February 7, 2014

His & Her POV: Taking SoulCycle for a Spin

Nick and I recently geared up for a class at SoulCycle, the buzzed-about cycling workout with a cult-like following. Here’s our spin on it.

SoulCycle Palo Alto


Nick: Man I could write about fitness forever. I’ve experimented with every exercise program, style, and trend on my journey to uncover the perfect workout. When I saw Pumping Iron for the first time when I was 10 years old, I did curls with bags of groceries then threw a tantrum because I didn’t have testosterone yet. I still can’t watch an Arnold movie without getting mad at my biceps. But I’ve learned a lot along my quest, such as: squats and protein. I’ve also developed a keen eye for fad bullshit. There’s always some dude from New Jersey or an ex-Navy SEAL Delta Force Marine trying to sell you some device or DVD on TV when you wake up from a surprise nap on the couch at 2 am because your dog was in too comfortable of a spot and you didn’t want to wake her up. Well, I own all of those things and that dog. So, when Julia asked me to go with her to this “new, trendy workout that all the celebs are doing,” I had already signed up.

Brad Pitt dance gif

Julia: I didn’t expect Nick—a Marine Corps combat conditioning instructor, Ironman triathlete, and owner of an actual bicycle—to agree to try a SoulCycle class with me. Then, I realized the studio that just opened in Palo Alto is right next to Chipotle, and it all made sense. Honestly, I was hesitant about the whole thing too. I’d heard the buzz about the spin class that was so much more than a spin class but hadn’t seriously considered trying it. I love group fitness classes, but anything with a huge cult following kind of scares me. I once accidentally ended up in a Zumba class and it was the worst five minutes of my life. Dancing in front of other people in broad daylight requires the kind of beverages they don’t serve at the juice bar at Equinox. But that’s another story.

Nick: From the moment you step into the facility, you just know that people are going to tell you their “SoulCycle story.” They’re excited about it and it’s now become not just a workout but “like, a lifestyle and something I can’t live without.” And that’s great! Those are the kinds of people I want to do fitness with. Every single SoulCycler was PUMPED to be there and that positive energy was motivating and contagious. It’s hard to look forward to something challenging when the predominant attitude is, “Ugh, THIS shit again?” Positive energy is what keeps people coming back and, not surprisingly, consistency is pretty critical to achieving a rockin’ bod. Sure, shiny happy people who are obsessed with things are awful and cultish, but once you’re on the inside, it feels darn amazing (important confession: I “do” Crossfit and we are notoriously the worst about the cult attitude).

Julia: It was actually a guy named Adonis who works at Lululemon who convinced me to find my soul (that’s what all the walls at SoulCycle tell you to do, FYI). When I went into Lulu over the holidays, he started showing me THE BEST outfits to wear to SoulCycle and looked seriously hurt when I admitted I’d never been. He then told me that it’s THE BEST workout ever and it’s not just spinning but pushups and weights and NEW BEYONCE. Apparently, the instructor played some new jams at class the night before, and I think Adonis was still on an endorphin high/drunk in love. So, I promised then and there that I’d give this mind-body-musical experience a try and finally made good on that promise when I was invited to try a class for free.

SoulCycle inspiration walls


Nick: First, let me tell you what SoulCycle is: spin class in a candlelit Vegas club and the DJ is a zen motivational speaker. If you’ve ever taken a spin class, you know what to expect physically. The instructor will try to trick you with some pushups on the handlebars while you’re pedaling (seems dangerous but it’s more like you’re giving the bike CPR) and there’s a mild dumbbell sesh about 30 minutes in, but don’t be fooled, you’re on a bike for 45 minutes.

Julia: Okay, aside from the spinning part, the class felt nothing like spinning. It started with the instructor, a sinewy blonde who looks like she drinks a lot of green juice, telling us to close our eyes and “become one with the bike.” Seriously. Instead of closing my eyes, I had to make every effort not to roll them, but then somewhere between old Brit and (yes) new Bey, I got really into it. Unlike other spin classes I’d taken, which were a predictable mix of hills followed by valleys and one big mountain of a finale, this class was constant pedaling with fun (and kind of funny) choreography throughout. I’m not sure if I was doing the side twisty things correctly and certainly not on the beat, but those moves made it feel more like a dance party than Tour de France. Not that I have the slightest idea what Tour de France feels like, but I doubt anyone is chanting, “Tap it back! Tap it back!”

