On Sunday my team and I went to an 11 am SoulCycle class as part of our off-campus fall break training trip. About half of the girls had been to SoulCycle before, and funnily enough, for all of the spinning and cycling I’ve done in my life, I was one of the newbies!
I went into my first SoulCycle class intrigued and excited, but also skeptical for a number of reasons:
- I’m not usually a fan of high-profile, commercialized workouts
- I am
verypretty opposed to pushups and arm weights on the bike
- Spinning for 45 minutes with very low resistance and extremely high cadence doesn’t seem all that productive to me
- The whole “SoulCycle” stereotype kind of troubles me
- I don’t need or like the fact that I’m working out or working hard to be disguised by bells and whistles
What Went Down: My Experience
10:30 am-10:45 am- arrived at the studio to fill out waivers, get shoes, put my stuff in a locker. Waited for the employees to open the doors to the studio
10:45 am-11:00 am- set up my bike in the studio and started to warm up on my own. Made sure to get weights for my bike (I used 3 pound weights) and put them underneath my seat.
11:00 am- class starts with a high energy song: Shake it Off by Taylor Swift. So far, SoulCycle is off to a great start!
11:15 am- the energy in the class is super high, and I’m loving it! We’ve done a few pushups on the bike, but nothing I can’t handle. The class more or less resembles spinning.
11:15 am-11:30 am- Wow, we are spinning way more with these pushup things than without them. I cut out at least 3/4 of the pushups, turn up the resistance, and focus on my legs. Music is still great, as is the energy of the class. These might be the two reasons I was convinced to keep going.
11:30 am (?)- Arm weights time! It only lasted about 5 minutes (I think), but it burned! This portion reminded me an awful lot of Barre, the way my muscles burned and shook intensely.
11:40 am- Cool down starts. I didn’t even know that it was the end of the class, because we didn’t finish with a final sprint or anything. I kind of felt like I was cruising to the finish line, rather than trying to beat the rider beside me!
11:50 am- All stretched and cooled down, I thanked the instructor as I left the studio super super sweaty. That’s got to be a sign of a good workout, right?
What I Liked
- Awesome Music
I’ve got to say, the combination of the continuous music and it’s sheer volume really makes for an energetic class. There was a good combination of some throwback songs, pop, as well as lyric-less techno that kept things interesting, as well as appealed to most tastes. I’d sure love to figure out how to mash up my music to give it that kind of flow!
- Energetic Instructor (Becca)
The reason we went to this particular class was today was because Alex has a serious non-romantic girl crush on Becca. Alex went to Becca’s class 2 or 3 times a week this past summer and became obsessed with her infectious enthusiasm and music- something which can be hard to do at 6am!
Sure enough, today, Becca didn’t disappoint. She literally danced into the studio, and I admit, was super overwhelming, but hey, she had personality. Becca’s cheesy but oh-so-motivating lines such as, “sometimes it’s not about how much you add, but how much you can release”, really stuck with me during those hard minute-plus sprints. She also made it very clear that it was “your ride”, meaning if you didn’t want to do all of the pushup things, that you could sit down and “sprint your face off”. Not going to lie, as unappealing as that option may sound, I definitely did it a few times. Arm thingies = not for me.
There’s nothing worse than having a bike that sticks, squeaks, or is just plain bad. I am happy to say that the SoulCycle bikes were none of these things. They pedal smoothly, allowing you to focus on the ride, and not whatever malfunction your equipment may have.
The studio also had a ton of the little arm weights, so you didn’t have to worry about getting stuck with too heavy or too light of weights.
When you walk into the Soul Cycle studio, you can count on it being clean and professional looking. The reception area is all white and bright, which, along with the peppy employees, gives off a fun, energetic vibe.
However, once you step into the bike room, you are immediately transported into a workout vortex with booming music, intense lighting, and about 50 bikes. It gives off a serious “no messing around” attitude! (But in the best possible way).
Thanks to the great setting, the class had an infectious energy, which pumped me up a lot for the first 10 minutes! After that I started to settle into the hard work, and the novelty of the vibes wore off a little, but nevertheless persisted throughout the class.
What I Didn’t Love
So. Many. Bike. Pushups
Going into my Soul Cycle experience, I knew that pushups on the bike were going to be part of the class. However, I was not aware that they would be such a prominent feature! There was more spinning with the arm movements than without, which really shocked me. As someone who prefers to concentrate solely on biking movements while cycling, I found this hard to get used to.
Lack of Climbs, Intervals and Breaks
I prefer to integrate variety into spin classes with intervals, climbs, and breaks. SoulCycle seems to aim to achieve this goal by adding arm movements, “tap backs”, “up downs”, and light weights. While I’m sure that many people like this format, it’s not what I’m used to, and I therefore had difficulty adjusting accordingly.
No Exertion Level or Time Countdown
Since the class didn’t revolve around timed intervals, I often found myself guessing my level of perceived exertion. Not being told how hard to push, or how long to push for left me a little uneasy, since I was weary of not leaving enough gas in the tank.
Spinning Out of Control
On the drive back to school, Alex and I were talking about the class, and I mentioned how the class would have been impossible to complete without clip-in shoes. First off, there are no straps on the pedals, which forces participants to either rent shoes, or bring their own. As someone who always spins with cleats, this didn’t really surprise or phase me. However, once we were about 15 minutes into the class, I realized why the clip in shoes were so essential to SoulCycle. The majority of the class was spent running at a very high cadence (I’d say probably >120 RPM), which would have been very unsafe without cycle shoes. While I do enjoy “spin-tervals” (spinning at a very high cadence) once in a while, I would have liked there to have been at least a couple songs of higher resistance and lower cadence.
Given all of these pros and cons, would I go back? I have to say, I do prefer actual “spinning” to SoulCycle, mostly because I am used to it. I’m a creature of habit, and really like working super hard with well deserved breaks, and loading on resistance for climbs. I also tend to visualize myself riding an actual bike, and for that reason, don’t find the pushups and arm weights particularly useful, since they don’t translate to better biking skills.
Despite all of this, I can’t deny that the energy of the class was unparalleled, and unlike any other fitness class I’ve ever been to. It really made me want to be a part of the community (okay, minus the skull-printed gear). I was reminded just how powerful group exercise is, especially when every participant is stoked out of their mind to be there.
It’s really amazing how SoulCycle has been able to market a painful, stationary activity, where you are literally 1 foot away from another sweaty individual as a life-changing, best-selling activity. Way to go, SoulCycle!
Have you ever been to SoulCycle? Did you like it?
Do you go to SoulCycle or another type of indoor cycling class regularly?