In 2012, Courtney Anderson and Rebecca Colett were, respectively, a Harvard-educated lawyer and a project manager with 100 pounds to lose. Neither had ever tried an indoor cycling class. They hadn’t even met. But life is unpredictable, and if we fast forward to 2015, we find the savvy duo just two weeks away from the grand opening of Vibe Ride, their own Midtown spin studio. We chatted to Courtney about how on earth that happened and what people can expect from the new studio.
You don’t necessarily expect a law professor to open up a spin studio. How did that come about? Do you have a background in teaching fitness?
I moved to Atlanta in July 2012 for work — I’m a law professor at Georgia State — and had never done indoor cycling or spinning. I got into it because I used to bike everywhere in D.C., but when I tried it here, I found out it wasn’t quite so safe. One day, I walked by a spin class; the woman who was teaching was super energetic and they were playing really high energy music. I went in and it was just a lot of fun. And I wasn’t really into group fitness either. I was always kind of like the weird loner at the gym. I usually liked to do my own thing and get out. But I didn’t know that many people in Atlanta because I had just moved here, and that’s where I ended up forming all of my friendships in Atlanta. I met people through working out. There’s just a really big fitness and exercise community here. As far as my fitness background, I played sports growing up, but I was never an instructor or teacher. I just liked staying active. I had always worked at corporate jobs or desk jobs and the gym was just fun because I got to move around and let loose with energy. That’s always been a part of my lifestyle, but I never really saw it as a career path until 10 months ago.
So what pushed it from “This is something I enjoy doing” to “I should open a studio”?
It started last May. My friend Rebecca, who I do indoor cycling with, is a big fitness fanatic. She has a really interesting fitness journey: She’s lost 100 pounds in two years, and it was really just a huge lifestyle change for her. It’s very personal for her, and a lot of people in my family have health issues so it’s very important to me as well. We just started talking one day because there were always lines for our favorite classes. You know, you like certain instructors. You like your bike. And there were really long lines to get those things. It just consumes your day when you want to get in this class, on this bike, and you’re like, “Can I leave work now? Oh my gosh, I have a meeting!” It was stressful. We loved the boutique fitness studios because you can schedule your bike and class ahead of time and it doesn’t take up so much of your day. But the instructors we liked happened to be at the big box gyms, and those also have more diversity and different types of people you can meet. So we were like, “What if we take all of these things and put them together? How can we do this so we don’t have to wait in line and can have all our my favorite instructors and community in one place?”
We started with the instructors and the location and money. We thought, “If we can get one of those three, we’ll see where it goes,” and they all kind of came together toward the middle of last summer. Then we just couldn’t stop. It took on a life of its own. And everyone was so supportive when they found out we were doing it. Everyone was offering advice and guidance and resources and offering to teach. We had a lot of support from the community, our friends, and our families. We had a really clear vision of what we wanted and things were lining up, so we just kept going. We set up an IndieGoGo fundraiser and raised about $5,600. We were just overwhelmed by how many people were supporting us. It was so nice. We didn’t have anything to show at all. We had just signed a lease, so people really took a leap of faith to support us. That fundraising campaign helped us get some exposure and it forces you to get your brand together. You have to put yourself out there and sell yourself, which for me, was outside of my comfort zone, but it’s something you have to do if you’re going to start a business, so you might as well start early.
So tell us a little about the studio itself.
The space is awesome. The studio used to be the other half of a Mexican restaurant, so it’s a little different, you’re not gonna think it’s a fitness studio when you first walk in. We’ve got a huge thin indoor cycling room and it’s tiered with different levels. The instructor is on the stage. It’s blacked out with different specialty lights, lighting effects. There’s a great sound system going on, so it really is like a fun, upbeat nightclub atmosphere, and I don’t know why the Mexican restaurant had a DJ booth, but they did, so we’re gonna use that too so we can have specialty rides. Music is so important when you work out, especially for indoor cycling. That’s one of the reasons why it’s called Vibe Ride because we really focus on using music for motivation and then also “vibe” in the sense of building a community — that’s where the name came from. There’s a smaller mezzanine level that overlooks West Peachtree, so we put up a barre on two walls and we have handweights, kettlebells, medicine balls, resistance bands, the whole thing for circuit training classes. We’ve got some specialty lights up there too. I’m big on the fun atmosphere, so the barre classes will be a little bit more high-energy with some different things going on for circuit training and interval training. We’re so close to Piedmont Park that if some of our instructors want to do runs through the park and some things there, they can. We’ve got a good variety of classes and instructors.
