Last week, I explained how one of the most important things I need to remember is that there’s no reason to be intimidated by fitness classes, since everyone was a beginner once. I decided to tackle my intimidation problem head-on by attending what I personally think is the most intimidating of all NYC fitness classes: SoulCycle. Why am I so intimidated by it? Honestly, I have no idea. Maybe it’s all the locations. Maybe it’s the branded gear. Maybe it’s the massive following. I went to an evening class taught by Lori A. at the West 77th Street location. Here’s how it went down.
Signing up: Signing up for SoulCycle is incredibly easy. You go to their website, select your location, choose your bike, and check out. If it’s your first class, you have to call the studio directly and make your reservation by phone instead of online, and the class is $20 as opposed to the usual $34, and your cycling shoes are free. When you sign up, the person reminds you to eat a light snack about 30 minutes before class and show up early so the employees can help you get settled. I did neither.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. I entirely forgot about the snack, but I did show up ten minutes before the class was supposed to start. Unfortunately, ten minutes wasn’t early enough. I had enough time to sign up for the class, strap in to my very confusing cycling shoes, put my clothes in a locker, and get in line for the bathroom. I looked around at all the fit, beautiful people in the room, all decked out in SoulCycle attire. I was intimidated, but it was too late to back out; class was starting soon. The bathroom line was so long that by the time I was finished, the class had already started. I walked into a dim, loud room and prepared myself for what would be the most strenuous workout experience of my young life.
The class: As I mentioned earlier, you have to rent cycling shoes (unless you already have your own), because you have to clip your feet on to the pedals. I assume that part of the reason they tell newcomers to arrive early is so someone can show them how to clip their feet in. Too bad I showed up after the class had already started, because it took me a full five minutes to figure out how to clip both my feet in. Another important thing I missed: instruction on how to adjust your seat height. I was frantically pedaling away while also trying to adjust my seat height to no avail for about ten minutes. Luckily, the instructor (a wonderful woman named Lori) noticed something was wrong, came over to me, and helped me get fully adjusted.
I’d like to say it was smooth sailing after that, but that would be a blatant lie. It was hard. Like, really hard. We alternated between cycling while sitting on the bike seats and cycling while standing on the pedals, often leaning forward. There were times when we had to do push-up-esque exercises while continuing to cycle. At one point, we had to do arm exercises with small, five pound weights. It seemed easy at first, but by the end of it I felt like my arms were going to fall off. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said I don't know how to work out.
During the first half of the class, all I wanted was for it to be over so I could go home and collapse onto my bed. My legs were sore, I was tired and sweaty, and I felt like I was the only person in the room who had no idea what they were doing. After a certain point – aka when a song I really like, “Justify My Thug” by Jay Z came on – I started to get more into it. It was hard, but I was sure I wasn’t the only person who was struggling to keep up. I began to notice Lori walking around the room, going up to people when it seemed like they were struggling or needed some help or extra motivation.
The last five minutes of the class consisted of a yoga-like cooldown period that can only be described as very zen. Lori turned the music down and talked us through a series of stretches, peppering her instruction with affirmations and encouragement. “It’s not about numbers,” she said. “Not about speed or resistance numbers, not about number of calories burned, not about fitbit or weight numbers.”
When the fluorescent lights came on and everyone got off their bikes, I felt great. Exhausted and sweaty, but also relaxed and proud of myself for having gone to a class I was so intimidated by. While everyone else gracefully unclipped themselves from their bikes, I realized I had no idea how to release my shoes from the pedals. So I did what anyone in my position would’ve done: I took my shoes off, then removed them from the bike with my hands. I felt pretty dumb for not knowing what to do, but the job was done.
The aftermath: After class, Lori congratulated me for attending my first class and doing well despite my initial struggles. I left the class sore, sweaty, and starving – all signs of a good workout. My inner thighs were sore from the bike seat, but that was to be expected.
Would I return? In a heartbeat. Lori was an awesome instructor and provided a great experience.
Tips for other SoulCycle virgins:
- Browse through the instructor profiles to get a feel for what kind of music they’re into. It’s a good idea to choose an instructor with similar music tastes to yours; the soundtrack is a huge part of the experience.
- Show up early! They tell you fifteen minutes, but I would suggest twenty just in case the bathroom lines are long.
- Eat a snack beforehand so you aren’t starving in the middle of class.