Nick: I evaluate workout classes differently than exercise programs and accessories. Everyone has different goals, capability requirements, abilities, and attitudes, so to take a 45-minute glimpse at someone’s workout and say, “oh that’s lame because that’s not what I do” is a good way to ensure you’re the reason why everyone at your gym wears headphones. However, I do feel that workout classes require a few key, universal characteristics to be effective because when you lock a group of random people in a room and ask them to sweat in close proximity to one another, you need to know that you’re not getting into something dangerous, gross, awkward, or boring. Those elements are positive energy, intensity, and relatively simple sets of effective movements or exercises. Based on these criteria, I give SoulCycle a solid A-.

Julia: I was giving it an A until I woke up the next morning and felt so sore in one particular area that I could hardly sit down. I actually stood at my standing desk for the entire day at work, which I think technically counts as another workout. Enlightened ladies, do you wear padded shorts or something? Also, I loved that the class was mostly women. Not that I was surprised, but we recently left Equinox (more on that here) for Gold’s Gym, which is all dudes all the time. Nick claims to have met one chick, a prison guard who asked him to spot her as she incline-pressed 75-pound dumbbells. TRUE STORY.

Candlelit SoulCycle studio


Nick: Back to my three things. We already covered positive energy. Intensity? Check. Because at SoulCycle, each class is equipped with an instructor whose enthusiasm seems almost as performance-enhanced as their lack of body fat. They, along with your like-minded/bodied classmates, are motivating when slowing down sounds like a better idea than speeding up. One of the major benefits to group classes is that extra shot of accountability and discipline that you don’t get when you’re alone and your undisciplined brain is rationalizing its cowardly way out of the last painful reps of a set. If you’re not like that, well, nice to meet you, six-time Mr. Olympia. For the rest of us, the endorphins and feeling of accomplishment that come with the shared struggle that follow an intense group workout are like a down payment on your level of commitment to the next workout. Now simplicity. Nothing is worse (editor’s note: false. Many things are worse) than when a group class is too complex or difficult that the instructor has to give private lessons to each participant in the middle of the class (and thus destroys the momentum) or when it is so basic that there’s no point in going back because you’re a black belt after your first try. SoulCycle was a great balance of being basic enough that a beginner can pick it up on the first class but also easily scalable so that a veteran could still be challenged.

Julia: I got sweaty, which coming from me, means a lot. I’m one of those freaks of nature who just don’t sweat very much. When I was a kid, my parents used to think I wasn’t trying hard during my soccer games because I would hardly break a sweat. I thought there was something wrong with me until I read in Allure or some other extremely scientific source that there are people who don’t perspire and compensate by turning beet red. BINGO. That’s me with the red face. Well, this class made me both sweaty and red so bravo SoulCycle, bravo.

Nick: Overall, this was a fun thing to do with my wife. Once. Maybe again someday if she’s nice to me. But it’s just not my thing mostly because the only reason why I approach a bicycle is to ride it outdoors. SoulCycle is spinning with a zen empowerment vibe and 5-pound dumbbells. A great class, just not my thing.

Julia: Did I find my soul? Not exactly, but I practically skipped out of class because endorphins are awesome. Well, more like clonked out of class since, did I mention, you wear actual clip-in shoes like some kind of legit cyclist? I left wanting to come back for more, until I looked into the cost. Soulful spinning is not cheap, people. Current pricing puts you at $30 a class, which can go slightly down with some packages, plus $3 to rent shoes. If money ain’t a thang, you can pay $3,500 for 50 classes with first dibs on class sign-ups—that’s a whopping $70 a class. While I can’t afford to become a convert, I do think a class every now and then would be the perfect thing to do as an activity with girl friends. Say, instead of dinner and drinks on Saturday, let’s do SoulCycle and kale juice! (There’s a juice shop around the corner, of course.)

Nick: Whoa, whoa, whoa, what?! I was convinced Julia made a typo at first. At $70 a class, that wall should say, “Athlete. Legend. Warrior. Renegade. Rockstar. Homeless. SoulCycle.” Unless you can afford three classes a week, you’ll need another gym membership. At a gym where they probably offer spin classes. Spin classes that won’t have motivational graffiti on the walls and candles instead of electricity, but they’ll offer a pretty similar workout. A workout that you can supplement with high-rep/low-weight dumbbell work at that same gym. Then you can sit and meditate in a quiet corner of the locker room or your car or literally any place that you find peaceful. If Julia gets me to go again, she has to treat.

Rental clip-in shoes at SoulCycleNow we want to know: Do you have a SoulCycle story?

2 comments:

  1. I definitely need to give this a try - Once anyway... ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let me know if you try it! I'd love to know what you think! I hear the classes and instructors in SF are awesome!

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