A New Kind of Fit
Say goodbye to tedious days at the gym and say hello to SoulCycle, the transformed workout class that has killer playlists and addicted fans.
Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.
These are lyrics to a popular Daft Punk song; librettos that are eerily reminiscent of our society’s male-versus-female stereotype. But are men really better, faster and stronger than their female counterparts? One workout class challenges what it means to be strong…
Growing up with a fit father and an athletic brother, I’ve always felt mediocre when it comes to fitness. Although my biceps match the width of my arms and my abdominals lack definition, my idea of what it means to be fit changed when I started taking SoulCycle classes. It’s not about how you look – it’s about your attitude toward physical pursuits.
In the past couple years, SoulCycle has become a fitness revolution, and not just because of the toned legs and Lululemon apparel that go along with it. SoulCycle is indoor cycling reinvented. It’s high-intensity like other indoor biking classes… but it’s different. It’s not about how many calories you burn. It’s about finding yourself and letting go of stress. The class lasts for 45 minutes: Fat-burning cardio, choreographed sprints, high resistance “climbs,” core training and an arm weight section. The sweat session is really just about moving to the beat of the music with an end goal of transforming how one looks and feels.
Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler had the right idea when the two friends opened the first SoulCycle in Manhattan’s Upper West Side nearly 10 years ago. Since 2006, SoulCycle has become a movement that has attracted a cult-like following. Studios in high-profile cities have been rapidly popping up in places like New York, Connecticut, California and Massachusetts.
After much convincing, I enthusiastically invite the guy I’ve been seeing to join me at SoulCycle. We park the car and walk toward the glass doors that are stickered with yellow spin wheels, the recognizable SoulCycle logo. As we enter the Watermill, New York, studio, a swarm of sweaty, stylish and stick skinny women exit while chattering enthusiastic goodbyes.
After eyeing just about every fit and trendy mother in my town we check into our 9 a.m. class and strap on our Velcro spin shoes. Much to his dismay, there’s now no turning back. He is fully committed to the class and before he knows it we’re making our way toward the candlelit room. The smell of minty tea tree becomes stronger with every step we take down the white hallway. Our eyes gaze over the bold black words printed on the wall; “Rockstar, Warrior, Legend,” inspiration for what’s to come.
We spot bikes number 39 and 40 and weave our way into the middle of the room. “Are you ready?” I ask as I help him adjust his bike seat. I immediately get a quick and confident response. His smirk gives away his underlying nervousness.
We mount our bikes and slowly begin pedaling. Soon enough our gregarious instructor walks into the room and turns the lights off completely.
Within seconds a spotlight is focused on Mireya. As she introduces herself, the flawlessly bronzed fitness guru pulls a bandana over her short haircut. With all eyes on the jacked tomboy who’s sporting a trendy tank, she begins bouncing and singing to the beat of the music. As the class progresses the 50-plus riders give off steam that fogs the mirrored studio walls. The 9 a.m. SoulCycle class has officially commenced. As we pedal faster, Mireya asks everyone to close their eyes and stand out of our seats.
“Eyes closed. Heart Open,” Mireya, says before blasting Beyoncé. “Add two turns of resistance to your bike,” and off we go. Each pedal requires a little more push, but with the expected pep talk, I know I’m about to leave him in the dust.
Before telling the room to "tap it back" Mireya inspires the room with words similar to, “You’re beautiful and strong and this is the hardest battle you’ll fight all day.” Within seconds the entire room leans forward and backward in unison to the rhythm of Queen B’s lyrics. Admittedly, I’m not a great dancer, but at SoulCycle I become so entranced by the music that I forget I'm even working out. For 45 minutes I let loose, clear my head and leave ready to accomplish my toughest challenges.
Already nervous that he is pissed at me for making him attend a class musically accompanied by Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, I follow Mireya’s lead to pushups. Yes, push-ups on the handlebars all while maintaining the same cardio intensity. I lower my head to take my attention off his experience and focus on my own ride.
Unlike most spin classes, SoulCycle is unique because it’s actually fun. The club-like atmosphere encourages one big dance party where riders let go of everything outside of the studio to focus on themselves. It’s the best part of my day: I sway, I sweat, I sing, I smile, I walk out feeling like I can run the world.
While I push myself to keep up with the skilled front rowers, who are clearly more dedicated to SoulCycle than I am, he is huffing and puffing next to me. I think to myself: I am harder, better, faster and stronger.
In an effort to encourage the overly-confident man I’ve invited to tag along, I smile to make sure he’s surviving and continue to pedal. Before I know it, we’re on our last sprint, and, in SoulCycle terms, “headed home.”
After the last song ends, Mireya leads us through a yoga-like stretch. While SoulCycle creates feelings of joy, love, inspiration and motivation, there’s also a spiritual aspect to the journey. With each SoulCycle ride, one’s external appearance does improve, but it’s the soul that finds clarity, strength and true happiness. SoulCycle with him reminds me that muscle mass and body definition do not make someone fit. Fitness is one’s desire to break through physical and mental battles.