2006. Manhattan. The Upper West Side. Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice were hanging out at the SoHo House and felt their exercise experience was, well, lacking. Exercise sucked, first of all—in all the hustle and bustle of New York City, it felt like a requirement. Something they had to do to stay in shape. Why couldn’t it be like LA, where people turned exercise into something fun? A social experience.
Oh, yeah. And no memberships. No guilt. Something a la carte.
They had some money in the bank, and were surrounded by enough people with good ideas, so together, they rented out an old funeral home on West 79th Street, and festooned it with special, custom-made stationary bikes. The pieces were set, and with a little time, the idea took off. People could stop in for a high-energy 45-minute class. Before too long, the concept even got, well, popular.
Like, IPO rumors, there are more than 80 of them now, popular. We all know that one guy who’s obsessed with his workout, but the followers of SoulCycle, as it would come to be called, are downright fanatical. For them, it’s a damned cult (and they’re proud to say so).
So what’s the appeal, anyway? If you’ve tried it, you probably know, and we’re preaching to the choir. But for the uninitiated, here’s a rundown.
1. It’s a solid workout.
We’d probably be remiss not to make this the first item on the list. SoulCycle boasts that you can easily burn 700 calories during one 45-minute workout, and we don’t doubt it. Spinning your (literal) butt off on one of these bikes is high intensity, demanding, and (best/worst of all) flies by, leaving you feeling energized and refreshed.
2. It’s exclusive.
The old saying rings true: you get what you pay for. SoulCycle costs $45 for a 45-minute class, which is either a little steep, or a great deal, depending on where you live/what you do/how important opportunity costs are to you. Devotees love it because, secondarily, it’s a chance to socialize with like-minded people who are all oriented toward the same goal. Sure — SoulCycle is a networking opportunity, as much as it is a workout. But also...
3. It’s a freaking party, man.
Nicki Manaj, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Bey — they’re all blasting during your workout. And here’s a thing that you don’t see in the publicity shots: There are lots of different types of classes. Some of them take place only in pitch blackness, accompanied only by techno beams. Some of the glasses involve candles scattered around the room. Some of the instructors are still finding ways to push their classes to the limits, DJ-style, making the whole environment feel like the most pumped (sweaty) nightclub you’ve ever been to.
4. It actually makes you feel amazing.
News flash: Exercise is really good for you. The instructors at SoulCycle get special training (at Soul University, no less—right?) and are the best of the best when it comes to combining positive reinforcement with their own personal sense of flair. Like we said, talk to a friend who’s a SC devotee: they’ll tell you that they hop on their phone at noon on the nose to book their favorite instructor before all the slots fill up. There’s something about an energetic leader and a surge of endorphins that’s addictive.
5. It’s all about appearances.
Spinning classes are passé. SoulCycle is a lifestyle, complete with apparel, accessories, and add-ons that make it more like a community than a gym. Some groupies will get entire branded outfits to show their company loyalty, and heck: it’s just good networking. With celebrities, captains of commerce, creative dynamos, and generally interesting people packing out the classes, SC is the place to see, and be seen — you never know who you’ll run into. Not bad for a lunch break.
Photo courtesy of SoulCycle