True Story: I Went to SoulCycle

A few weeks ago, one of my assistants mentioned that one of her roommates is an instructor at SoulCycle and she could get us a free ride. I’ve heard about this place for years, but never wanted to spend the amount of money for one fitness class, especially since I can go to unlimited free spin classes at the gym at work. However, I definitely wanted to know what all the hype was about, so I was happy to finally have a good excuse to clip in and ride!

img_9218Unfortunately, half our group bailed before we got to Saturday and my assistant was running late, so I was on my own when I first got there. Surrounded by the women of the Marina who definitely look like they spend their life at SoulCycle, I felt pretty out of place as I checked in, signed a waiver, and was handed my cycling shoes.

There’s a nice series of lockers of various sizes to put your stuff, which is considerate and helpful. About 15 minutes before the start of class, we were let into the room, which is stacked to the gills with bikes. Even when I took rec center classes, I don’t think I’ve ever been this close on all sides to the people riding with me. You are assigned a bike number when you make your reservation and there is staff on hand to help newbies (and basically anyone who raises their hand) properly set up your bike. You can also choose your proper weights (stored beneath the saddle) and put your water in the holder under the bars. You get a towel with your bike. The staff will show you how to clip in and out of the pedals, though this is easier said than done (flicking my ankles just isn’t a natural movement)!

Our instructor, Matt, was peppy and friendly, greeting many of the “front row” people (who are usually the regulars) as well as giving us brief safety tips before getting started. The best thing about the class is how dark the room gets. It’s helpful to keep yourself focused, being so close to all the other riders, as well as giving the illusion that no one can see how badly you are screwing up the choreography (or perhaps that’s just me). The bikes have loose tension controls, so there aren’t the “clicks” that I’m used to, so you’re given instructions about “turns” and “touches” to increase and decrease the tension.

We started off fast, with several sprints and runs, which reminded me just how long it’s been since I’ve been to a spin class (think YEARS). My quads were burning within minutes of starting, which is when I started regretting not wearing my watch into the room. The EDM music was throbbing as Matt yelled instructions and platitudes about giving it our all and making changes in our lives. In addition to the traditional hills, runs and sprints, there are also crunches and push-ups that happen in various positions, which I was not coordinated enough to do successfully. When we started working with the weights for the arm workout, I was actually excited to take some of the stress off my legs, which tells you how brutal the start of the class was. Quickness, not form, seemed to be prized for the weights portion, but perhaps that gets better the more classes you do as well.

The best part of the ride was the last song, when Matt blasted U2’s “Beautiful Day” while we sprinted toward the finish line. Over the inspirational music, he continued to encourage us with talk about change, moving forward, and taking the first step. I totally get why celebrities love this class and why it isn’t quite for me. When I could just focus on the music, I could feel myself getting stronger and feel pride in making it to the end of the class, even if I hadn’t been able to do everything the whole time. But the extra talking kept taking me out of the moment.

Once we finished the ride, Matt took us through a few cursory stretches that required a bit more flexibility than I possessed to accomplish (though the hardest part was unclipping my shoes from my bike to participate). Soon enough we were out in the lobby again, dripping with sweat and reveling in the cold air whipping through from outside. Dropping my shoes and my towel in their respective bins, I felt a little light-headed, but recovered quickly. If I go back, I’ll definitely need more water than one Camelback bottle can provide to make it through. (Also, my Camelback bottle was a little too wide for the holder, so it was a bit of struggle to get it in and out during the class, especially in the dark.)

All in all, I’m glad I went to see what all the hype was about and today, I really only have sore shoulders and “saddle butt,” so that’s not as bad as I thought it might be. I’m not a SoulCycle convert, though I wouldn’t be opposed to going with friends again, but I may try to hit up the spin classes as my work gym again soon!

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