The fitness industry has truly come into its own since the days of Belinda Koo. Now there’s no shortage of incredibly eclectic and enthusiastic world-class instructors at places like XYZ. But perhaps no brand is trying harder to make the connection for a more holistic and conscious approach to spin opposed to the popular upbeat and high tempo RPM classes throughout Hong Kong.
So who exactly is Belinda Koo, you might ask? A successful and creative entrepreneur, Koo has redefined indoor cycling in Hong Kong with the opening of XYZ and is without a doubt one of the most inspiring health and wellness advocates in the community. She is also currently the Managing Director at UBS Wealth Management, a Fellow of the fourth class of the China Fellowship Programme and Member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network—a fine representation of female empowerment for girl-bosses to emulate. Today, in XYZ’s fifth year, the brand has developed a devout community of over 28,000 riders across the city with its blend of rhythmic cardio and mindful workouts.
Koo has reinvented the traditional RPM spin classes to work for each individual’s needs (from beginners through to athletes) at XYZ, and hopes to inspire and cultivate an emerging desire for cardiovascular health with the introduction of her new ‘BREATHE’ class to a new wave of health conscious members. Embracing the essence of a down-tempo 50-minute cardio workout, the revolutionary BREATHE fitness programme is designed to offer a holistic and conscious approach to spin, hosted in a candlelit cave — a sanctuary to unlock hidden energy that propels the body and mind to operate at a level beyond conscious reach. It’s about being mindful through movement and provides an opportunity to journey through mind, body and breath – individuals walk out feeling centred and calmed, with renewed positivity.
What can you say about the evolution of indoor spinning classes in Hong Kong over the years?
When we first started five years ago, the notion of spinning for people is very different from what we offered. When I talk about indoor cycling some people will just imagine or visualise “Is it like an indoor bicycling studio, is there a ring that goes round and round?” People who have a gym pass at a corporate gym will be more exposed to RPM spinning, broadly speaking, because there aren’t too many classes or programmes that offers spinning globally, and before rhythm spinning took over, a lot of the boutique studios in New York and other cities around the world.
I would say RPM is something that is more appealed to, it is more about cranking up the resistance and measuring your heart rate, your BPM, the speed and there might be a ranking board and people might have a monitor in front of them and the whole process is not about the instruction it is about you looking at the monitor, the numbers ‘achieved’ and looking at how many calories are burned, and the overall amount of energy output.
But when we talk about indoor spinning here [at XYZ)] it is the whole notion of introducing rhythm cycling to Hong Kong. There is no measurement. There is no measure of energy, or calories burned, there’s no board in front of you to compete with one another.
The name “Xpin your zenses”, which XYZ comes from, is more about going into an unknown space. And you feel. Everything is feeling. It is visually appealed to the lighting and the incredible audio system that we have. And more about the rhythm, the beat, and pumping your feet to the floor, and the fragrance when you step into the studio, which is a very relaxed fragrance which helps you to relax. And it is about the world and the community, so it is not about performance, it is more about feelings, and that feel good.
Where were you before XYZ and what was your relationship like to fitness before you started the company?
Before XYZ, I was a customer. I love training and I love doing various sports. The kind of sports which will prepare me for different kind of sports including Golf, Yoga or any outdoor sports like Hiking and Skiing. But then fitness for me is to prepare myself to be fit enough to enjoy those sports and to be eloquent in those sports and to have the right stamina for those sports. So if I don’t maintain my fitness with spinning to improve my core muscles, my stamina and my agility, I can’t achieve my sports that I enjoy other than spinning, for example skiing or snowboarding. I don’t have that core balance or that inner balance and centreline for a lot of sports that require using your core a lot in order to perform. So I think if you want to enjoy those sports during your weekends or on holiday, you have to train and make yourself fit and agile enough to be prepared for those sports that you like. You’re less injury prone, you’re more confident and your muscles are ready for the impact for the sports you might come across and you feel strong.
