Location: Greenwich, CT
Cost: $20 for first time rider
Rating: **/***** (2/5)
The first time I ever heard about SoulCylce was in US Magazine. There was a picture of the ever-so-yummy David Beckham walking out of a SoulCycle studio somewhere in LA because, you know, he is just like us. So, if this workout is good enough for a former world class professional athlete, maybe I should give it a try. I can't remember the exact year it was but I do know that I was living in Florida at the time and there were no SoulCycle Studios anywhere close to where I lived. My dream to cycle like Beckham would have to be put on hold.
Fast forward to this summer when we were visiting family in Greenwich, CT. I was just starting to get back into exercising after having an infection that landed me in the hospital for a week so I wanted to try something a little more cardio intensive rather than strength based as I worked my way back. My sister in law Leah, who lives in the area but had never done a SoulCycle class, was game to try it with me. My mother in law, who actually had done a class, warned us that she got very claustrophobic and nauseated. With that in mind, Leah and I signed up online (a requirement) and geared up.
The Greenwich, CT SoulCycle lobby, locker rooms and bathrooms were extremely clean and very white and bright. In a way it was almost too bright. There is plenty of SoulCycle branded clothing including tank tops and capri leggings available for purchase at the studio. I did not see that many participants wearing actual cycling clothing but that is often the case in most spinning classes I have taken in the past. What I failed to notice was that when we checked in at the front desk there was a pile of earplugs available for use. Leah saw them but only mentioned it to me at the end of class when she figured out why they were there. Just like back in high school when I took AP Lit, I completely missed the foreshadowing of the dramatic hearing loss that I was about to experience.
So here is my take:
The good: The class and the instructor have a definite structure. They let you know when you start that we will be spinning to the pace of the music, that you should try and keep up but to not worry if you are new and can't quite master the rhythm. Our leader, Jen, cheered us on for the entire 45 minutes, often referring to the collective group as "Sunday" since it was Sunday, I guess. Unlike regular spinning classes, we briefly used some small weights for upper body exercises for our biceps, triceps and shoulders, all while our legs kept spinning. I sweated and my heart rate stayed elevated for at least 35 minutes of the class so in terms of a calorie burn, I would say that is where soul cycle earns its stars.
The bad: I still can't figure out if I actually attended a spinning class or a rave. You know one of those secret parties in a big warehouse with bodies gyrating, black lights and maybe some ecstasy sprinkled here and there. Let's start with the set up of the studio. You quite literally can not escape the room once the class starts without knocking into someone else's bike. The bikes are so crammed in there that I felt like I couldn't breathe. Thank god there wasn't a hairy stinky guy anywhere near me or I would have lost it. And yes, there are black lights. It quickly made sense why so many people were wearing white. They literally glowed and glistened. We are asked to spin at a speed that I could never keep up with. I found that in order to spin at the required RPM to match the music, I basically had so little resistance the the bike's momentum was moving the pedals, not me. And I would NEVER spin that fast outside on the road. Its a big red flag if you are bouncing on the seat and trust me, most of the participants turned into seated Tiggers. The instructor Jen was extremely into the class, bumping and grinding along, but she woo-hooed a lot. I mean, a lot. That works to motivate some people, but not me. It pretty much makes me not take someone seriously. Grunting and growling along with the rest of us works better, in my opinion. I am also certain that I took some years off my hearing. I wish I had known to use the earplugs. Better yet, wouldn't it make more sense to save us all a trip to the hearing specialist and simply turn down the volume? My ears were ringing for a good 3 hours afterwards. Finally, in terms of a workout for the upper body, doing push ups against the handle bars while you slow down your legs for a minute hardly has the same effect as a proper push up. The other arm exercises, including curls, over head tricpes and some shoulder work are limited since we only had options for weights that are 5 lbs or less. One isn't going to be making many strength gains in their upper body with that little of resistance.
Overall, I don't think you will ever find me in another Soul Cycle class. I give it two stars for the sweat and elevated heart rate but no one should be spinning their legs that fast on a stationary bike. Basically the momentum is pulling you along rather then you powering it. That is dangerous for your knees and lower back. You won't see me spending more money on this fad.