SoulCyclin' with Infatuation Nation

This morning, I took the plunge and attended my first SoulCycle class.

I’m not sure why it felt like a big deal, but it did.  I’ve been taking spin classes for over 2 years now, and everyone knows about SoulCycle. There are the SoulCycle faithfuls, who pour money into classes and apparel and talk about the “pack” mentality as if it’s a life-changing experience. There are SoulCycle wannabes, who wish they could afford the steep price tag for classes on a normal basis, but settle for taking a ride on a special occasion or far less frequently than they’d like. There are those in the fitness world who downright reject SoulCycle and its practices, citing poor form and more attention on a spectacle than actually getting in a quality workout. Then there are those that are intimidated by SoulCyle because of the fancy lingo and the “skinny bitches” (I hate that term) that pack SoulCycle studios across Manhattan. It’s kind of crazy how divisive SoulCylce can be in the fitness community. A quick Google search brings up articles with headlines like, “Joining the Cult of SoulCyle” and “I’d Rather Sell My Soul Than SoulCycle.” Then there is me. Who is still trying to decide where I belong on this spectrum.

So let me tell you about my experience.

I follow this amazing food blog online and on Instagram. They’re called The Infatuation and I trust them a whole heck of a lot when it comes to advice on restaurants in this fine city. When I went to Chelsea Market and had no internet, I was freaking out that I couldn’t look-up which taco they recommend at Los Taco No. 1 (thank god it eventually loaded and I got to experience the glory of the carne asada corn taco). 

(Thanks for the pro tip, Infatuation!)

Why do I trust them so much? I’m not sure. But it could have something to do with their writing style, which makes me laugh out loud when I read their reviews. I mean, they have literally written the line, “Calexico’s Lower East Side location is basically the grown up version of your favorite fast food joint, only here you can pollute your body with margaritas instead of Baja Blast.” They just make the most relatable references.  You know these guys are just like you. And you feel like you can depend on them.

So when they partnered with SoulCycle and announced that they would be offering free classes for their followers- I JUMPED for joy. The first time I tried registering, I got a sad email saying that all the bikes had been filled. But fortunately, they’re offering a bunch of different classes! And the second time I emailed them, success! I ran around the house my family was renting for vacation in excitement that no one quite understood. I’m going to get to try SoulCycle for FREE with other people who love food as much as me! 

I dragged myself out of bed at 5:45 a.m. on Friday, walked the 2483902 miles (really .7) to the 6 train, rode the 6 train for a half hour to Bleecker Street, walked 234280 miles (really .9) to the West Village SoulCycle studio and walked up to the door.

(An early, but beautiful morning!)

You walk in and BAM lockers. I’m used to a gym where the locker area is completely separate, so that was a little weird. The two women working at the desk were like superheroes getting the huge lines of people checked-in quickly. They were somehow simultaneously helping like 7 people. I was told to find my name on the list and initial it, but I wasn’t on the list. My stomach sunk when I was told that I was on the waitlist. What?! I got a confirmation email, which is why I had traveled an hour before work to make the class! I needed my endorphins gosh darnit! The woman told me to hang tight and assured me I would get a bike. So I got my complimentary smartwater (hooray!) and shoes and put my stuff in their high-tech lockers (you program it yourself, so you don’t actually need to bring a big bulky lock with you).
As promised, they started calling people from the waitlist and told me to go downstairs to bike 10. I get down to the studio and someone’s on bike 10. Luckily, one of the great staff ran upstairs and came back and told me to take 18. Then, she helped me get set up on my bike. Yes, I’ve taken many many spin classes but when it’s a new type of bike I like to have them help me out. That, and this is only my second time clipping in with spin shoes, and I’m pretty terrible at it.

I didn’t love the seats on the SoulCycle bikes, but throughout the ride they got more bearable. My handlebars felt pretty low, but SoulCycle really focuses on your core, and the lower the handlebars, the more of a core workout you’ll get. So that was OK with me- because abs.
The actual studio was a lot like most studios- dark with lots of bikes. There were three candles lit at the front of the room. Some inspiring quotes on the wall. Standard. 

(Eh, not sure about this stuff)

Our instructor (I can’t believe I forgot to make a mental note of her name) was energetic but not completely over the top like I’ve heard some SoulCycle instructors can be.

Things I liked:
-Although I realize there is some debate on its effect on form- I do like spin classes that feature sections on arms, abs, etc. In this class, our instructor had us do pushups, tricep pushups, oblique turns, crunches, and a song using the small 2 lb. weights stored in the back of each bike. We did some bicep curls, shoulder presses, tricep extensions, etc.

-I am a fan of the famous SoulCycle “tap it back” where you go from third position, to tapping your butt back onto the saddle, back to third. Kind of like jumps. It got me into the music and engaged my core. And again- abs. I want them.

-The lighting in the room is awesome. Much like Cyc’s studio- the light system is attached to the instructor’s little DJ station and the different settings can really have an effect on how you feel during each song.

-You cannot deny that you feel pampered at this place. Upon checking in, I got a piece of gum. I went to shower afterwards- and the bathrooms are fully stocked with razors, shaving cream, moisturizer, face scrub, etc.

Things I didn’t like:
-The instructor barely focused on resistance at all. I feel like in all of these trendy spin studios, everyone is flopping around their saddle, pedaling 189234 miles per hour. I’m all for light resistance and sprints being used in a class- but I like it to feel intentional. 30 second interval sprints after a long 8 minute hill makes sense in my head. But I feel like the rides designed at SoulCycle and studios like it, don’t think in the same way that other instructors I’ve had think. I like the instructor to explain to me how the resistance should feel- whether they refer to how heavy it is based on a scale of 1-10 or through description.

-For some reason, I feel like I just cannot mimic the way that people in these types of classes spin to the music. They look like their dancing, while I look like I’m riding a bike. Who is right?

-Before the last song of the class, the instructor had some inspiring speech about getting through this hill together and coming out stronger. Then she blew out the candles and dimmed the lights. It felt a little forced to me. I’ve had a similar experience at Cyc, where they shut off all the lights for the last song- but I feel like the intention there was to just let yourself go, give it all you had for the last song. I liked that mindset a lot better. No offense, but no, these people around me really aren’t helping me push through this last stretch. MY quads are doin’ the damn work.

-There is only one shower in the whole place? Luckily, I skimped on stretching (I know, I really shouldn’t be doing that..) and was only second in line for the shower. But there were at least 5 girls waiting after me.

-Had I been paying for this, I would not have liked the $35 price tag.

-I’m still getting used to clipping in and it’s still not the most comfortable thing in the world for me.

Bottom Line:
I still don’t feel like I fully belong in classes like this, despite having the utmost confidence in my athleticism and over-all fitness. I kind of like that. It’s different, and it’s challenging, and I leave sweaty. SoulCycle really highlights the reason I fell in love with spin classes in the first place- the dark room with the loud music, losing myself in endorphin-fueled cardio. The addition of weighted songs and crunches is overall a big plus for me. That being said, I am not completely head over heels for SoulCycle in the way that most people are. I can take it or leave it, and be just as content at a New York Sports Club spin class that focuses on form and hills and interval training. Yes, the lights and the sound system and the fancy bathrooms are nice every once in a while at studios like SoulCyle. But I will continue to go only when I have a chance to go for free or as some sort of special.

Next, I really would love to try Flywheel because I feel like the monitoring system is going to get me HOOKED.

In the meantime, back to Tuesday morning rides with Victoria at NYSC :)

(NYSC works for me!)