Yes, I’ve really taken over two thousand SoulCycle classes in the past ten years. Clearly, I love this experience and workout that has taken the country by storm and changed the fitness industry forever. But I have also learned more about myself and life during those candle-lit 45 minute spinning sessions than I ever expected.
You Need to Start Somewhere
The reality is, the first time you do something, or the first fifty times, you likely won’t be good at it. When I started spinning, my novice status was obvious and definitely uncomfortable. In addition to not knowing how to actually spin, I rode at Soul for months before I could clip myself in or out of the pedals. The kind studio manager would instead clip my shoes in for me, and had me simply un-velcro my feet from my rented shoes at the end of class. At the time, this seemingly simple element of the class felt so complicated and daunting, but I did not let it prevent me from doing what I was quickly falling in love with, which I knew was so good for me.
Adult-Onset Athleticism is a Real Thing
My favorite Soul instructor, Stacey Griffith, frequently talks about “adult-onset athleticism,” and that line sums up my experience perfectly. For my first 32 years on the planet, I was never an athlete, I was never good at sports, or even in shape. I hated exercising and had to force myself to go to the gym once or twice a month at most. But after a year or so of frequent spinning, I found myself a quasi-expert at tap-backs and hills with heavy resistance, and for the first time, I was good at a physical activity. And I learned how to find the beat (usually) in a song. It was exhilarating.
It is Hard to be Vulnerable
When you live in Manhattan, being vulnerable is not something that is generally valued. The vulnerable person loses the taxi to the pushy one, obvious vulnerability gets you a table by the kitchen at the hot restaurant. But at Soul, it is not only okay to be vulnerable, it is actively encouraged. Closing my eyes in a dark crowded room, which we are frequently asked to do, took practice. Sometimes, I still struggle to do it. If you can get yourself there, though, it can be both cathartic and very revealing about what is most pressing on your mind.
You Can Be Inspired in Surprising Places
Stacey talks regularly about putting your dreams on your bike’s handlebars. But she often notes that you have to be careful when doing so, because what you visualize could actually happen. I know people who have created companies while spinning and I was inspired to write That’s What Frenemies Are For while riding in her class.
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You Need to Take Time for Yourself
So many of us spend every waking second working for our employers, taking care of our children or generally racing through life’s to-do lists. When I go to Soul, for those 45 minutes, nothing is expected of me. Just by being there, I have successfully prioritized myself and my needs and my health. Whether I’m in a class filled with high-energy pounding music or one with beautiful soulful songs (and most classes have both), it’s an opportunity for me to shut off my mind. I can pump my fists or whoop to an 80’s throwback, or cry to a gorgeous ballad. Most importantly, I get to clear my head; the instructor is thinking for me and I can take a break from being the decision-maker or worrying about what comes next, which at times can feel like a godsend.
Cheers Was Right
Where everyone knows your name is legit. One thing that I believe Soul (especially my home studio at 83rd Street) does better than any other company is to know its customers. Being greeted by name by the desk staff or shouted out by the instructor when you’re pushing yourself in class makes you feel seen in a world where that can often feel like a challenge.
Celebrating Birthdays is Fun, Even as an Adult
Another thing that Soul does better than anyone is celebrate! They have Pride Rides and New Years ReSOULution rides and countless theme rides. They also make it a priority to bring a candle in a coconut for you to blow out at the end of class if you ride on your birthday. Any adult of a certain age knows that at some point, your birthday basically stops being acknowledged, so it’s pretty amazing to get celebrated by dozens of people on your big day.
Taking a Break is Okay
Even when you love something, some days, you just don’t feel it. There are weeks where I don’t go to Soul. I’m feeling busy or tired or just want to work out by myself or do some other type of exercise. And when I am in these moods, I take a break. And when I inevitably return, it’s like coming home.
What Works For You Might Not Work For Everyone
Soul is not for everyone. And the teacher who reaches me may not be the teacher who inspires and motivates my friends. When you find what works, it can really work and like everything in life, that answer is different for each person.
At The End of the Day, It’s Just a Spin Class
For me at least, Soul has been a life-changer. Sure, I sometimes get annoyed by the person on the bike next to me or beat myself up during a class for not quite catching the rhythm of a song. But at the end of the day, it’s a 45 minute spin class. There will always be another class to take, and real life, with all its ups and downs, is always waiting for you outside the studio doors.
Featured image by Sarah Graves