SoulCycle, one of the first indoor cycling studios launching a decade ago in New York and a favorite of First Lady Michelle Obama, has opened in River Oaks and has just announced plans for a September expansion to the Woodway Collection on Voss.
“I love it when my girls join me for a little SoulCycle,” the First Lady said in a video posted on Twitter last year. Encouraging all Americans to stay active when she talked about the candlelight classes, saying, “We all are in the dark, moving to the beat on the bikes. We love it.”
I was excited to try my first class last week and to meet with instructor Austin Cope for the lowdown on the uber-popular chain. Indoor cycling (or spinning) is a great cardio workout that burns a lot of calories and strengthens your lower body with resistance.
Being in the fitness industry, I’ve taken my fair share of spin classes so I was wondering, what makes SoulCycle so special? Houston has several cycling offerings including Revolution, Ryde, and Ride in the Heights.
“It’s really like a community and you feel like you are part of the group” Cope said. “It’s a fun workout with fun choreography and it burns a lot of calories.”
The studio itself is very fun and fresh with a nice check-in area and small boutique featuring SoulCycle brand workout gear, everything from bike shorts to even Jonathan Adler SoulCycle candles. All of the instructors and staff were very friendly, upbeat, and seemed to really care about the students. When I told one of the employees that I just had a baby she gave me a high five for “getting back in the game” so soon.
Expect crowds because this is the place to be and there is a sea of fitness enthusiasts waiting for the doors to open so they can hop on their bike. Sure, there are lots of hip, fit 20- and 30-somethings but there are also people of all ages and sizes. Cope assured me that the classes really are for all-levels. They even accept kids under 18 with their parent’s permission. So, you don’t have to be super-fit to take a class.
The first thing I noticed in the studio was how close together the bikes are. There isn’t much space between your bike and your neighbor’s so be prepared to rub sweaty elbows once the class gets going. But, Cope says, “There is something to be said for about 50 people riding together. It’s that pack mentality and you feel the energy in the room.”
For newcomers, staff members are there to help with your setup. They will show you how to adjust your bike and how to clip in your shoes (cycle shoes are required and you can rent them there or bring your own), so don’t be afraid to ask.
Once the class started, I really felt the energy and I liked the instructor’s enthusiasm. Each instructor has his/her own unique playlist of music and they change it for almost every class (you can preview their playlists online). But, if you don’t like loud music — you might be turned off by the class. I really liked it and I personally need to have good beats for working out. Although it’s implied that you can kind of zone out and relax while you cycle to the beat, don’t expect a zen or mellow environment by any means.
Most of the classes have the same format — spinning on the bike and then finishing with a mini-set of arm exercises with light dumbbells. I have to say, one thing I didn't like was the “crunches” or mini-pushups that the instructor had us do on the bike. The form was just bad and it’s hard to cycle and bounce around on the handlebars at the same time. But, most people seemed to really get into the groove and as long as you don’t find it uncomfortable or feel it straining your back or neck, go for it.
I would advise that at any time during the class if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it (that goes for any class or studio). The good thing about SoulCycle is that if you don’t want to do the crunches or do all the standing hill climbs you don’t have to. Nobody will come around and yell at you or adjust the gear knob on your bike to make it harder.
If you are looking for a fun twist on cycling and want to workout to some good music, this is the place to be. I also like the fact that the classes mix in a little upper body strength training because many cyclists only cycle and work their lower body and you need balance.
You should always mix things up and try new workouts. Or, aim to try a new studio like SoulCycle once a month to keep your muscles challenged (that’s how you get results) and to invigorate your mind, or in this case your soul.
Cari's tip for cycling
- Reserve your bike ahead of time when you signup online (or on the app). Choose one in the back if you have an injury or you don’t want to stand out. Or if you want to show off your skills or new Lulumons, pick one of the bikes next to the instructor.
- Bring plenty of water. You will sweat — a lot!
- Dress the part. Don’t show up wearing running shorts or a low-cut top. Stick to form-fitting pants or shorts and a top that doesn’t hang loose.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If your bike isn’t setup correctly, your whole workout will be off and you may feel sore in all the wrong places the next day.