Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: A First-Timer's Visit to SoulCycle

On Sunday I tried SoulCycle with my friend -- and SoulCycle enthusiast -- Nicole. The studio has an Upper East Side location very convenient to my apartment so I thought I would take advantage of the opportunity to potentially find a new cross-training method.

SoulCycle offers a first-timer's offer of $20 including shoes. But word to the wise, subsequent classes will cost you and I a whopping $35. Yikes.

The shoes -- courtesy pbfingers

You have to sign up for the classes in advance and you pick the exact bike you'll be riding. What I liked about that is the lack of stress of having to arrive super early and bolt into the room for a bike. Rather, you can calmly make over to your assigned seat and get started.

I got to the studio a bit early, per the instructions from the chipper person on the phone who took my reservation. I had to admit that I was a bit apprehensive about trying this as I really freaking hate spinning. But everyone said to me, "Oh, but Meredith, SoulCycle is different. It's like, so not just spinning." So, I decided to go for it.

I went to my bike and a helpful employee helped me figure out how to adjust the different settings and clip in. She then turned to me on her way out of the room and said, "Have fun and take this at your own pace. Don't worry if you don't get all the choreography."


Nicole was being a pal and telling me what to do, and I'm glad I went with her for my first time. She was also so cute because she would tell people it was my first time but then follow-up by saying, "But she runs maaarratthons." You got my back, N.

Class began. What's different about Soul than "regular" spinning are several key elements. First and foremost, the lighting and music are crazy. It honestly is more of a club atmosphere than a class atmosphere at points with the instructor not only playing the role of teacher, but also lighting designer, DJ, and motivational speaker.

The first couple of "rides" were series of different positions of sitting and standing, mixing in basically push-ups on the bike bars as you ride. They really preach working from your core, which is great, but I did feel that as a first-timer I was having a bit of trouble getting the right postures and movement.

With all the lighting changes (it's dark, and now it's light, and now it's more red...) and the up and the down and the back and the forth, I was a bit skeptical at first.

And often I couldn't hear the instructor over the loud music, which is my only real critique of her performance. I felt like grandma at the disco-tech. "Excuse me...the music is a bit loud....I can't quite hear you..." And she was saying stuff that bordered -- for me -- between motivational and cheesy. At first.  

But then, about midway through class, there was a shift.

I was literally dripping sweat (moi? so hard to believe I know), and I knew I was getting a killer workout. And after a few really intense, and -- yes -- rather choreographed rides to some great dance party songs, the instructor changed the tone. She turned the lights down, turned U2's Beautiful Day on, and basically just had us stand and run/ride with the beat jamming it out.

At first I didn't know how to feel. So, we're just going to like, ride fast? With the music? "Together?" How do you want us to be together? We're like, on these different bikes?

And I don't know if it was my delirium from losing so much sweat so quickly, or if it was the lighting changes (really nicely orchestrated by the way), or just U2 jamming out to not let that beautiful day get away.... but suddenly I found myself riding somewhat together with this room of strangers. I too was letting my head bop to the beat. And was just giving my all to riding a bike...which I HATE. But I didn't hate it that day.

I can see why people call it a cult. Because in the course of 50 minutes they changed this:

To this:

We ended with some arm work with light weights (but a ton of reps) on the bikes, which I really liked. Because unlike some other spinning classes I've taken, the focus on upper body and core really makes this a true full body workout and something I could see myself occasionally doing to supplement the running that mixes cardio and muscle toning.

SoulCycle is definitely not for the faint of heart (or the meager of wallet). The cardio workout I got from this was out of control...and, yes, I do run marathons. So beginners should absolutely feel they can do it, but should also expect to take breaks and hate all the skinny girls around them that aren't breaking a sweat (yep, they were there). I have a personal learning that although there will be a fresh towel waiting for you on the bike, I will need to grab a second next time.

I absolutely do recommend taking advantage of the first-timer's $20 discount if you haven't, but be careful. You may find yourself addicted to this crazy community. But an addiction like that? Well, it's definitely certain to have you shed some pounds and add a little positive energy to your day.

So, if you're going to get addicted to something, I would absolutely recommend SoulCycle. Especially if you're choosing between SoulCycle and crack. SoulCycle for sure.


  1. I have gone to a couple of SoulCycle classes when visiting NYC and love it. The price? Not so much. They are coming to Boston this spring- woohoo! So we'll see how my wallet fares...

    1. SoulCycle...taking over the world one city at a time... :)

  2. I just wrote up at Flywheel since I am clearly obsessed! Seems like both have cult like followings :)

    1. I think I need to try that one next. And go immediately to your blog to read about Flywheel. :)

  3. It's kind of crazy that I still haven't tried this! Great review!