Hi, my name is Caroline, and I’m addicted to SoulCycle.
I know, I’m one of those people. You know SoulCycle, right? That incredibly overpriced luxury spinning class that people often refer to as a “cult”?
The fitness studio has been popping up all over the country, inspiring men and women everywhere to obsessively refresh their browsers every Monday at 12 p.m. to get into their favourite classes with their favourite teachers. And as you pedal along to top 40 hits in the dark, your instructor will motivate you by shouting encouraging mantras in your face. After 45 minutes, you’re sweaty, out of breath, and $US34 poorer.
With any luck, you’ll feel so good you’ll be counting down the days ’til you can come back and take another class. That’s what they’re hoping! And they made a believer out of me.
No one would ever describe me as “sporty”
I have one very vivid memory of my high school gym class. I was lauded by the teacher for running a 10-minute mile — a true feat for a non-athlete. I let him praise me for my effort, all the while knowing I had only made it around the track three times instead of four. He had somehow lost count of my laps in the shuffle of dozens of kids sprinting around the turf grass field. Fine by me.
Surprise! I hate to work out, and I always have. And, until recently, I thought I always would. But then I hit my late-20s and staying relatively fit and healthy with very minimal effort was no longer the easy task it was when I was a teenager.
But what was I going to do, join another gym I would never go to?
We all know exercise is good for your heart, your body, and your mind, but it’s also — at least for me — expensive, not fun, and hard. I never played sports past 4th grade; the closest I got was making the dance squad in high school and performing in the annual musical. Theatre isn’t a sport, but at least I was doing something.
Now I’m an adult with a desk job and absolutely no motivation to sweat, unlike some of my friends who run marathons for fun. This disparity between me and my social circle didn’t used to scare me. Now it does. I knew I had to figure out something.
When a friend came to town a few months ago and, unbeknownst to me, signed us both up for our first SoulCycle class, I had no say in the matter. I wanted to be a good host but I was totally dreading it for a few reasons: I was not interested in working out, for one. And also, it looked scary! I didn’t want to be the one person in the class that couldn’t keep up.
But I ended up loving it, and now I go as much as I can.
Here’s why SoulCycle works for me.
It’s in the dark
SoulCycle is taught in the dark, illuminated only by laughably expensive Jonathan Adler grapefruit-scented candles. Occasionally an instructor will turn up the lights a little bit during a hard sprint or during weights (one song per class is dedicated to lifting ~2-pound weights), but mostly, you’re on your own in the dark.
And if you’re sitting in the back row (encouraged), you won’t feel self-conscious at all.
45 minutes and then it’s over
My least favourite part about going to the gym solo was being responsible for my own success. I could go there for 2 hours but not feel like I actually accomplished anything. With SoulCycle, the doors close, the lights go off, and I work for 45 minutes. No option to leave early or slack off — the instructor will come right over and crank my resistance wheel up if I’m being lazy.
Then, after 45 minutes, it’s over! And I know I got a good workout.
The instructors are encouraging and kind
I never feel intimidated by SoulCycle, even though sometimes I find myself in a class surrounded by people who spin like pros while I’m often working my butt off to keep the beat. The instructors, especially, are great. I’ve long considered myself a cynic but even I can’t deny it feels empowering when a teacher tells me to “[sprint] for the person who got up this morning and got on this bike!”
Most of the instructors, my colleague Mallory Schlossberg points out, are performers and actor-types, and not necessarily people with a fitness background.
Some people aren’t into that, but I am.
The music is awesome
After you take a few classes, you get a feel for the instructors and the type of music they play. The idea of SoulCycle is to find the beat of each song and pedal to it, so you feel like you’re dancing on your bike.
On the instructor profile pages, they show a list of the songs most recently played in their classes. I’ll go to any class that promises Beyoncé, Mariah, Whitney, Adele, and Drake in one session.
There are also theme rides — I even fought my way off the waitlist for the class that exclusively blasted music from the new Broadway hit “Hamilton.” It was full of theatre people so I felt right at home.
It’s convenient for me
I wrote “for me” because I have friends in San Francisco who love SoulCycle but don’t live anywhere near a studio so they never go. I wouldn’t either if that was the case, but luckily there is one location near my apartment, and two within a block of my office.
I’ve gotten used to getting up, taking a class, then showering and heading across the street to work. And part of the perk of the (absurd) $US34 class is the amenities — the blow dryer at SoulCycle is better to my hair than the one I have at home.
Of course, nothing is perfect.
- I wish I could have gotten addicted to a cheaper workout, for starters. To avoid the $US3 shoe rental I found a pair of gently used spin shoes on eBay for $US40 (they have already paid for themselves) and I always bring my own water bottle.
- Sometimes I’m not around on Mondays at 12 p.m. when registration for that week’s classes begins and I don’t get into some of my favourites. Sometimes I end up in a class where I don’t love the instructor or the music. It happens.
- I also noticed the clothing runs incredibly small. I haven’t been looking to buy any SoulCycle attire but it’s hard to ignore the polarising feeling that washes over me when I realise the clothes are being marketed to much smaller women than myself.
My colleague Mallory wrote about why she quit SoulCycle over the summer, citing lots of issues that I totally understand, like how people think they’re getting an intense workout because they sweat a lot, but it’s really because the room is heated to ~85 degrees.
I get it. I also can’t deny it — I sweat a lot in SoulCycle, and that feels validating. But I also haven’t reached the point where I want to overthink it too much. Instead, I am focusing on this new personal breakthrough: I am capable of enjoying a workout, and I get excited about getting up and going to SoulCycle. I also feel much more together on a physical, mental, and emotional level, which is nice now that winter is closing in on us whether we like it or not.
SoulCycle is expensive, but it’s actually cheaper than therapy. Whether it can sustain me for a lifetime has yet to be determined, but for now, I’ll take it.
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