt thinks the 45 minute class is “certainly effective for a good, motivating workout,” but she admits, “ I’m personally not a fan of the SoulCycle disco vibes, although motivating, it has this strange techno culture that I am not super into.” The disco vibes Schmidt is referring to are the techno music and dim candlelit room that the studio is famous for. For her, inspiration for creative projects comes from nature. A run outside would make her feel more creative than pedaling on a machine in a dark room.

Surprisingly, though, Schmidt did enjoy her experience at the Mile High Run Club (MHRC), an indoor running class that at first glance looks like a club scattered with treadmills; pink and blue lighting envelop the room. The classes at MHRC are also customizable while they vary in distances, and coaches allow you to move at your own pace.

“That freeness in the mind allows so many ideas to come to fruition.”

Graphic Designer Meg Adams is a fan of MHRC’s personalized classes as well. Adams is a ClassPass member, which allows her to go to a variety of classes throughout New York. This pick and choose routine has prompted her to try everything from pole dancing to olympic lifting. She prefers these classes to the gym because of “the socialization and sense of occasion” it provides. She explains that utilizing advanced fitness technology like MHRC gets her excited, and forces her mind and body to quickly adapt, all of which are great qualities for creatives. Eisner also believes these classes are good for creativity because she performs better at work when she’s in the best shape mentally and physically.

art + SOUL #SOULstyle 📸: @anandahcarter

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Writer, performer, photographer, and all around creative Malcolm Evans agrees with Eisner. He too has ridden at IMAXShift, though much more regularly than I, and finds that the classes give him a mental clarity, stating, “That freeness in the mind allows so many ideas to come to fruition.” In fact, the class inspired him to write a comedy pilot about his spin instructors.

Overall, it seems as if intense exercise, high-tech or not, is what helps many unleash their creative potential. For some, it’s the classes’ innovative technology and design that inspires creation. For others, it’s the physical and emotional release we get from exercise that helps us stay focused on our work. I know for myself, it’s both.