That Time I Joined A Cult: How SoulCycle Won Me Over

Last week, I joined a cult.

And by “joined”, I mean “took a class.” And by “cult”, I mean “SoulCycle”.

If you’re fitness forward individual living in Los Angeles or New York City, you’ve probably heard of SoulCycle – or “Soul”, as the regulars call it – the “full-body indoor cycling workout” frequented by celebrities like Kelly Rippa, Kevin Bacon (does this count as my six degrees?) and Katie Holmes (makes sense).

And here’s the crazy thing: You can be sweating right next to them! That is, if you could afford to pay $25/class in LA or $34/class in NYC.

I’ve been spinning for over a year now at various gyms. It was almost like all those classes were training me for this. This was the real deal. But my year of spinning did not compare to what I experienced at SoulCycle. I’ve gone through a lot of workout trends: Hip Hop Yoga, Hot Yoga, Core Fusion, Running, Zumba, an over-priced personal trainer who forbid me to eat carbs, even boxing. And SoulCycle has become…. well, trendy – to the extent that I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about the establishment:

“Oh you spin? Have you been to SoulCycle?”

“You haven’t lived until you’ve tried SoulCycle.”

“SoulCycle is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It changed my life.”

Which leads me to the simple conclusion: SoulCycle is definitely a cult.

At first, I had no desire of ever trying it. Why pay $25 for a spin class when I can go to one at my gym for free? Yes, the spin experience at my Crunch in West Hollywood is, how do we say this… different. For starters, there’s a disco ball and black lights. Also, there’s a lot of Madonna. Like, a lot. And a lot of “wooing” and clapping, which I’m not a big fan in general, and definitely not a fan of before 7AM. And then there was this other spin class I took at my old gym where the instructor was texting the whole time. What’s the emoji for “over it”?

I didn’t know what to expect at SoulCycle. All I could get out of my friends who had gone Soul was, “You’re going to love it.” So I embarked on my first class.

The Outfit
Like any important event in my life, first comes the question: “What do I wear?!”

I went with my usual work out ensemble: old camp Soffe shorts (that I still roll up because apparently I’m still a teenager) paired with and an old Broadway musical shirt that I cut up in an attempt to make it look sexy (it doesn’t) and ironic (it isn’t).

It wasn’t until I walked in that I realized this was less of a gym and more of a fashion show. The high school flashbacks hit. It was like I was the only one in the cafeteria not in a Juicy velour jumpsuit all over again, but this time, replace Juicy with lululemon and cafeteria with spin class. Did these girls get their hair and make-up done before class? Oh, I forgot. This is Hollywood!

Signing In

I walk in and it’s very clean. The studio feels more like a spa than a gym. Everything is yellow and grey. Those colors do look great together! Thick black bold print covers the walls with motivational phrases like: “Aspire to inspire” and “Take your journey”. Wait. How am I taking a journey if the bikes are stationary? Oh! It’s a metaphor.

There’s merchandise on the wall. Something about the burnout material marked with “Soul” makes me think you can do anything in a SoulCycle sweatshirt.

I walk up to the front desk, hoping I appear cool enough to belong here.

The desk is lined with open packs of Orbit gum in every flavor and bottles of Smart Water. Do I take a stick and bottle or are they going to charge me? And then what happens when the gum loses its flavor when I’m five minutes into the class? Where do I put it? And if, say, I put it on the bike… would alarms sound? Or is the gum the “Kool-Aid”….

Soon, I am faced with a peppy employee.

ME: Hi. It’s um…my first time.
HIM: Welcome! You are going to LOVE it.
ME: That’s what I keep hearing. But no one tells me why.

He smiles, not amused.

ME: So um… I’ve spun before.
HIM: (not believing me) Riiiiiiight.
ME: What makes SoulCycle different?

His eyes widen. How dare I ask such an obvious question?

HIM: I just can’t describe it. It’s like nothing you’ve ever done before. There’s like, candles.
ME: Candles?
HIM: Yeah. So what size shoe are you?