Understanding that ‘yin’ incorporates components such as yoga and meditation, and ‘yang’ components such as spinning and more ‘fast-paced’ aerobic exercise, how do you portray the importance of having a mix of ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ balance of exercise within daily life?
Everyone needs the ‘yin’ and the ‘yang’ to balance. We need the ‘yin’ and the ‘yang’ to become wholesome. We need the ‘yin’ and the ‘yang’ to alternate different times of the day, different times of the month, different times of the year, because you can’t just go-go-go 365 days of the year. You have to be and allow yourself to surrender once in a while.
So for me, cardio exercise is about bringing your heart rate up and be a little bit more uncomfortable and bring your heart rate up to sweat a little bit so you can feel your heart rate. However, in a normal spin class people will take it as “I have to spin until I’m out of breath or short of breath”, but that is not true. Different kinds of exercise that can bring your heart rate up is already classed as cardio exercise.
So what we are trying to offer at XYZ with the breathe class is about changing the notion of the mindset that cardio exercise or spinning has to be sweaty and you have to go up to 100% of your maximum heart rate or 85% of your maximum heart rate. It is about 65% of your maximum heart rate or just above just 10% of your normal heart rate and it is already classed as cardio exercise for some people. Because not everybody is ready for an intense cardio workout, and it takes time to achieve that goal.
Understanding that most men and women in Hong Kong live a busy working lifestyle, and more often than not, sedentary lifestyles with long working hours – how would you suggest for these hard workers to stop and re-centre themselves into a more healthy and active lifestyle?
I think whenever they have a choice to spend their spare time, everyone is different, all the jobs are very different. But whenever they have the choice to spend their time for leisure, I would suggest ‘Sweat meetings’ is the answer. Instead of going for a drink and going for a gathering that includes an expensive five course meal and wine, and doing exercise and something that has a more healthy choice of food. This is what I call ‘sweat meetings’. Having sweat meetings which means moving and eating something healthy.
Also it is all about choices. Everyone one of us, we all have seven days a week and 24 hours a day. Some people can achieve it. But some people can’t. It is about mindfully making choices on how to spend your 24 hours a day. So, if we tend to look at the phone and spend all your time on social media or just browsing the web for two hours, can we make use of that time for stretching and to unwind properly so that we have a better mindset and better nights sleep instead of Netflix for two hours. So I think it’s more about making more healthy choices and encourage people to make healthy choices. Because we do have a choice.
Could you please tell us more about the new BREATHE style spinning class?
I think this is something that I feel responsible for. Because as I’ve said, cardio exercise doesn’t mean you have to go at full speed, or reach your maximum heart rate and reach the highest percent. But it is a misconception that this is how you do exercise, and until you achieve that you are not ‘cardio fit’. So I feel that you have to bring that ‘yin’ side to cardio. It is a starting block for people who are not completely ready for intense cardio exercise. It is a starting point saying that ‘we buy into’ and ‘this is ok to go slow’, ‘it is ok to chill when you are doing cardio exercise, you don’t have to go crazy’, and the differentiation of calm-rhythmic music genre I think is perfect because not a lot of people like the fast-paced music genre, a lot of people like the more loungey music and more chill music.
Where do you see XYZ going in the next few years?
For the XYZ brand, XYZ means ‘Xpin your Zenses’. But then for our culture in our company it is more about ‘we can do it’ and the kind of group exercises we want to do it better we want to add a little bit of entertainment and little bit of excitement. We can bring the traditional group of exercise into another level. Another level being more layering, little bit richer, little bit more appealing to all the senses. So I think XYZ in the future, we will continue to look into different types of traditional exercise, but XYZ it, and add that XYZ flavour to it. To give it give more experiments to play with the lighting which enhances the experience for the client.
Conveniently situated in the heart of Central, XYZ offers classes from 7am to 8pm so that you can always fit a ride into your daily schedule. So start your day off right with a pre-work workout, get refocused through a lunch hour class, or release the stress of the workday by finishing it off at XYZ.
XYZ, 2/F, New World Tower, 18 Queens Road Central, Central, +852 2865 0999, youarexyz.com