recently, my friend lisa introduced me to soul cycle, a cult-like spinning studio that’s been transforming regular new york women into crazy, sweat-soaked pedal pushers for the past year or so. i met lisa at bar method, so i can’t fault her for thinking that i might be interested in another fitness class. lisa is tall and lithe and likely has never carried extra weight around her stomach in her life (except perhaps when she was born). god bless the girl. that must be the life!
unlike me, who has, since the age of 9, carried a tub around my middle that seems to haunt me like a nasty shadow that simply won’t cut it out. tubby as i may be, i decided that the worst possible thing that could happen during a 45 minute soul cycle class was this: i could pass out, and someone would have to unclip my limp, probably sweaty feet from the bike, and carry me out past the soul cycle scented candles in the center podium and deposit me in the lobby. and to be quite honest, i thought there was a pretty good chance of that exact scenario happening. thanks to bar method, i’m in relatively good shape, but cardio has never exactly been my forte. i can’t run to save my life (literally, i think if i had to run for my life, i’d be a dead woman), and i haven’t ridden a bike in years (unless, of course, you count the indoor bikes i’ve been riding at soul cycle). so you can see why i was ever so slightly scared to take soul cycle on.
also, it didn’t help that i’d heard the cyclists at soul were uber intimidating; new york power women outfitted in neon spandex – the sorts of women who look good even when they’re sweating so hard they’re tasting their own salt water.
i generally prefer not to taste my own sweat, thank you very much – but i’ve been looking for a way to amp up the results i’m getting at bar method and really drop the pounds. (i know, i could eat less cookies, but what’s the fun in that?). so, to soul cycle i went. lisa and i signed up for a 10:45am class at the union square studio on a saturday morning a few weeks ago. our instructor was a ripped gay man named danny who was known for his kickass tunes and his motivational manner.
as we walked in, my first thought was, omg, these are real athletes. these are people who like to work out. and they’re really fucking good at it. i felt, not for the first time, fat, dumpy, and totally out of place. as the door to the studio opened, i felt my heart lift just a little bit: class would be conducted in the dark. by candlelight. lord knows everyone looks better by candlelight. a peppy soul employee checked me in and got me a pair of clip-in shoes (which, for the record, are really weird. i get that it’s important to be clipped into your bike, but walking in those babies is a semi surreal experience), then showed me the locker room downstairs.
once i’d changed into my soul shoes, i hobbled back upstairs and waited alongside the hardcore cyclers as soul employees cleaned the studio. cyclers who had just completed their class stood around, chatting with one another and looking positively drenched in sweat. good god, i thought, what have i gotten myself into? i had the distinct sense i was about to humiliate myself in front of 50 uber-jacked guys and gals who did.not.mess.around.
lisa chose this time to tell me that her first soul cycle class was so rough, she almost pooped her pants.
great, as if i wasn’t petrified already. i was going to die in there, i just knew it. would my tombstone read, “RIP SARAH. SHE HAD SOUL BUT SHE WASN’T A SOUL CYCLER”?
then it was time to go into class. i had smartly chosen a bike all the way in the back corner, where i could hide out. of course, if i passed out and needed to be carried out, this bike was a bad choice. a soul employee helped me clip into the bike and adjust my settings. note: i’m still terrible at clipping in on my own. apparently, it’s just like skiing. except that i don’t ski, so that frame of reference isn’t exactly helpful.
and then all of a sudden, it was time. danny was perched on his very own bike on a pedestal in the center of the room, whipping his head back and forth, his arm muscles practically protruding from his body (the man is RIPPED). techno music was blasting so loud i could have sworn i’d accidentally stumbled upon the electric daisy carnival. there wasn’t anything to do but start pedaling, so pedal i did.
before i knew it, i was sweating. a lot. like, more than i’ve ever sweat in my life (and let me tell you, i sweat HARD on the subway when it’s 101 degrees outside and the platform is like the 9th circle of hell). but i was moving. my legs were pumping, and i was in the rhythm. danny was playing a house remix of an old school red hot chili peppers tune, and yelling that it was time to stand up on our legs, lift our tired asses out of our seats, and SPRINT. i looked over at lisa, and saw that she too was sweating – and grinning, hard. as in, i’m pedaling so motherfucking fast that i think i can touch the sky hard. for a second, i thought i might die. but i didn’t die, and i kept on pedaling.
soon my ponytail was wet. i stopped reaching for my towel and just let the sweat take over. and then danny was telling us to close our eyes, and to let go of all the bullshit we’d carried into the studio with us, and just ride. and while i’d have cackled hard at a statement like that just 20 minutes ago, i was so in the moment that i felt it. i swear to god, i found god. i mean, i don’t even know if i believe in god. but it was like i found jesus. the music was so loud, and i was working so hard, and pedaling so fast, and my eyes were closed, and it was a moment of collective effervescence; the entire room was in this fast-paced meditation moment, frozen in time together. i could feel everyone else letting go, and so i did too.
and for that moment, i wasn’t fat. i wasn’t out of shape. i wasn’t the most unqualified person in the room. i was just riding my bike, and admittedly, yes, tasting my own salt water (kind of tastes like the ocean!), but i was there. and it was a magical thing.
and so it goes without saying that i’ve been back multiple times since then. and i still can’t clip my shoes in, and i still sort of feel like the fattest girl in the room each time i enter the studio – but i think if i keep going, that just might change. and in the meantime, i can close my eyes and ride to the music, and that’s no small thing. and yes, my butt hurts afterwards (those seats are ROUGH! and i have a lot of extra padding!), and yes, i sweat more than i’d like to admit. but man, does it feel good. it’s even opened my eyes to the idea that maybe sometimes house music ain’t so bad.
ps: i owe the confidence and guts i needed to step onto the bike to my beloved bar method. without the soho studio, and the instructors who have made me feel strong, and pretty, and just as worthy of my lululemons as the next girl, i’d never have set foot inside soul.