So, what exactly is in these candles?

The Class

I go into the spin room and yes, it is different. The lights are dim. The bikes are facing a mirrored wall, which already the regulars are checking themselves out in. Thank God they don’t allow cellphones in here. Could you imagine the amount of selfies that would be taken? Instragram would probably crash.

And there they are: the four talked-about candles by the instructor’s bike. I wonder if anyone has ever kicked over a candle by accident. Kind of seems like a hazard.

I coyly scan the room for any celebrities. I spot someone with a red baseball hat  and assume they are famous. Why do celebs wear hats indoors? Don’t they realize that, if anything, it just draws more attention to them? I learn later it was an actress whose name rhymes with Mary Shmuligan.

The Bikes

The bikes are really nice. Not like those ’80s leftover bikes I use at Crunch that I have to clip pedals into like some savage. The ride is very smooth. And spin shoes really do make a world of difference. That is, if you don’t fall over walking in them to your bike. Despite my year of spin practice, I have yet to buy a proper pair of spin shoes. I’ve thought about investing in a pair, but worry once I cave and buy them, I’ll be over spinning. What would I do with spin shoes without a spin class? Can they be repurposed as tap shoes? Unclear.

I try to stuff my oversized 49 cent Trader Joe’s bottle of water (what a deal!) into the bottle holder. It doesn’t fit. Crap! I should’ve gotten sleek Smart Water at the front desk when I had a chance. I notice how those fit perfectly. Now I really look like I don’t belong.

The Ride

The instructor is cute. All I can focus on was his knee-high rainbow socks, which made me rethink my outfit choice. He stands on his platform like a rock star, and the candles hit him like spotlights.

He goes on to say something about how we’re all a “pack” and to make sure to follow “the rhythm of pack”. I get nervous. I have no rhythm. That’s why I stopped taking Zumba!

The ride starts. I believe we’re listening to what the kids call “dubstep”. While there aren’t black lights, from time to time the instructor will flash the lights off and on, which is what I assume they also do at raves.

In My Head

I diagnosed myself with athletic ADHD, which means I have a hard time focusing when working out. This is a side effect from my also self-diagnosed condition of being athletically challenged. So here’s what was going through my mind during the class (perhaps you can relate):

:03 I’m doing this! I’m doing this! I defiantly burned off that pack of gummy bears I ate at work. Note to self: Just because it’s free, doesn’t make it fat-free. I should tweet that.

:11 I need a new sports bra. Like I can see in that mirror, I REALLY need a new sports bra. I really should get some lululemons. Not to fit in, but I feel like lululemons are like the Spanx of workout wear. Right?

:16 It’s definitely been an hour. Where’s the clock. Wait. There’s not a clock! No clock! No clock?! Is this what prison is like?

:23 I probably have like a million text messages. Everyone must be wondering, “Where is Gabi?” I didn’t even have time to tweet or check in. Oh man, I’m playing hard to get with everyone. #KillingIt

:27 I do not know any of these “songs.”

:33 I’m dying.

:36 I’m totally going to eat sushi after this. Or maybe salmon. Got it – salmon sushi. Genius.

:41 1,2,1,2,1,2,1,1,1… Darn! I’m off.

:45 I did it! Yes! Yes! I probably weigh like zero pounds now. Screw sushi! I’m eating a pizza.

The Aftermath

I leave the class drenched in sweat. I feel like I can accomplish anything.

I look around, and get a closer look at my red carpet-ready classmates. Now drenched in sweat, mascara running, dry bar blow outs now wet, extensions’ tracks poking out, we are all equals. Sweaty equals.

If SoulCycle is indeed a cult, pass me the Kool-Aid! I have never felt a better workout from a spin class. There’s something about the class, the music, the words of encouragement from the instructor, which all blend together to be somewhat sobering. A much needed reality check in the town where nothing is what it seems.

I leave feeling more grounded and at peace. Anything seems attainable. I am enlightened!!!!

But seriously, what’s with the candles?

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