In the land of the materialistic and superficial known as Los Angeles, many inhabitants (Angelenos, as they preferred to be called) pride themselves on their wealth and appearance. If there was ever chance to simultaneously show off both, Angelenos would take full advantage of it. Fitness takes on a whole new level in the City of Angels with its glut of juice bars, obsession with gluten-free everything and cult-like exercise followings.
For the purposes of understanding such a peculiar fitness culture (and so I could feel cool and say that I did it), I tried the famous spinning class at Soul Cycle. I first became familiar with Soul Cycle through social media posts from famous celebrities, like Lena Dunham and Adrienne Ho. My cousin’s girlfriend had also wanted to try it, but didn’t want look like a newbie alone. All the reviews we read online raved how Soul Cycle could change your life in just 45 minutes, and naturally we were curious. We found out that your first class at Soul Cycle is only $20 and the shoes are complimentary. Typically, it’s $30 a class and an extra $3 for the biking shoes. You would think that my Nikes would be okay for a cycling class, but apparently you have to wear special cycling shoes that clip into the bike. When you put the shoes on, it initially feels like you’re wearing ice skates and you feel foolish when you walk in them.
Before I go into the review, I should probably break down my fitness habits for those who may want to a take cycling class in the future and need a comparison. I had never taken a cycling class before and apparently Soul Cycle can get pretty intense, but I survived and found it manageable. I would also rather eat dessert than exercise when given the chance, so there’s that. Safe to assume that I am no fitness fanatic.
Everything is white. The walls. The front desk. The girls at the front desk. I can appreciate the white aesthetic feel, especially when it’s accented with a motivational bold yellow. When you walk into the lobby, you’re immediately greeted by warm, genuine smiles. The girls at the front desk are extremely helpful when you’re new to Soul Cycle (especially since they want you to keep coming) and will walk you through the facilities and show you around. The lockers and bathrooms are (surprise, surprise) all-white and look very clean.
Soul Cycle definitely understands their demographic very well and have literally thought everything through. Forgot a hair-tie? They got it. Don’t have deodorant? They got it. Forgot to bring a towel? Done. Need to shave your legs? Okay! All of which, is provided complimentary from Soul Cycle. However, if you happen to forget your water Soul Cycle provides you with Smart Water for $2. Each of the showers even have their own Soul Cycle brand shampoo, conditioner, body soap, AND facial cleanser. Need to dry your hair? They even have vanity stations set up with hairdryers, including hairdryer attachments like a diffuser (seriously?!). This place is the definition of being extra.
As my cousin’s girlfriend and I nervously waited outside the class, we chatted with another fellow first-timer about our anticipation. She was super friendly and shared the same feelings as us. However, as we chatted she had casually asked me if the brand I was wearing was [insert expensive brand name I don’t know] and this gave me another indication of what kind of demographic that Soul Cycle attracts. I had actually gotten the exercise tank I was wearing from a thrift store. #BallinonaBudget
When you enter the Soul Cycle studio you can actually feel the sweat (and pain) from the previous class, but it surprisingly doesn’t stink. Imagine a room with thirty exercise bikes barely six inches apart all facing the front of the room where the instructor is. Now imagine this room with the lights completely off and lit candles everywhere. You also see large motivational words on the walls, like ROCKSTAR, LEGEND, ATHLETE, etc. I entered the room wondering want kind of satanic exercise ritual I had just gotten myself into. The ladies from the front desk help you adjust your bike and clip in your shoes. Yes, you are literally strapped into the bike, so once you’re clipped in there’s no going back. If you’re a first-timer, the instructor personally introduces themselves to you and tells you to just ‘enjoy the ride’.
This day in particular was special, since news had broken out that same-sex marriage (#LoveWins) became legal in all fifty states and our instructor had put together a special playlist for this particular ride. She played fist-pumping EDM tracks while we warmed up and yelled motivational phrases at us like, ‘you’re a winner’ and ‘change begins with you’. I kid you not, it felt like an EDM party on a bike the entire duration and our exercise instructor was the DJ. The first ten minutes you’re not even sitting on the bike; you’re just standing and pedaling as fast as you can. I was literally drenched in sweat after the first five minutes. It’s hard not to when you’re in a dark, enclosed space with twenty other people. I was thankful for the dimly lit room, because I had no doubts that I looked like a hot struggling mess. The next thirty-five minutes flew by in a series of synchronized cycling movements incorporated into a cardio work-out. Who knew you could work-out on a bicycle besides pedaling? We did push-ups on the handle bars, increased the bike resistance, and did a lot switching back and forth between standing and sitting. You know how you can tell who the regulars are? They’re the one in the front who have all the moves down and look like a choreographed team of cyclists.
At the end there was a ‘light’ arm workout with 1lb weights before we started to cool down. The weights are attached to the bike behind the seat. 1lb weights aren’t supposed to heavy, but apparently after an intense cycling session it makes them feel less like 1lb and more like 10 lbs. The cool down involves some synchronized yoga stretches if you can manage to clip out of your cycling shoes correctly. I got off the bike feeling very good about the work I had just put in and the dessert I was going to claim later.
I could definitely see what the hype was about with this Soul Cycle movement; however I don’t see it as a wise investment. If you really wanted to get into Soul Cycle, you could easily spend $8000+ a year. But this goes back to the whole demographic that Soul Cycle attracts. Soul Cycle is specifically located in areas that are typically affluent (Hollywood, Santa Monica, New York City, etc.) and you get what you pay for. First-class treatment while you exercise. Soul Cycle can be a perfect alternative if you like to switch up your exercise routine every now and then. It’s also great if you want to work-out with a group of friends. Additionally, like any high-intensity work-out, it is important to hydrate before, during, and after the work-out. Especially, for a class like this where sweating buckets is inevitable.
The question that still remains: did my life change during that intense 45 minute cycling session? While Soul Cycle was a great experience, I still dislike exercising and would rather eat ice cream. However, exercising in general is always beneficial for your health. If you’re going to indulge in eating to your heart’s content like me, then it would be wise to balance it out with proper exercise.