by Julia Sementelli
Having been in a workout rut for months because of a job with crazy hours that zapped my energy, I was not in the best place mentally and physically. Add to that a running injury after a too aggressive half-marathon training plan, and I had been limited in my workouts. I’d go to the gym, run on the treadmill until my hip hurt, and then do some half-hearted arm workouts before calling it a day. I had not had a great workout in some time, and I was in dire need of an endorphin fix. Desperate for a new exercise routine, I stumbled upon SoulCycle, a spinning studio. and its intense workout. I was intimidated by the reviews, but eventually I took the plunge.
It was a cloudy afternoon in March when I attended my first class. As I walked into the studio, I was greeted by three smiling staff members, a bright space, and booming music. After strapping on my cycling shoes, and filling my water bottle, I stepped into the dark, candlelit room with inspiring quotes and words painted on its walls. Filled with excitement and fear, I located my bike and a staff member helped adjust it for my height and I clipped in.
As I sat in the third row unsure of what to expect, women and men of all shapes and ages poured in, filling every last bike. Then, in came the instructor, Erin looking like she meant business. Once everyone was settled and clipped in, the music started. It was a remix of “Summertime Sadness” by Lana Del Ray blasting through the speakers; I was immediately filled with a rush of adrenaline. While I realize this sounds crazy, I had a moment on that bike. I had found “my” workout. I could feel my stress melt away and it was replaced with a huge smile across my face. After my first class, I was exhausted. But my next thought was: “When can I go again?” SoulCycle is truly addicting.
SoulCycle started in New York and has gained a cult following. Everyone from students and dads to Lena Dunham and Gisele Bündchen are “tapping it back” a choreographed move during the workout. However, it is not for the faint of heart. The music is loud, you ride close to others, and you will be dripping sweat by the end of the first song, but all of these things are what make it so great. Each class lasts 45 minutes (unless you are brave enough for the 60-minute “Soul Survivor” class) and is composed of 7-9 songs with an on-bike weight-lifting sequence in the middle. Some songs are upbeat and require a fast cadence with light resistance to allow for sprinting, while other songs are focused on climbing and demand heavy resistance for a slower cadence. Despite feeling like I might vomit during the toughest songs, I can count on walking out of that dark sanctuary and into the light of reality, feeling at peace, feeling relieved, feeling strong.
The instructors at SoulCycle are what make the workout truly an experience that forces you outside of your comfort zone. Erin is my favorite instructor; she is part cheerleader, part drill sergeant, and part therapist. She also has great taste in music. Whenever I am in class, I am reminded of the days when my dance teachers would scream in my face and call me out when my toe wasn’t pointed enough or I was not in sync with my fellow dancers. SoulCycle is more than just riding a stationary bike. It requires its riders to stay on the beat and to maintain a certain form, much like dance. While it can be hard to take criticism, I have found that this is what motivates me to do better. The choreography that goes along go with the songs encourages me to stay on beat and makes the class fly by. There is nothing better than a “beautiful job” from Erin to remind you that you are actually doing well. If you can take a class with her, do it. If not, Sal, James L., Charlotte, Dani, and Lexi are also all wonderful instructors.
While I have never felt stronger than I do now after 6 months of training, the benefits of SoulCycle are much more than physical. In addition to the workout, instructors are constantly telling you to push harder and remember how strong you are. The workout is also reminiscent of yoga in that it incorporates inspirational reminders to stay present and be thankful for your body. Plus, the talking helps to distract you when it feels like your legs are about to fall off.
In addition to the classes, the SoulCycle studio offers a clean, bright, and well-equipped space with showers, lockers, and other necessities. I always appreciate the constantly full containers of hair elastics because no matter how many I buy, I can never seem to find one when I most need it. SoulCycle is currently located in several areas across the United States; the only Massachusetts location is in Chestnut Hill. However, coming this fall, a second location is opening in the Back Bay. While Chestnut Hill will always be the place where I found my “SOUL,” I am excited to see SoulCycle come to the city and change even more lives.
Julia Sementelli is a first-year NUTCOM student. She is also a Boston-based registered dietitian. When she is not riding her heart out at SoulCycle, you can find her blogging at “Girl Verses Food.” If you would like to go to a SoulCycle class with her (or just want to talk SoulCycle), she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.