And you’re also big into the technology aspect of fitness, right? What sorts of fancy gadgets will Vibe Ride be using?
It starts with the bikes. They are Keiser M3I bikes, so they have computers on them, which a lot of bikes do these days. It’s really important: People want to see what they’re doing as they’re doing it in real time, so your bike shows your power metrics, rotations per minute, estimated miles, estimated calories burned, etc. One of the technological aspects that we have that’s really cool is performance IQ — the power score, heart rate zone, and other metrics that the instructor chooses can be shown on these two gigantic 70-inch TV screens. (They’re huge; only one can fit in my Prius, I found that out.) So you can have races during class based on power and really have people understand the importance of resistance and speed and how they work together to give you the results that you want. It adds an element of fun. No one is going to do this if it’s not fun. So we can have different games with races. You can divide the class into teams and have races against each other, that sort of thing. With our location, we can do really cool things with businesses and running groups in Atlanta — have them in and have little competitions and things like that.
And then what’s good, since you reserve your specific bike, is that your stats get emailed to you after class and logged into your account online, so you can keep up with how you’re doing. That’s important because everyone has different fitness goals. Some people might want to lose five pounds or maintain their weight, but other people want to get stronger. If you’re a biker outside, you might want to shave three seconds off your score. So with all these different types of people who work out for different reasons, we want to give them a reason to come back. Everyone has their own journey and we just really want to be able to give them the resources to get them to their objective. The technology can really help do that. If you wear a Wahoo strap, it picks up your heart rate on the bike and transmits that to the TV so the instructor can be like, “I want everyone in the orange zone, everyone in the red zone,” and really make sure everyone is doing what they need to with respect to heart rate zone training as well.
What advice would you give to someone who has never tried spin and might be like, “I’m not fit enough” or “I don’t have any of those fancy shoes”?
That’s a great question because that’s why we wanted to start the company in the first place. I’ve definitely walked into fitness places and felt intimidated: “Whoa! Everyone’s hardcore and in $500 workout pants!” And you’re already sweating so you’re self conscious about how you look, but the biggest thing, when you think you might want to try cycling – or anything really but especially spinning – is to just remember that it’s your workout. Whatever you’re doing, everyone there is just there to support you. Our coaches are amazing. They’re there to support you and to push you to do things that you wouldn’t do on your own… but they stay within your capabilities. They’re never going to ask you to do anything that they don’t think you can do based on what they’ve seen from you. Even though you’re in a class, they’re very good at focusing on the individual, pushing that individual, and making you feel supported even though there are 34 other people around you, so it’s really important to not feel intimidated and know that everyone wants you to succeed. That’s our whole thing. We ride together. It’s a team, so just know that everyone is there to have a good time and you can really be yourself here. Bring yourself, bring your own personality, and let us take care of the rest and do what we can to support you. Cycling is a great workout for people of all fitness levels. It is intense. You burn so many calories, so even if you run a lot or even if you weight train a lot, it’s a very intense workout, but it’s so low impact that if, for some reason, you can’t run or you’re not comfortable running, you can still do it. It’s designed for people of all fitness levels.
Vibe Ride’s grand opening celebration — complete with a live DJ, a health expo, cycling demos, and a group of Hawks cheerleaders riding at noon — happens April 4 at their studio at 950 West Peachtree Street NW, Suite 225. In the meantime, preview Vibe Ride for free from March 25 to April 3 (sign up on their website and if you come to the lunchtime class on Wednesday, you’ll be riding your WellATL crew so say hi), and keep up with Vibe Ride on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.