To Soul or Not to Soul

Lily Block and Sophie Woan

As most of you probably know, SoulCycle is an indoor cycling studio that has taken some major cities in America by storm. Thunnamedere are many varying opinions on SoulCycle, and since the two of us are on the opposite ends of the spectrum-Sophie is an enthusiast, Lily, not so much- we decided to share our experiences with all of you.

Sophie:

When I tell people I’m going to SoulCycle or that I love SoulCycle, usually it’s met with rolled eyes, maybe a snarky comment, or the OCCASIONAL, “Me too!”

The first SoulCycle Chicago opened in Old Town just over a year ago, however, I didn’t go until one of the last weeks in May. I had only heard about it from a friend who had gone in New York and came home raving about it. I play sports, but I could never motivate myself to work out enough in the off season, so I was completely open to trying a new form of cardio. My first class was on a Thursday at 5:30 with Kirsten. I was actually getting over a pretty bad cold at the time and probably shouldn’t have even done the class that day, but I was determined to try it. I walked out 45 minutes later on an endorphin high, my head spinning from the eclectic music and insane choreography we did on the bike. I almost ran all the way down the street because I had so much energy. I didn’t feel remotely sick during the class or after it and I knew that I had found a workout like no other.

From what I can gather, people roll their eyes at SoulCycle for a few reasons: It’s expensive and only rich white girls/rich white moms do it, people who do it are obsessed with it and talk about nothing else, and (probably the most repeated comment): “It’s not actual exercise. It’s just spinning on a bike, how hard can that be?” I’ve heard the latter statement many times in the past few weeks. Someone says it pretty much every time they find out that I have an ISP for Soul for fourth quarter. But, for the record, I’ve never met one person who has been to a SoulCycle class and said it was easy.

Like I said before, I play sports at school (mainly field hockey), and I’ve played sports every year since I came in sixth grade. In that, I’m notorious for saying that I don’t sweat. If it’s really hot outside then I do a little bit, but I can’t recall more than two times where I’ve been really dripping in sweat, no matter how hard I’ve pushed myself in a practice or game. All that changed when I started SoulCycle. If you look at me when I’m 15 minutes into a class, my face is already bright red, my hair is sticking to my face, and I have sweat dripping down my cheeks; in short, I’m a mess. But you’d also notice I almost always have a smile on my face, no matter how hard the class is (although there have been some points in time where I’ve been close to passing out on the bike. Not smiling then.)

To me, what makes SoulCycle so special is the community. Everyone who rides is riding for a reason. If you go to soul-cycle.com and click on ‘Community’, there’s hundreds of rider stories who talk about the struggles they had and how going to SoulCycle changed their lives. And there are new stories almost every day. Going into a dark room for 45 minutes and leaving everything else outside by putting your heart and soul into the music is a really unique thing. It’s taking 45 minutes to self reflect. What’s more, SoulCycle brings people together. My favorite instructor, Kirsten, who I took my first class with, is one of the most upbeat, welcoming people I know. I did my birthday ride with her, I ride with her at least twice a week now because of my ISP, and I always walk out of her class feeling 100x better than I did when I walked in.

The instructors want to know you, they want to give you shout-outs during class when they see you’re trying hard and getting stronger, but, most importantly, they care about you. Same goes for every other rider in the room. Everyone’s there to encourage you and everyone wants you to feel good about yourself in that room, set aside how you feel outside of it.

To conclude, I’m not trying to say that everyone should love SoulCycle because it’s not for everyone. If you try it and absolutely hate it-like Lily did, as you’ll read below-that’s fine! At least she tried it. All I’m trying to say is don’t hate SoulCycle based on its reputation, because, as we all know (or we should by now): Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Lily:

What is Latin’s obsession with SoulCycle? What is the hype really all about? When contemplating these questions I took it upon myself to take the journey down Wells and venture to my first SoulCycle class.

As I took my first step into the building, the first challenge I faced was getting through the huge crowd of people to attempt to find an unused locker. After a ten minute struggle figuring out how to use the lock, I put on the cleat-esque shoes, paid some more money for a water bottle* (the class was already pretty expensive not including the money I had to pay for the special shoes. Personally, I’d rather pay to become a frequent Divvy user, but that’s just me), and I was ready to go.

The lights dimmed as the class began. And by dimmed, I mean turned all the way off. It was really dark. The lighting situation accompanied with the fact that my fellow cyclers and I were facing a mirror led to an intense vibe. I made my way across the room ramming into every bike that I passed because of the darkness mixed with the spatial structure of the room. I hopped on my bike in the way back corner and was not able to clip my feet into the pedals. I kicked and kicked to no avail. Eventually, I had to scan the crowd of moms and find someone to help shove my feet into the straps. As I stared back at my reflection I thought, “What have I gotten myself into?”

“Legs up ladies, faster, faster,” yelled the instructor, as I rolled my eyes uncomfortably.

Something about being screamed at while atop a small, hard seat just doesn’t resonate well with me. Personally, I have never enjoyed the stationary bike. It’s all of the hard work that comes with mobile biking, but with none of the experience.

To me, the workout was not the reason that I didn’t completely enjoy my experience at SoulCycle. I did not like it because of a mixture of things. Everyone is shoved in a dark room while music is blasting. It is impossible to hear yourself think. If you are someone who thinks of working out as an individual experience, I do not suggest going to a SoulCycle class. Everyone is up in everyone’s business. I occasionally got a judging look out of the corner of the cycler next to me’s eye when I would slow down.

I’m not saying that I would never ever go back to SoulCycle. I can see why people, and in this case people from Latin, are very passionate about it. It is almost like a community.  To quote my mom, “SoulCycle is fun; everyone just sings along to the songs. Also, it’s easy-you’re in, you’re out, and you’re done!”

The people who are behind the scenes of the SoulCycle world are geniuses. There are many other places where one can get the same workout, but for less money, Flywheel and GOcycle to name a few, but somehow SoulCycle has become a status symbol. Saying that you’re a frequent “Soul” goer is half the fun! Imagine how many times you’ve heard a peer say, “I just had the best SoulCycle class, thank God I have A and B block free.” Now think of how many times you’ve heard, “I just had the best GOcycle class, thank God I have A and B block free.” As Sophie previously stated, SoulCycle isn’t for everyone. It is for a lot of people, but not so much me. It did not appeal to me, but that does not mean it won’t to you.

*Sophie’s note- obviously you can bring your own water bottle, but if you forget you can buy a Smart Water bottle from them. 

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