Apologies to number 48. I can now reveal that I was your sweaty screaming neighbor a couple of months ago in that Soul Cycle class. I’m so sorry I was unable to control my spraying flop sweat and flying limbs. I was desperately trying to stay upright on the number 49 bike. No doubt you noticed I was doing a full-throated channeling of that wide-eyed open-mouthed character in Edvard Munch’s famous painting, The Scream.
There’s no better time than the week after the national day of gorging to share my Cycle class adventure. My attempt to preempt the holiday 15—pounds that is. I was intrigued by the fitness craze, which has swept the nation, and excited celebrities from Lady Gaga and Oprah to David Beckham. Some have likened the intense brand loyalty to a cult. But here’s what got my attention--each 45-minute ride burns about 700 calories. That’s one and half slices of Patti Labelle’s sweet potato pie!
Soul Cycle (and its competitors Flywheel and Pedals) should not be confused with regular spinning classes. Yes, all use stationery bikes, but Soul Cycle aims to make its fitness experience, well, soulful. A supportive group motivational experience espousing messages, which uplift spirit and upcurve bodies. Why didn’t I hear the warning bell when I asked the class scheduler if there was a beginner’s class? “Oh no,” she chirped, “no need, just go at your own pace.”
My 7:30 am class drew avid enthusiasts, almost cultists. I was timidly hobbling around on the special metal- bottomed shoes while they confidently swept past me into the bike room. A room I thought was dark because the class hadn’t started. As one of the staffers locked my shoes on the bike, I asked, “Can I leave if I can’t make it to the end?” “No, but don’t worry,” she said pleasantly, leaving me with a creeping panic. My eyes adjusted to the deliberately low- lit room just as the teacher-- who looked like a Shape Magazine cover model-- took her place. Headphones on because there was no way she could be heard above the remix cranked up to shake-the-room levels. She kicked off the class calling for simple pedal rotations. Just as I thought, “this isn’t so bad,” she shouted something like “okay, let’s ride!” and everybody went into high gear while standing up on the pedals. Are you kidding me??? Thank God the deafening music covered up my string of expletives not deleted. I clung to that bike-- riding imaginary hills and valleys --while our instructor cooed "Giving love to everybody in the room because it’s all love." What??? I couldn’t feel anything but an increasingly numb behind from crashing down on that hard bicycle seat, and searing tendon pain from stretching my arms straight out over the bike handles like some kind of brown Olive Oyl.
For the next three quarters of an hour, I cried, prayed for time to move faster, and struggled to stop drunkenly weaving into my other neighbor.
Number 48, I'll always remember my brief time with you, but I think I'm getting off this ride for good. To paraphrase another one and done cyclist like me, my soul just isn’t in it.