Thursday, February 7, 2013

SoulCycle 101

Last Friday, I joined a cult  tried my first SoulCycle class. I'd been curious about the classes for awhile, but after reading this article in NY Mag, I knew I had to give it a try. Surely it would be just another spin class. Wrong. It really was an 'experience' rather than a class, down from trying to book a bike to the party-like atmosphere. For anyone else new to the cult, here are my SoulCycle 101 tips:

1. You're Not Going To Get Into A Class. Well, eventually you will, but you won't get into the first class you try to book. SoulCycle only allows riders (soul-ers? cyclists? spinners?) to book classes one week at a time. Classes for the week (Monday to Monday), open up at 12pm on Monday, and if you're not sitting at your computer manically refreshing your browser at noon, you're not going to get into a class. Classes sell out within seconds. And forget about calling- it's not going to happen. What I found helpful is first calling at a random time to talk about booking my first class. If you call, your first class is only $20 instead of the regular $34. Go ahead and let them charge your credit card- this way, your account is activated and has a credit on it, meaning you can actually book a class online later . Doing this will mean you're not wasting precious seconds (seriously, seconds) at noon.

2. Bikes Are Like Manhattan Real Estate. And the bikes up front and near the fans are the penthouses. With SoulCycle, you just don't book a class, you book a bike. Bikes up front go quickly, bikes in the far back corner are more accessible. When you book a class, you pick a bike according to a floor plan-- you can see where the instructor is and where the fans are, so you can choose a bike you're comfortable with. Chances are, the ones in the front will be booked already, but I didn't mind being in the back. I could still see the instructor, plus when I found myself lost, I could look at the people in front of me to see what was going on. The instructor also isn't really hands-on, so unlike a yoga class, you're not going to miss out if you're at the back. I did, however, notice that the people in the front are crazy. Get ready to observe the most fit people you've ever seen do some crazy things on a bike.

2. You'll Find A Whole New Level Of Sweat. I run four times a week, sometimes in 90 degree weather. I thought I knew what sweaty was, but SoulCycle cranked it to a new level. Within minutes the sweat was pouring off, and I was worried my bike would become an island in a pool of sweat by the end of the class. Thankfully, the staff knows you're going to sweat buckets and gives everyone fresh towels. Be prepared- I assumed I wouldn't get that sweaty because it was 'just spinning' and not a 10 mile run.  But it was more of a full body workout, with an ab session kicking off the class and a weight session ending it... while you're still pedaling. SWEATY. My friend and I had planned to get drinks after the class... so I ended up going out in my sweaty clothes. Nice.

3. Even Though They're Much Prettier And In Far Better Shape Than You, The Staff Will Treat You Like A Queen. See above, re: towels. And extra attention if you're new-- sometimes I feel places discount the newbies to pay attention to the regulars, but the staff made special effort to make everyone who was new feel at ease. When we signed in, they put a little asterisk next to our names so the instructor would know that we were new. We were given free shoes (normally they are $3 to rent) and water, and shown the locker room. Once inside the class, a staff member was waiting for me at my bike to help me with set up. And even though I couldn't figure out the clip system and I'm sure he was silently judging, he stayed incredibly nice and friendly... even when Ms. Barbie next to me started flirting and trying to get him to 'help' her, he finished helping me first. They also followed up with an email, which I thought was a nice touch.

4. Your Instructor Probably Moonlights As A Therapist. Before heading into class, my friend and I were chatting to some regulars. They told us that they would leave class feeling so renewed, like they had just been to 5 therapy sessions. I was a bit skeptical, but the instructor did throw in some 'inspirational' messaging (increase the resistance! because life is all about resistance, let's get through this together!), followed by chants (ok, more like woos!) from the regular riders. A little weird if you're new and haven't sipped the kool-aid, but a nice touch. It's fun to see how into SoulCycle people are.

5. Or A DJ. Get ready for some jams. It's like a dance club, and the instructor even has a DJ booth up his 'stage.' Everything is done to the beat of the music... so if you're like me, you may be a little lost. Just have fun with it- I figure as long as you're still pedaling, you're still getting a workout. But look to the crazies at front to see the wildly choreographed moves of the regulars.

5. SoulCycle Is An Equal-Opportunity Workout. I thought it would be a room full of 20-something girls, but the class was split almost 50/50 between girls and guys, and there were people of all ages there.

Overall, it was a great experience, and I finally learned why people are so obsessed with the classes. But at $34/class, the price point is prohibitive for anything more than once a month... which is kind of a bummer. NYC, how 'bout some cheaper group classes??

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