I tried Peloton's first 30-minute Defected Records dance workout — here's what happened

woman giving class at Peloton Studios London
(Image credit: Peloton)

I’ve never really been a group exercise class kind of person. I know they can be fun and a great way to connect with others, but I prefer popping in a set of headphones, turning up my music, and getting through a high-intensity resistance workout instead.

But I don’t want to be closed-minded about it either, so I started looking for ways I could join an in-person session. Fortunately, I then heard about Peloton’s partnership with Defected Records to bring DJ-curated dance music to Peloton’s famously motivational classes.

However, since I don’t have a Peloton Bike or any exercise bike at home, I decided it was worth taking the trip to the Peloton Studio in London to give the first Defected class with Peloton instructor Leanne Hainsby a go. 

I packed my workout kit in a bag and made my way there for the live-streamed session. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after taking my first Peloton class, I think I understand why so many people love them.

The instructors make the class

Peloton class

(Image credit: Peloton)

If you talk to people about Peloton, there’s a good chance they know two things about the brand; it makes home workout equipment, and the class instructors are a big part of the experience. I’d always assumed that this was true about the instructors, but that maybe their influence was overstated.

I was happily wrong about that, though. Leanne arrived at the studio once we were ready to go and despite having to address two crowds — us in the studio, and Peloton App members at home — she balanced the two well and kept us all motivated across the 30-minute high-intensity class.

It was also genuinely very impressive how she was able to simultaneously present live to hundreds of people, make sure she was engaged with the virtual audience, give all of the proper instruction so that we could get the most from the class, and actually do the workout herself.

I wasn’t a big fan of the Peloton leaderboard (more on that later), but I really got into the swing of the spin class because Leanne’s energy was infectious. I cheered (which is unlike me), found a good rhythm during the out-of-seat sections, and worked hard thanks to Leanne’s approach.

I wish I’d tried it at home first

Inside the Peloton London Studio before a class

(Image credit: James Frew / Tom's Guide)

Peloton’s studio spans several floors on a street just off Covent Garden Market in central London. I turned up in my battered HOKA Transport walking shoes and my dog-walking jeans, so I felt a bit out of place. I felt better after getting changed, but then I had to put on the bike shoes.

I got the sizing wrong — as an American brand, Peloton uses U.S. sizes, even in the U.K. — and then I’d not used clip-on shoes before, so I had to ask how to attach them to the pedals and flailed around attempting to un-clip at the end (apparently, the trick is to push your heel out to the side).

Plus, I had to contend with being in a studio with loads of Peloton enthusiasts (some were on their 2,000th session) while I had never even taken a class before. And the Studio classes are live-streamed and recorded for the Peloton members working out at home. It was a bit daunting.

Despite all this, I had a good time and decided not to worry about what everyone else was doing and to focus on Leanne’s instructions and energy. But if I’d at least done a Peloton class before, I think the rest of my anxieties would have been a temporary footnote instead.

Group exercise is actually really fun

Signage at Peloton's London studio in Covent Garden

(Image credit: James Frew / Tom's Guide)

Each of Peloton’s studio classes is live-streamed and filmed for the Peloton app, so you have to be ready 30 minutes before the start time. As we queued up at the studio door, I realized that coming together in a group to share an experience is exactly what I used to enjoy about yoga.

Unfortunately, my local studio closed a few years ago, and I’ve not done any group exercise since. But as we filed into the room, clipped in, and got on the bike, it didn’t feel like it mattered that I was a complete newcomer, as the aim was to work out and have fun together.

It helped that the dark room made me feel less in the spotlight, even though I was directly in front of the instructor, and that everyone was there for the same reason. After all, the classes cost £25 ($35 in the New York studio), so you want to get the most from the session.

This is also how my colleague Kate Kozuch felt when she tried a Peloton class at the brand's New York studio with famed instructor Cody Rigsby. Plus, we both appreciated that you don't need to be a Peloton app member to join the class — just pay your fee and you're good to go. 

I enjoyed the atmosphere and even stayed around after to meet Leanne, who was really nice and encouraging. These classes won’t replace home workouts for me, but it’s got me interested in exploring other group sessions, especially now Zumba has an app so I can practice the moves before I go.

The leaderboard pushed me hard

One of Peloton’s most famous features is its leaderboard. Your on-bike efforts are translated into a performance number, and it’s used to rank you against all the other spinners. I had to sign in on the Peloton Bike’s display to join, so I could have opted out, but I wanted the full experience.

The number on the screen kept me working my hardest as I was determined to maintain my place in the top 50% of the studio participants. I trained more intensely than I probably would have at home, so in that sense, it did exactly what it was designed to do.

Though I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed the feeling. I got a cramp in my right calf and pushed through it because I didn’t want to fall out of place. I ditched the gym for home workouts to avoid exactly this type of pressure, so I don’t think it’s right for the way I train.

But we’re all different, and this may be exactly the kind of drive you need. In the end, I found that Leanne’s energy had a far more positive impact on my motivation. Using her cues on when to dial up the intensity or load up the resistance helped me get the most from the class.

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James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is Tom's Guide's Fitness Editor, covering strength training workouts, cardio exercise, and accessible ways to improve your health and wellbeing.

His interest in fitness started after being diagnosed with a chronic illness, and he began focusing on strengthening his core, taking regular walks around the city, and practicing meditation to manage the symptoms. He also invested in fitness trackers, home workout equipment, and yoga mats to find accessible ways to train without the gym.

Before joining the team at Tom’s Guide, James was the Fitness Editor at Fit&Well, where he covered beginner-friendly exercise routines, affordable ways to boost your wellbeing, and reviewed weights, rowing machines, and workout headphones.

He believes that exercise should be something you enjoy doing, so appreciates the challenge of finding ways to incorporate it into everyday life through short muscle-building sessions, regular meditation, and early morning walks.