What to Know Before Your First SoulCycle Ride

July 23rd 2015

Laura Donovan

Several days ago, I went to SoulCycle Hollywood for a 45-minute spin class hosted by "Playing House" stars Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair, who were promoting season two of the USA Network show.

Playing House on USA Network

Though I'd never been to SoulCycle, which has been praised by many celebrities and spin fanatics all over the country, I've spent the last month and a half exercising four to five times a week, so I felt ready for the popular workout class. I've heard so much about it over the years, especially since I used to live in New York City, where the company is based.

People everywhere laud SoulCycle for creating a fun, encouraging, and even spiritual exercise experience. As teacher Nicholas Ferroni described his own SoulCycle adventures in a Huffington Post article in 2013, the "workout itself combines cycling with weights and, at the same time, provides a spiritual aspect or inner growth, but it is nearly impossible to sum up a class in one sentence. I'm not embarrassed to admit that there were many times during the 45-minute class when I had to take breaks. I can say with certainty that SoulCycle is everything I heard it was and much more."

SoulCycle Hollywood

When I entered the cycling studio, I darted towards the back of the room, hoping to keep a low profile and draw zero attention to myself for my first ride. Then, shortly before the course began, I was so worried that my fitness level wouldn't match up with the seasoned riders around me that I didn't consider non-physical challenges I might face during the 45-minute cycling session. As I learned that day, there is so much more to SoulCycle and spinning as a whole than simply being in solid shape. While I have good exercise stamina, you need more than that to get the most out of SoulCycle.

Here are some important takeaways from my first SoulCycle session.

1. Bring at least one towel (preferably one that is chilled).

For the "Playing House" event, towels, water bottles, and fresh containers of Clover juice were provided with the class. Before it started, I wasn't sure I would need the juice or towel, but within the first 15 minutes of my ride, I was sweating profusely and downing all the liquids in sight to stay hydrated during my workout. Not only did I need the free "Playing House" towel, but I also grabbed a second towel from the vacant bike beside me. Because the room heated up so quickly, I wished I had brought in a cold towel to place on the back of my neck. Instead, I poured water all over my body, but that just made me wetter.

2. You might feel somewhat claustrophobic, especially if you dislike heat.

I have been claustrophobic my entire life. Anytime I take the elevator in my building down to the mailroom, I warn my boyfriend, "I'm not taking my phone, so if I'm not back in 10 minutes, it means I got stuck in the elevator. Send help." Elevators and enclosed spaces have always given me immense anxiety, but I didn't expect to experience this kind of claustrophobia at SoulCycle.

As I mentioned earlier, the room gets hot because the session can start off on an energetic, loud, and fast-paced note. You're meant to perspire a lot from the get-go --- research suggests you can burn up to 700 calories in a single SoulCycle course --- but this can feel really hot very early on. The mirrors at the front of the room began to steam up, and I couldn't help thinking about the fact that 40 people were sweating, breathing heavily, and generating massive amounts of heat in that tiny room. The instructor had yet to turn on the fans, so I was concerned that I could pass out or become sick from heat exhaustion.

Rather than give in to panic mode, which I've fought since childhood, I took a break from my ride, dabbed my face with the towel, drank some juice and water, and told myself I could power through the workout. It was right around that time that the instructor, Tina, turned on the fans. It felt glorious, and we moved onto the next stage of the exercise.

SoulCycle also recommends trying to sit by the door if you get claustrophobic in class:

3. It's totally fine to take breaks and ask for help.

As I mentioned earlier, Nicholas Ferroni had to take breaks in his class, and he is certainly not alone in needing a rest during the session. In fact, the instructors want you to do what feels right for your body. If you have to stop, reduce the cycling resistance, or hydrate in the middle of an intense portion of the session, nobody is going to make you feel bad about it. The instructor reminded us to drink water several times during the class, so it's not as if you have to cycle for 45 minutes straight. Nobody is going to penalize or humiliate you for choosing to take things slow.

For your first ride, be sure to arrive early if possible so a SoulCycle employee can help you find the right seat setting and tell you how to clip your cycling shoes onto the paddles. I'll admit I was intimidated to start the class with all the steps and instructions, but once you start riding, you forget about any fears you might have had at the beginning of the process.

4. Bring lots of water and stretch before and after the ride

To help prevent lingering muscle pain after your ride, stretch before and after the class takes place. We finished our ride with a group stretch, but I did even more stretches myself after leaving the studio. Your calves will thank you the following day.

5. Go in with an open mind.

Vicky Land, senior public relations manager at SoulCycle recommends that newbies like me go into the class with an open mind and understand that you are not going to be an expert right away.

"We always say to come to your first class with an open mind and be willing to appreciate the experience and know that you're not going to be able to do everything but work hard," Land said. "Come back and you'll see it gets easier and easier in a way every single time even though it's still just as hard of a workout."

SoulCycle also gives you endorphins, which are good for your mental health.

"It's like a moving meditation, it allows you to clear your mind and take 45 minutes to work out physically but also center yourself," she said.

6. Understand that the seat is uncomfortable at first


As SoulCycle states on its website, "the bike and bike seat require a little getting used to." You can wear padded shorts, use a cushioned gel seat, or try to keep your rear end off the seat during the ride. The last suggestion works best if you already have strong legs.

7. Try not to wear makeup to class


By the end of class, it looked like I'd been crying. When I tried to wipe off my runny mascara in the bathroom, my eyes stung from the sweat. It's unwise to have makeup on during exercise anyway because it can clog your pores and cause acne.

Of course, I didn't want to show up to SoulCycle looking too homely and makeup-free in front of the "Playing House" actresses, especially since SoulCycle has a reputation for being cool, but trust me, it's much more awkward to have eye makeup streaming down your face at the end of a class. For what it's worth, the "Playing House" ladies were extremely nice to me and didn't say a thing about my smeared makeup.

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