Eager to get out of the house sans-Baby Sprout and get a little positive and active energy flowing through my system, I decided to take a class of some sort. Something, anything to help me get moving, but I had a few caveats: it had to be low-impact, because my knees have been feeling a little less than solid since my pregnancy, and it had to be high-intensity, meaning the energy had to be on a-hundred-thousand-trillion. I needed something that was going to tire me out. Seemed like taking an indoor cycling class seemed like the move. And, since the nearest spin studio was a SoulCycle, I was down to ride.
You can consider this a review of sorts, but I’ll cut to the chase: I loved it, and I’m now a regular. My instructor, Rachel W., was dope, her energy was on point, she was super encouraging, and I felt thoroughly exhausted and excited to come back.
The experience is unique, to say the least. I’m going to do my best to recall everything I experienced and everything you’ll want to know to ensure your first ride at SoulCycle is a successful and enjoyable one. And, if you decide to give it a shot, I’d appreciate it if you used my personalized link to do so (click here)—it helps me earn classes so that I can be riding right along with you!
(This wound up being much longer than I intended, so I put the important points in bold font for easy skimming!)
Choosing the right class
First thing’s first – don’t book your class online. Log in, set up a new account with your e-mail address, but after that, pause!
Instead, visit the website and set up an account with your e-mail address. Then browse the schedule for your chosen SoulCycle studio and select a class that you are interested in attending.
Choosing an instructor is just as important as choosing a class. I know most people choose classes to attend based on the times of day they have available, but I can assure you this will make or break the kind of experience you have and the energy and effort you give off if you select the wrong instructor.
On the SoulCycle website, you’re able to view the profile of each teacher at your chosen studio. And, next to that teacher’s name, you’ll see a list of songs they’ve used in recent classes. Use that to your advantage. I love my Selena Gomez just as much as the next girl—aye, “Good For You” bangs. Severely.—but I’m not down for a class full of nothing but that. Give me my hip-hop with a little techno and some trap electronica, and throw a curveball or two in there, I don’t care. And, of course, it’s Brooklyn, so I’m expecting a Biggie or Jay Z track to appear. Luckily for me (and possibly you), there are teachers that make that happen.
The music plays a huge role in how hype you get for your ride, how much you feel the rhythm, how well you can move even though you might not be able to follow along with all the different moves in the class (more on that later.) Choose a class in your chosen instructor’s schedule, and click it. From there, take a look at the class map to get a feel for the layout of the room.
Before you do any clicking to purchase or confirm a reservation, call your chosen studio and tell them you need to pay for your first class. You get a cute discount for your first class, as well as a few other nice perks for being a newbie, so make sure you mention that to save a few dollars. From there, the person on the phone may ask if you’re ready to reserve a bike in a class now and, since you’ve looked at the map of the room, tell them which bike you choose. (If you haven’t, don’t worry. Just give the person on the phone a general idea of where you’d like to be, and they’ll have you covered.)
When I first entered the studio, the entire place smelled like grapefruit—a favorite of mine, and infinitely better than the general smell of sweaty people that you usually find in a fitness studio. It’s virtually immaculate, very neat, and the employees were incredibly polite. I went up to the front desk and let them know that I was new to SoulCycle, and from there… off we went!
I arrived mad early—almost an hour early—because I was almost certain I’d chicken out or try to find something at home to do instead of sticking to it and going all in. You’ll want to come early, too, but maybe not as early as I did. You’ll want to learn how to adjust the bike—three different ways to adjust: height of the seat, distance between the seat and the handlebars, and the ways to increase or decrease the resistance on the bike—and you’ll need to learn about the shoes.
Since indoor cycling is the kind of class where you’re packed in pretty tightly, you have to have special shoes when you ride so as to keep you locked in place. SoulCycle will rent you these shoes for a small fee but, as a newbie, your shoes are free. The shoes also lock into place a specific way, and you’ll want to learn how to lock and unlock your feet.
When you first arrive, you’ll check in at the desk. You let them know you’re new, and they’ll get you squared away with shoes and water. You’ll want to leave everything in your locker—no, you won’t need a lock; the lockers have self-setting combination locks that don’t require extra locks—except for your water bottle.
Spin classes like these are full body experiences. You’re standing while you pedal, you’re sitting, you’re doing presses on the handlebars while you pedal, you’re putting in work. You will want to eat a full meal a few hours prior to class, and you’ll want to fuel with something light—I’m partial to bananas—right before.
Oh, and back to the water thing. Do not come to class dehydrated. Drink your fluids before, and bring a bottle of water with you. If you bring an empty bottle, you’ll be able to fill it at the studio if you need.
