While those of you who have heard of SoulCycle might shrug and call this another ‘cult-like’ post, some of you might be wondering what the hell this weird pseudo yoga name even is. And you’ll probably roll your eyes when you realize that it’s an exercise class. But it isn’t simply a workout, even though that is one of the reasons that I love it so much. It’s an experience.
Started in New York City by founders Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler, SoulCycle was originally developed in a small West 72nd street studio in order for the two women to introduce a cardio workout that was not only physically stimulating, but intellectually and mentally fulfilling as well. And trust me, it is.
SoulCycle puts a contemporary ‘spin’ on otherwise boring cycling classes, and it isn’t only the workout that keeps people coming back, although of course, that’s a huge motivating factor. SoulCycle is 45 minutes long (unless you do a 90-minute Soul Challenge or 60-minute Soul Survivor), and depending on how hard you push yourself, you could lose up to 1000 calories a class! Sounds insane? Kind of is.
A common term for it is ‘spinning on steroids’, because it gets your heart rate very very high. It incorporates varying speeds and resistance, and you ride both on and off the saddle. In addition, you use your arms by doing push-ups, crunches and other strength moves, and you also use hand weights at various points in the ride. In addition, the music is FANTASTIC – there are instructors that truly take tons of time and effort to find the perfect songs for each segment, with crazy unknown mashups I have never heard before (shout out in particular to Danny Kopel, who always makes me want all his playlists). Instructors vary in terms of both teaching style (loud, quiet, introspective – take your pick) and music style (electronic, house, rock, hip-hop – even country, disco and old-school). It also truly looks like the instructors have all been trained heavily in performance arts – you can never be bored in a class that has an instructor entertaining you with motivating words, crazy dance moves and different workout steps.
While all this helps make exercise fun, a lot of the ‘Soul’ in ‘SoulCycle’ comes from ambiance and customer relations. Every SoulCycle studio is an oasis. The bright yellow and white walls scream both peace and happiness, the customer relationship team is very nice and accommodating (especially when you’re running late to a class), and the amenities are amazing. Almost every studio has a full-size locker room with free storage, free towels for both during class and the after-sweat shower, huge changing rooms with shower stalls infused with grapefruit smelling Soul shampoos, conditioners and body cream, and free gum, hair-ties and hairdryers for use. In fact grapefruits are at the heart of SoulCycle; walk into a studio and the grapefruit scented candles will envelope your senses. There is no surprise why several celebrities including Lady Gaga, Brooke Shields, Kelly Ripa, Bradley Cooper and Jake Gyllenhaal are all fans.
SoulCycle also sells water and shoes for those who don’t have the certified spinning shoes (special shoes that clip on the bike pedal, lest you fall off at a certain gravity-defying moment) , or you can rent them each class. SoulCycle also has a huge apparel line that changes every month, and partners with Lululemon and Nike to create amazing and functional workout wear. Other items for sale include the famous Jonathan Adler candles and hoodies and sweatpants.
The SoulCycle experience is about more than just the physical benefits – many people have experienced emotional changes as well. The classes are in candle-lit rooms so that the focus is not on another’s form, but yourself. Every class leaves you drenched in sweat and high on endorphins, and every instructor I have met encourages me to find my strength and to definitely not let any negativity affect me. In addition, I have never seen a community that cares so much about its riders – it’s a lifestyle choice more than simply a way to drop those extra calories. If I were in New York right now (soon!) there’s no doubt I would be fighting my way through the heavy rush hour traffic-filled midtown tunnel to make it to my 7:30pm Union Square class. Try it out; you won’t regret it – just please don’t take my coveted second-row spot!
Studios are open all around Manhattan and Brooklyn, California, the Hamptons and Greenwich, Connecticut.