A Ride for Your Soul

By: MICHELLE PLOOG

Edited by: ERINN BOON

For some people, a gag reflex may be stimulated by the stench of 48 bikers crammed into one room while dripping sweat, but for the avid exerciser that loves a sense of community and high intensity, the smell of Soul Cycle is a perfect fragrance symbolizing the success of the ride. Walking into the Upper East Side establishment, I was kindly greeted by reception and set up with cycling shoes, water and a locker. It is important to me the area I work out in is kept very clean and Soul Cycle was well taken care of. Although the waiting area is packed in between classes, I saw the camaraderie between students, each saying quick hellos and sharing smiles.

When I went to enter the room, a young girl escorted me to my bike and took the time to explain how to hook the cycle shoes into the pedals. I was not entirely convinced that my clumsiness wouldn’t find a way to cause me to tumble off this bike, but I was willing to take the chance.  I latched my feet in and sat down. She told me that turning my resistance nob all the way to the left would be zero resistance and the instructor would tell me the degree to turn the nob right to add resistance when necessary for climbs. Then the young girl asked if I wanted a seat cushion, which I refused because I thought, as a committed outdoor biker, I wouldn’t need one and because I thought if I got my feet off these pedals I may not be able to get them back on. Needless to say, I should have taken the seat cushion.

Very fit women began to fill up the empty bikes around me. They all began pedaling, something I had been avoiding because I didn’t want to lose my juice too quickly, but I followed suit.  It felt good to be in a room with so many positive women that I knew would push vigorously to the imaginary spin class finish line.

The instructor, Ayana Curtis, entered the room with a fun, authentic aura around her.  She greeted the class and asked if there were any new students in the room, to which I undoubtedly raised my hand!  I love when they give some lenience for your first class, a release of expectations from the instructor and from yourself. She told me to have a strong ride, but back off on the push ups and weights when I needed to. Then my mind stopped dead in its tracks: “PUSH UPS and WEIGHTS?!”

She smiled and dimmed the lights. The two candles on the stage area framed Ayana’s bike and gave the room a feeling of calm introversion. She asked us to close ours eyes and set an intention for the ride. This was surprising to me for a fitness class other than yoga, and I really liked the concept.  My butt was already starting to hurt during this intention period, so about two minutes into class, I decided to have fun and stay on the bike regardless of my soreness.

I was a little nervous about the heat, but then came to find out that the room temperature is set at 77 degrees, allowing the body heat to warm the room as the class proceeded. According to a study found in Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism, our bodies have an elevated reliance on fat as fuel during heated aerobic exercise. Therefore, you burn more fat in warmer environments while exercising.

The etiquette of Soul Cycle is very similar to that of a Power Vinyasa Yoga class: stay in the room, in your territory, drink water as needed and stay in the same rhythm. I was trying to keep my rhythm while sweat dripped down my face, when my towel slowly, dramatically fell off my handlebars and crashed onto the floor in front of my bike. My towel was now dead to me, because I couldn’t get off the bike, if for no other reason than I wouldn’t be able to latch my feet back in. In that moment the instructor said, “be here now”. I forgot about the towel and refocused on my ride.

Ayana was an exquisite combination of encouraging and demanding. At one point she asked the group to turn our resistance up a full circle while I stayed at a half turn, not really giving my all and she called me out saying, “there is no faking, this is real sweat for real riders.” I loved it! I cranked the resistance and faced the challenge.

Toward the end of class, we began a double-time sprint. I felt like I was going fast until I glanced at the woman next to me going twice my speed. During my glance I twisted my foot outward and the unthinkable happened, I unlatched my left foot. This was a rooky mistake. My right foot kept in a circular motion while my left foot flailed like a flag in a windstorm. I recovered, but it took me the rest of the song to get my foot latched back in.

By the time I refocused, the group had begun the weights sequence.  Ayana later told me during an interview that the weight sequence is patented by Soul Cycle and is one of a kind. We punched forward, up and cross-body to hip hop beats.  Although the weights were very light, my shoulders were burning by the end.

Then came the very last riding song. The music started slow. Ayana had us bow our heads. She spoke to how much we gave our rides so far. She asked us how we intended to finish. She dared us to give this last song all we had for our ride home. I was so inspired by what she said that I felt my legs turn into a nine-year-olds, fresh and ready. I sprinted, my thighs burned and I remembered why I was there, in New York City, spending precious time in a heated spin class: I live for this.

When I asked Ayana Curtis what makes Soul Cycle different from other spin classes, she responded, “Soul Cycle is a mind and body cardio workout, a full body workout. Also, we like to talk in what we call ‘soulisms’. We try to inspire and motivate people and get them out of the headspace of what they have to do next. Inspire them to be present in the now, because that’s what we have: the now.”

My experience with Soul Cycle in New York City was exhilarating and empowering.  I certainly felt motivated by Ayana’s “soulisms.” The next day my inner thighs burned, my arms and upper back were sore and yet, I felt very energized throughout my body. The class was a success!

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One Comment on “A Ride for Your Soul”

  1. June 4, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

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