You’ll also want to bring a towel. SoulCycle will also provide a towel for you, but you’ll want to use that to wrap around the handles of your bike. Bring your own. I used this one that I reviewed a while back, my regular yoga towel. If you don’t, just ask the front desk for an extra and they’ll tell you where to find them.
Inside the classroom
When class begins, the lights cut off and the music begins. When those lights go off, and no other light is in the room besides the faux candles surrounding the instructor or the exit sign by the door, you’ll see the silhouettes of people peeling off their shirts. That’s the sign that it’s about to get real in the field, so to speak, and you should feel encouraged to do the same. I yank off my shirt and spin in my sports bra, if for no other reason that I enjoy looking down at my skin, lit by the exit sign’s red glare, covered in sweat. It’s a bit of instant visual gratification of how hard I’m working. It feels good to see it again after having spent so much time on post-baby bedrest.
The front row of bikes is where The Pack rides. They’re the ones who are most familiar with and most capable of doing the moves the instructor does, and if you can’t get a good look at what your teacher’s doing, checking out the all-stars in the front row is a pretty damn good alternative. There are a lot of moves with unique names—”Tap Backs,” “Sexy Corners,” and so on—and it’s okay if you don’t know them. Follow along trying to do what the front row does, and do the best you can.
It’s also okay to not do the movements at all. Just put your head down and grind. Remember, no one’s really watching you.
These classes will also teach you to not throw shade to people who use those 1lb and 2lb weights, because you’ll use these during the class and they will make you want to die. (I’m being melodramatic, but seriously, c’mon. I can deadlift human beings, and even I was shaking holding these weights.) These classes specialize in doing a lot with only a little, and you will feel every ounce of it.
The seeeeeats. The seats. Get your seat fixed by a pro. If your seat isn’t adjusted properly, you will despise your seat. If your seat is adjusted properly, you will merely resent it. That first class, chances are high you will feel a bit sore in an awkward place. After that, it should go away.
Hands down, the best thing about these classes is that they’re in the dark. If you need to slow down, you can do it without the shame of feeling like someone else is noticing. If you are embarrassed to be so sweaty or gross-feeling, it’s okay – no one can see you, anyway. If you make this mean, ugly noise when you’re putting in That Work, no one will know where it came from anyway, and chances are high people will actually begin cheering when you do it. The energy in the room is high, everyone’s feeding off it and thriving from it, and your grit grunts might inspire someone other than yourself, here. Leave the shame at the door, and get ready to put in 110%.
Also? I now know what purpose I’ve been saving up all these strappy back sports bras for: so that the people behind me can see my flossy sports bra in the dark, obvi.
Best SoulCycle practices
There are some important things to know about spin: without proper hydration and nourishment, you run the risk of fainting and headaches. Not being properly hydrated, your body’s electrolyte levels are likely imbalanced, and the room gets hot. Without proper nourishment and decent fueling, you’re likely under-fueled and underfed, and can waste a great class by not having enough energy for it. Make sure you eat and drink appropriately for class.
Wear moisture-wicking workout gear, and—trust me—skip the sweatpants. Also, skip any pants that are loose at the ankle—they can get caught in the bike. Cute sports bras are a bonus, but not necessary. Make sure your entire booty is covered by your pants. Coin slots are for vending machines.
Also worth noting: don’t allow yourself to become intimidated by the people around you. You’re a newbie, and they were a newbie once upon a time, too. If they’re not humble about that, that’s not your problem—it’s theirs.
You will also stretch a bit both on and off the bike with the guidance of your instructor, but it won’t be enough. Prepare to do some major league full body stretching—bonus points if you use foam rollers instead—when you leave class. There are showers, but there are only a few for the many of you, so be prepared to wait a while if you must.
When my most recent class ended, my instructor, Rachel, had us do our stretches to “Nothing Even Matters,” a Lauryn Hill & D’Angelo duet from forever ago, and I literally shouted “Best song ever!” and people around me cheered, and Rachel remembered that and talked to me after class. I introduced myself and we chatted about the song, as well as how I was just now getting back into being active after having Baby Sprout and needed the encouragement.
“Oh, then we’ve got to make sure we give you that energy! Your baby is young, and you’re still in that giving mode. It’s time to receive, girl!”
Couldn’t agree more.
Low-impact, high energy, high intensity on the bikes, positive energy, stress relieving, kind and helpful people, torching a ton of calories? Yes, I found my “soul.” I’m a believer.
Oh, and bike 59’s mine. #TheBackRowIsForWinners