Twenty-thirteen was the year I got super into SoulCycle. It’s gross but I don’t care because I need it and I love it (ha ha so gross). Actually, wait, that’s completely misleading because I only got into it two months ago. Whatever, it's the best. In October, I bought a block of 20 classes which cost exactly one million dollars. Now I go like three times a week. Over a year this works out to all the money I can imagine in my brain in one go.
Here’s the main reason I go: three out of the five times I go, I cry. No joke. I’m obviously workshopping a mess of garbage in these 45-minute, $34 (I KNOW!!!!) spurts and when I went full-time freelance in February I stopped buying clothes, shoes, cigarettes, weed, cocktails (what a racket) and pounds of bulk gummy candy. It’s not that I became healthy necessarily but I am working hard to be less pissed off all the time since I’m by myself a lot. I’m also trying out tea as a concept and so far it’s going pretty good.
(Pluswhich, I just have other potentially more expensive issues to untangle like how I’m over winter as a concept and want to move the fuck out of New York to a location that may not even exist in the physical realm.)
Another huge part of how I FOUND MY SOUL (hahaha still gross) is that I don’t have regular human office person hours. This means I don’t go to SoulCycle early in the morning or after work. I also don’t try that shit on weekends. I go at either 10:30 a.m. or 4:30 p.m. when it’s not a sold-out clusterfuck of sweaty rexis and vein-faced dudes which is the case if you go at popular times. That said, one time I went on a Saturday because I wasn't paying attention and it ended up being awesome. It was packed and Temazcal-ish, everyone was into it and I wound up huffing a crazy amount of off-gassed human energy that made me vampire-powerful.
The grody aspect isn’t just that it’s prohibitively priced. I’m not telling you about SoulCycle because I think most people will like it even if it didn’t cost insane clown money. It’s spectacularly cheesy (side note: I also got my aura read this year [review: everybody should do it, hurry up.]). They also have a whole cornball clothing line with massive logos and slogans like TAP IT BACK (an SC move) which is so derp if you think about crew-neck sweat tanks saying shit like grapevine or beto shuffle. Honestly, can sand the floor live even? Some clothes have a skull on them. It looks like badassery that roller derby girls would be hyped on. And everybody knows roller derby girls are depressing as fuck.
Anyway, the walls of each studio are lined with inspirational pack mentality mottos and I ignore all of it for the same reasons that Lululemon’s whole scene feels sketchy. Because you know how you like people who like Lululemon but who cares because everybody’s so old? That.
Thing is, I love this workout so much and having gone through running and resistance training and muscle confusion and private pilates classes and personal training it’s just so nice to walk into a sweatbox and hang your brain on a hook by the door and switch everything off and zone out for a spell. The second I walk out of there—steam pouring off my head—I forget what just happened. It’s really all I’ve ever asked for in an event or activity.
Nothing beats SoulCycle for dumbing all the way out or re-calibrating a mood in less than an hour which is reassuring since I typically wake up in a panic that's candy-coated with a low-grade rage. I’ve yet to see Jake Gyllenhaal (that’s a thing) but I have seen Kelly Ripa and Vanessa Hudgens. They both sat up front and were teeny and fast like grasshoppers. I always sit in the back (and smoke cigarettes [fuck, i wish.]). I’ve also seen Charlize Theron. She sat in the back, on the bike closest to the door and brought her mother. This confirms all the good things that I believed about Charlize Theron.
There’s reserved seating and when you sign up online you can see a little aerial view of where you’ll be. I like to sit in front of the instructor and away from the fans. Oh, and you have to be at least five minutes early or they’ll give your bike away. Sitting in the back's the best because it’s where all the new people go. You can be as spastic and uncoordinated as you need to be without feeling a way. But it also doesn’t matter because it’s dark in there most of the time. I like to close my eyes. I’m pretty sure I’m hideous. Like Phoebe from "Friends" when she’s running in the park. Or Elaine Benes when she’s dancing.
The shoes are a pain in the ass because you have to pay more to rent them and they can be intimidating. They're an additional $3 but you can buy your own pair for about $80 on Amazon with the clips going for an extra $20 or so. I like renting them for now. They also sell you water for $2 but I bring my own because they can fuck themselves straight to hell if they think they're draining any more goddamned money from me.
Besides, all SoulCycle studios have a filtered water fountain. They also have free combination lockers and showers. The dressing rooms are teeny tiny but they have lotion, face-wash, blowdryers, hair ties, big towels (none of that NYSC bullshit), razors, tampons, deodorant. There’s also Purell and Orbitz gum when you check in. The one on the Upper East Side has free shoe rentals and water because they're the only ones that don't have showers.
The deal with the shoes is that they clip into the pedals, fancy road bike style. The rationale is that you work your leg when pushing down on the pedal as well as pulling it up on the rotation since they’re attached to the bottom of your foot. They’re tricky to click in but if you actually just look at the sole you can figure how they’d fit into the mechanism. Press the ball of your foot onto it as if you were putting on a high heeled pump until it clicks. To unclip, straighten your leg and twist the ball of your foot inward to as if you were putting out a cigarette (fuck, I wish).
There's two helpers per class if you need adjusting or guidance. There's also extra towels and gel cushions for your seat in case your backside lacks padding like mine and you can taste metal every time you hit saddle. There’s a dial between your legs for resistance.
One of the big draws of SoulCycle is that the music’s so great. There’s themed classes with all Britney or all 80s but I don’t go to those because it reminds me of when people who work in HR wear Halloween costumes. To me the best instructors are the ones who just know how to beat match and sequence songs for pacing. A couple fast songs, a slow, emotional song, some rap shit and then another emo song.
I fuck with Stevie, Josh and String in New York and I love Pixie and Edward in L.A. Also, I tend to like instructors who have maybe been through some shit. I decide this by making generalizations about tattoos. Most of the instructors are pretty good but I avoid all the ones who like mashups because they're disgusting monsters who need to pull it together.
You will suck really hard the first five times you go and then you get better. Between time one and three you get a lot better while remaining in the suck category. There’s some choreography but it’s not complicated. Mostly, it’s hard to follow along while you want to barf out of your eye ducts.
The main things to remember is hand placement on the handlebars and each class includes a series of push ups on the bars but they’re the wussiest of all wuss-ass push-ups since it’s a tiny movement. Mostly it’s about engaging your core and timing your legs to pump at a pace where you’re not losing control and twatting your face straight onto the handlebars. There’s also a ten-minute sequence where you grab weights that are holstered on either side of your saddle. Mostly though it’s kinda a break for your legs and by the time “arms” rolls around you know you only have one or two songs before you’re done.
The only move you have to learn that’s kinda tricky is “tapping it back.” “It” being your ass. You just scooch your butt until it’s hovering an inch or so above your seat and stay there for a beat. Just hang onto the handlebars and dig in your heel while sending your foot back so you kinda hitch backwards. YouTube it, it’s no big whoop.
When you get better you feel a sense of accomplishment and the prospect of returning to running or UXF will make you too sad to deal. SoulCycle feels gross, is gross and I’m grateful to have found it. If you’ve ever suspected you’d be into it, get over yourself and go. Some of my IRL friends follow them on Twitter so I know they’re sucked in too. I’m so happy to never discuss it with them. Just as I hope if you do try this out, you’ll ignore me if you ever see me in there. Thank you and namaste. LOL.
Runner-ups for the year in review: Having short hair (into it!), wearing Uniqlo longjohns as outside people clothes (because it doesn’t matter! [pro tip: NOTHING DOES. Ha ha. Sorreee. Happy New Year!]).