For those who have been friends with me on any sort of social media for long enough, you know that I. Love. SoulCycle. I love it more than a fat kid loves cake; more than Kanye loves Kanye…all of that. I got hooked while living in New York, and have been looking forward to the Chicago studio openings since before they were even planned (the power of positive thinking). Yes, I understand that it’s expensive. And yes, it’s true I probably wouldn’t have tried it if I didn’t get to take my first classes for free through work. But I did try it, and quickly went from only going to SoulCycle when someone else paid, to sacrificing funds from my own bank account for a seat in the dimly lit studio. But why?
1. It’s cheaper than therapy. We all know that exercise in general causes the body to produce endorphins, which in turn make you feel good. SoulCycle adds on to that natural high with, well, soul. Though some teachers definitely tap into the inspirational aspects more than others, I usually leave class with at least one reminder to put things in perspective, or give myself a break, or just let shit go. A few months ago, I underwent a minor surgery and couldn’t exercise for two weeks, during which I fell into a bit of a funk, feeling lethargic and glum. My first workout after that break was a SoulCycle class. When I arrived, I was definitely in a “mood,” not thrilled to have had to leave my cozy condo and navigate rush hour crowds for a workout. By the time I left, I felt all at once energized, relaxed, and motivated. The combination of the dim lighting, killer playlist, and (not-too-over-the-top) affirmations from the instructor, plus the endorphin-producing moves, acted as a 45-minute, calorie-burning therapy session.
2. I save money in other places. Countless people have flat-out told me I’m crazy to spend my money on SoulCycle. It’s not worth it, they say. It’s a waste of money, they say. It’s frivolous, they say. But, how do they qualify these things? See, I’m not a big drinker, so I rarely buy multiple rounds of $7-$15 cocktails every weekend, and my at-home stash won’t need replenishing for many months. (Though, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to drink more wine.) I don’t habitually go out to boozy brunches and high-end dinners, and seeing a movie in a theatre is a rare treat. (I realize this is painting a rather lame picture of me: I swear I’m fun and social, but I’m all for chill nights in, or Sundays on the beach instead of in a bar.) I see nothing wrong with people spending their money however they want to spend it, whether that be on movies, bars, restaurants, or in-app purchases for iPhone games—which is why I refrain from judging. I’ll spend my money in my way, you spend your money your way, and we’ll all live happily ever after.
3. The ambiance is amazing. And I’m not just talking about the low-lighting, candles, and aspirational wall-decals inside the studios themselves. Despite the fact that people exit each class dripping in sweat, the common areas are generally clean, bright, and fresh-smelling. They lack the dinginess of many other gyms. The air doesn’t reek of stale sweat and excessive B.O. And that’s nice.
4. It increases my chances of becoming best friends with a celebrity. I’ve never been lucky enough to see perfect-specimen Jake Gyllenhaal in an NYC class (even though I’m told he goes ALL THE TIME and when I lived in New York I went A LOT), BUT in one class, Bradley Cooper was on the bike right behind me, which was almost equally amazing. Never before and never since have I worked so hard in a Soul class. (I mean, he was obviously watching me the whole time, right?) Bradley and I didn’t actually interact—it’d be uncool to bother a celeb when he’s trying to just be normal—but some day I’m bound to have a natural interaction with a celebrity at a studio and become best friends. (And I really hope said celebrity is Kelly Ripa, who I’m also told goes often. I love her.)
5. It’s fun. Boredom is probably the biggest reason I skip going to the gym, or half-ass it when I’m there. I have trouble staying motivated to start, or continue, a cardio workout when it’s just 45 minutes (give or take) of the same thing. People roll their eyes when they hear SoulCycle entails “choreography,” but regardless of what it’s called, the variety of moves within one class—from push-ups and crunches to “tap-backs” and weight-lifting—keeps me focused and invested in the workout.
6. It offers a workout I can’t get anywhere else. I’ve been on the receiving end of the sarcastic, “It’s too bad you can’t ride a bike for free outside!” anti-SoulCycle comments more times than I can count. Listen, I love riding my bike along the Chicago lakeshore. It’s good exercise in a beautiful environment, but it’s a completely different type of workout. As for other, cheaper spinning classes? Typically, I don’t feel like they go above and beyond anything I can do on my own. SoulCycle’s distinction isn’t just in its unique choreography. It’s in the fact that the choreography is done to the beat of the music. And that the instructors carefully craft playlists that ebb and flow with the sprints and climbs in the class, so whether you’re cranking the resistance or spinning the pedals at warp-speed, you’re doing it to a clear rhythm, with guidance from a teacher who could probably keep the beat while posting an Instagram, chugging a glass of wine, and arguing with Comcast customer service. And the teachers don’t just demonstrate what you should be doing; they actively push you to do it better, constantly reminding you not to cheat yourself out of a ($30) workout. They’ll emphasize proper form, repeatedly stressing the importance of keeping your butt back and knees in. They’ll turn up the resistance on your bike if they think you can handle it. They’ll make you hold your arm weights in the air for way more time than you think you can. In my first class at Chicago’s new Old Town studio, the instructor, Anthony, hit the nail on the head with one sentence: “It’s about how you move, not that you move.” Anyone can sit on a bike on a platform and play a few tunes while you somewhat aimlessly ride along, but SoulCycle classes take it to the next level, giving me a fantastic return on my investment.
7. I want to. I just wrote a whole blog post justifying why I pay $30 for SoulCycle classes now and then, but the bottom line is, I do it because I like it and I want to. Sue me. (Just leave me with at least $30 a month.)