YouPower puts new outdoor spin on fitness classes

By Niamh Carty

YouPower, Middlebury’s student-run spin club, is one of the most popular ways for students to stay active on campus — its most dedicated devotees will even stay up until midnight when sign-ups for the following day open to secure a spot in their favorite class. 

One of those devoted riders is Abby Schneiderhan ’23. “I love YouPower classes, but everyone else enjoys them too, so I’ve actually set alarms for 11:59 so I wake up and sign up for a class with my friends,” she said. “The adrenaline rush of that one minute to sign up is off the charts.”

YouPower looks a little different this semester because of Covid-19 safety guidelines, but it’s as popular as ever. Covid-19 safety precautions on campus have forced significant changes to the way that YouPower operates. The club typically offers its classes in a studio in the Freeman International Center, but, as the space is too small to be safely used this semester, the club has relocated to the Ridgeline parking lot to allow for ample social distancing outside. The bikes are kept in a storage unit and rolled into the lot before each class. 

“The process of setting up and putting away equipment is definitely more laborious, but our riders are helpful and are taking more ownership of a space we have been working to make the most inclusive that it can be,” said YouPower President Lilly Kuhn ’21.5.

YouPower has a whole new look this semester. Although classes used to be taught in the Freeman International Center, they’re now held outside in Ridgeline parking lot to allow for social distancing. (Photo courtesy of Emma Domingo ’21)

The new environment does present some logistical challenges, though. The club switched from their old sound system — which relied on access to a power outlet — to a bluetooth speaker, and instructors now use a megaphone rather than a microphone.

The club also had to find new instructors for the semester. Under normal circumstances, YouPower conducts auditions for new instructors in the spring, but this year they had to be held in the fall. 

“Auditioning was definitely a bit stressful,” Melanie Chow ’22 said. “We had really short notice to prepare and the weather wasn’t great, so I was only able to attend one class before my audition. We also had to wear masks for our auditions, which was a big challenge given that most of us hadn’t spun in months and were trying to give directions for the very first time.” After those initial classes, though, spinners have been able to spin maskless.

YouPower’s usual small, dimly lit room in the FIC creates an intimate atmosphere perfect for spinners, but participants have found pros to the club’s new home in the Ridgeline parking lot. 

According to Melanie Chow ’22, one of the perks of spinning outside is catching the sunset while riding. (Photo courtesy of Emma Domingo ’21)

“While I am eager to be back in the studio, the outdoor studio has been a great alternative and can perhaps give us future opportunities to expand and diversify our class offerings,” new instructor Sam Segal ’23 said. “I no longer bump elbows with the person next to me while doing choreography, and I can easily zone out in the mountain views.”

Chow expressed a similar sentiment. “The view for the rider is so great, and often you can even catch the sunset. The space in the FIC is great, though, because it allows you to be more anonymous, and you really feel like you’re in it together.”

Weather has been the greatest hurdle for outdoor spin, as many classes have had to be cancelled due to rain, snow and cold. Despite these challenges, YouPower has managed to create the sense of community the club generates in a traditional year. “There is a lot of uncertainty about the future right now, [but] it feels special to have a space to move together,” Kuhn said.