SoulCycle is America’s biggest fitness craze, with over 13,000 people a day taking their body-rocking spin class. On a recent trip to New York Susannah Taylor visited to see what all the fuss is about
SoulCycle is not new. It was launched in 2006 by three women (Elizabeth Cutler, Julie Rice and Ruth Zukerman) who sought to bring excitement to traditional spin classes in NYC. They wanted to create a tough workout that would create a lean, mean body. They were bored with uninspiring fitness classes; they wanted to add a feel-good spiritual element and to give it a special, boutique feel. Most importantly they wanted to set the spinning classes to incredible, inspiring music.
The combination was fitness dynamite, and within six months of opening their first studio, the company turned profitable and the classes had waiting lists. SoulCycle now has about 50 locations in the US, offering classes to about 90,000 people every week, and the buzz, nine years in, shows no signs of abating. With a huge celebrity following from David Beckham to Selena Gomez, Lena Dunham, Oprah and Lady Gaga (who is apparently so obsessed she owns a Soul Cycle bike!), rumour has it the spin sensation may make it to the shores of the UK soon, but having gone to New York last week I couldn’t miss the opportunity to check it out.
I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I would go as far as saying it was the most fun I have had in an exercise class IN MY LIFE. Why? Well, it's partly the soul-shaking music - I can only describe the music at SoulCycle as like being in the best club in Ibiza, the sort of music that from the beginning to the end had me literally grinning from ear to ear. I counted about 18 speakers in that room and the sound was bouncing off the walls, thrusting energy into our minds and bones so we couldn't think of anything else for an hour. I almost had to fight back the urge to get up out of the saddle and dance.
And dance was exactly what the instructor, Seth, did. The other key to the SoulCycle magic formula is the instructors, who are all cleverly chosen performers and dancers instead of more serious personal trainers. There's no talk of 'aerobic activity' or 'glute strength' at SoulCycle - it's fun all lthe way, making it accessible for everyone. Seth (who must have been a dancer) was literally performing his honed, toned buttocks off for the whole hour. Shrouded in a spotlight, while the rest of us were in darkness, the energy was beaming out of him as he took us on the ride of our lives - a journey cycling at different speeds through amazing soundtracks.
So good was the music, so mesmerising was Seth that I never once cared how hard it was (and boy it was tough, I could have wrung my vest out at the end). We went crazy fast, turned the resistance up to climb imaginary hills, and we were up and down in our seats constantly, legs beating in time to the music. There were weights, press-ups on the bike handles, and even an ‘in your seat, out of your seat and clap at the top' move that involved a lot of focus and balance .Then came the spiritual bit - just as I thought I'd pushed myself harder than I ever had before, Seth started whooping and shouting words of encouragement. Sound cheesey? I was too darn happy to care. Then he unsaddled and start dancing. At one point he was doing the splits in time to the beat. No joke.
With its scented candles, lovely white and yellow changing rooms (no verrucas here, just everything you need from Tampax to spare hair bands and deodorant if you need it) I would challenge anyone in the bleakest of moods not to leave SoulCycle feeling almost euphoric. It’s no wonder Lady Gaga had her birthday party here, no wonder Americans go to SoulCycle instead of staying in and sharing a bottle of wine, and no wonder they are paying $34 a pop for it. This was an adrenaline high, one big fitness orgasm, like nothing else I’ve ever experienced (apart from perhaps on the dance floor in Ibiza).
My only complaint? When the hell is it coming to the UK? Bring it on I say; we Brits are not as prudish as you think.