As a longtime long distance runner, I feel that it's important for you to know that I strongly dislike group exercise. Sure, I enjoy heading out along wooded trails with a group of fellow runners on a crisp fall day — but it's helpful that after five or six miles, the group stops talking for lack of breath and the run becomes a quiet, more solitary experience. For me, exercise is about routine, reflection and quiet personal growth. I save my socializing for social functions, and treat personal fitness as a mostly private matter.
So it's hard for me to explain why every Thursday morning for the past two months, I've woken up an hour earlier than necessary, trundled out to the other side of the Charles River and sat in a dark, candlelit room to ride a stationary bike with sixty other complete strangers.
My name is Nick, and I'm a SoulCycle addict.
SoulCycle, the surprisingly successful boutique fitness spin class empire, isn't entirely unique in its formula. Spin classes are available at almost every local gym, and the yogic aspects of the SoulCycle experience can easily be obtained at the yoga studio or public park nearest you.
The company's compelling 2015 IPO filling explains the way class devotees' dedication to the pricey ($30 - $34 per class, with no membership option) and pop music-filled spin adventure extends throughout the entire organization: "SoulCycle is more than a business, it’s a movement."
I don't know if I'd necessarily go that far, but there is something to be said for the affirming elements of sitting in a dark, sweaty room and having an instructor in far better shape than you'll ever possibly be tell you again and again how this moment is yours and only you know what challenges that await you on the other side of the door, so use your inner strength here and now to face the day head on, etc. etc.
But it's not just the cultish aspect that keeps me going back to weekly 45-minute SoulCycle classes at six am (and the two 90-minute long holiday-themed classes on Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve). The workouts are hard, and are actually making a difference in my physicality. Even though I've been running almost every day for 15 years and have trained for and run two marathons, my SoulCycle devotion is adding definition to muscles I didn't even know I had, and has taken one or two inches off my waist. My clothes are actually starting to fit differently, which is an annoying and nevertheless powerful feeling.
I've now dragged three different colleagues and both of my roommates to a SoulCycle class, and while they haven't all enjoyed the experience (one colleague described her "dance party on a bike" as more akin to a fascist rally than a fun fitness class), they seem to understand why someone would become mildly addicted to the routine.
SoulCycle is a new and different fitness challenge for me, it makes me feel great and I'm even embarrassed to admit how my regular attendance is slowly creating the outlines of an affirming community of instructors and fellow participants that I actually enjoy.
Plus, as the studio etiquette signs rightly point out, there's no talking allowed in a class, making the experience feel more than a little closer to my fitness ideal.
Judge me if you like, but if you need me, I'll be on bike six in Back Bay next Thursday at six am, finding my soul. I'll see you there. — Nick Andersen