I’m sad this post is going live simply because it means my time of going to Soul Cycle (regularly) is coming to an end. I haven’t been someone who enjoys working out. It’s a struggle to get to the gym and while, once I”m there, I enjoy it, I’m not the gym rat some people are. But when I got to D.C. this summer I decided to give Soul Cycle a try. I’d seen people raving about it all over social media for a long time, and I was curious to see what all the hype was about. Just to be clear: a few years ago the idea of group fitness would have given me way too much anxiety and I never would have gone. But, over the last few years, I’ve gotten more confident and working out in a gym regularly has made me get over the gym anxiety.
I had my first class at 8:30 am on a Sunday morning with Victoria at the West End studio. I was greeted by the cheerful Soul people when I arrived and once I told them it was my first time, this super nice employee gave me a tour of the studio, let me get my locker set up and then showed me how to set up the bike properly. They do this for all first-time people, but it took away a lot of the discomfort and concerns I had at the beginning of the workout. I will also say having a bike that is set up correctly immensely improves your workout. I have terrible knees and they usually start throbbing after a bit of biking. I didn’t have one problem with my knees during my class! I also love working out with loud music, so the energy in the room is incredible. I was able to just focus on the music and my instructor and have fun. After that first class, I was hooked. I also have to note that the vibe in that class reminded me a lot of the movie Center Stage when the main girl takes a break from her stuffy ballet academy to try a different kind of dance for the first time and she’s smiling the whole time. Soul Cycle was so different from law school in every way and I found myself smiling for the entire class. It was, in a word, incredible.
Due to my work schedule, I typically went on the same days and times so typically stuck with the same instructors. I’d like to give a shout out to Cher, Melu, Victoria, and Abby at the West End studio because they made my weeks so much better. I tried to go three times a week and it was the first time I really cherished my workout and looked forward to it during the day. The energy in the room is so positive and uplifting and it makes you want to push harder, dig deeper, and focus on you. I spent most my high school years hating my body, college was better, but I gained weight in law school and went back to being incredibly hard on myself. Soul Cycle, however, has taught me the beauty of a fitness journey. It doesn’t need to be perfect and results don’t have to be immediate, but you have to keep pushing and grinding and working on yourself. Victoria always says “wherever you are in your journey, you are exactly where you need to be.” I like that idea and it was always a bit of positive reinforcement on Sunday morning before beginning another week.
I think Soul Cycle worked well for me at this point in my life because I’ve been filled with self-doubt and uncertainty pretty steadily for the last two years. I was so nervous about spending the summer in D.C. and not being in California, but each week I became more confident that D.C. was the right place for me right now and that there is a reason I’ve spent my summer here. With each workout, I slowly started gaining confidence in my body for the first time. While I may not be the size I was in college, this is the first time I’ve felt proud of my body. Sure, it’s not perfect, and I still want to keep working on it, but I actually feel proud of it and comfortable in it. Body love and self-love are great concepts, but I think they can be hard to practice, especially when we are infiltrated with social media and extremely high standards of beauty. I remember a moment this summer when a woman said curves were “gross” in a conversation about what it means to be beautiful in America and I felt deeply insulted. I’ve spent many years wanting that straight up and down, perfectly toned body. But that’s not me. I’m an hourglass through and through. And you know what? For the first time, I don’t think, “ugh I wish my hips were smaller,” I think, “I like my curves.”
Soul Cycle welcomes and celebrates all people and all shapes and sizes. Throughout my classes, I would find myself realizing that we, as a society but also specifically as women, put way too much pressure on ourselves to fit an abstract idea of beauty. We’re all beautiful, we’re all unique and we should celebrate all bodies. The energy in a Soul Cycle class is so positive and it honestly made me wish more of that energy existed in all spheres of life. People cheering other people on, being kind, being happy, focusing on yourself and not comparing yourself to others. I’m a perfectionist and the pressure I put on myself is crushing sometimes. Through cycling, I’ve found a release and a perspective I couldn’t’ quite wrap my head around previously.
In many ways, that 45 minutes on a bike is a metaphor for all of life. Now, excuse me as I get sappy. The point of the resistance knob is to challenge yourself. It’s supposed to be hard, it’s supposed to be uncomfortable, and from the difficulty and discomfort comes a breakthrough, a reminder you are much stronger than you think. If we stayed where we are comfortable, as Abby said class after class, we aren’t going to get very far. We need challenges and the ability to push through it to live better lives. We are strong; we can put ourselves first. Soul Cycle has choreography and the first few classes I struggled to grasp it. If we’re being honest, some of it still feels weird for me (like a push up with a clap), but each time I grasp something I’m so excited and it makes me want to keep going. We don’t always understand things in life the first time and it can take time to grasp, but we shouldn’t give up. We should keep pushing. Working on yourself while also being part of a group is also something I love. I like pushing myself but it’s also fun to see everyone crunching together and putting in the work. We all leave drenched in sweat, a little tired, but ready to do it again.
I will end by saying this: if you have a Soul studio near you, try it. If you try it, also take a guilty pleasures class because the one I took with Cher was the most incredible thing ever. If you aren’t sure after the first time, go again. If it’s not for you, that is completely fine. I found my favorite exercise at the West End studio and while there isn’t a Soul in my law school’s town, I plan to continue cycling and listening to music and visiting a Soul location whenever I can.