“The red knob controls your destiny.”
That’s what Kristin Watson reminds all her new clients as they nervously clip themselves into an exercise bike for the first time after watching the previous class leave, jelly-legged and drenched in sweat. And she’s not exaggerating. Those little red knobs, which sit below the handlebars and turn to the left and right, control the resistance of the 25 stationary bikes lined up inside Purvelo, Charlottesville’s newest fitness studio in the Ix building.
Watson, a former professional runner, had to put away her running shoes a couple years ago after going under the knife for knee surgery. But as a cardio-craving lifelong athlete who’s also taught barre and boot camp over the years, sitting still is not her forte—and despite the fact that stationary bikes are in fact equipped with seats, there’s not a lot of sitting happening at her studio. Over the course of a 45-minute class, spinners are constantly moving up and down, back and forth, in and out of the “saddle.”
“It’s a little bit more dancey, not as controlled of an environment,” Watson says. “That’s why it’s dark, that’s why there are no mirrors. You don’t need to worry about what you look like or what other people think of you. This is totally about you and what you need out of the class.”
Instructors are free to customize their classes with their own playlists, Watson says, and while each session may be a little different from the next, they all follow the same general structure. Instructors let everyone know when to up the intensity and crank the knob anywhere from a quarter-turn to four solid rotations, and when to take a breather and turn it counterclockwise. Watson encourages newbies to be as conservative as they need with the knob during those first couple classes. Not only will no one notice if you only reach down for a half-rotation when the instructor belts out “two full turns!” at the start of a song, but you’ll still get a workout while easing yourself in.
The classes always include an arm track, which, yes, means you spend at least a song’s worth of time pumping hand weights over your head while still clipped in and pedaling on the bike. It may provide a momentary relief from the intense speed work, but the full-body balancing act of simultaneously shoulder-pressing and cycling is no joke.
Each session also incorporates a slower song “for you to take time and reflect for yourself,” a spin-savasana of sorts toward the end of class. Don’t be fooled, though—once you’ve had a few minutes to wind down to a rendition of “Skinny Love,” you’re still not done. You’ve got a couple full turns of the knob and one last big push before unclipping and stretching.
With the lights out, music blasting and a drill sergeant—er, instructor—front and center, someone who’s peppy yet unapologetic about sending your heart rate through the roof, it’s hard not to embrace the energy, despite the unrelenting leg burn that begins about 90 seconds into the class. The louder the music and the more bodies moving in unison, the more it feels like a workout/nightclub hybrid. And that, Watson says, is exactly what she hopes will keep clients coming back.
“When they’re packed, the dynamic and the energy in the class is amazing,” she says. “And that’s the point. If you’re not having fun, there’s no longevity to it and it’s not worth doing.”
You may have noticed the flocks of sweaty men and women wearing quarter-zip Nike pullovers when you’re in line at Brazos Tacos. That’s because the Ix building has become a fitness hub, where at any given time there’s likely a spandex-clad group spinning, pliéing or jump-squatting nearby.
Purvelo made its debut in August in a subleased space in the Ix annex. Kristin Watson says finding a location for the studio she’d been dreaming of was the biggest challenge, and that’s where the ever-growing and overlapping Charlottesville fitness community comes in.
Watson knew local workout gurus Valerie Morini and Dar Malecki from their days at Pure Barre, and in 2013 the duo opened a Charlottesville location of the high-intensity interval gym franchise MADabolic at Ix. In August, Morini and Malecki introduced b:core methods, a niche studio also at Ix, offering classes that combine tiny, isometric movements at the ballet barre with light hand weights, Pilates-style mat exercises, core workouts and cardio. The b:core space includes two studio rooms, one of which they intend to eventually use for core classes, incorporating Lagree Fitness Method’s megaformer, a piece of equipment designed for slow, controlled resistance training. The b:core team expects to roll out the megaformers this year, but, in the meantime, they were happy to share the space with Purvelo.
“They knew I had been looking for a long time to get a cycle studio open,” Watson says. “I will eventually have to find a different location, but this has allowed me to open and get my feet wet.”