I love fads.
I know that we are all supposed to be unabashedly original, marching to the beat of our own hip drum and all, but I just don’t see the appeal. First of all, everyone trying to be original ends up being exactly the same, and second of all — bandwagons are full of fun people. Might as well jump on and enjoy the ride. If I had to rank my favorite bandwagons, food and exercise would definitely be at the top. Everyone’s doing the Whole30? Why yes, I want to do it too. My co-workers are all going to try out a Hip, Hop, and Shake class? Obviously I want to be involved.
Which is why I knew it was only a matter of time until I dragged myself into a SoulCycle studio. SoulCycle, the superior cousin of spin class, which just about killed me back in the day. SoulCycle, which blends working out with therapy sessions — if therapy sessions were hosted in a deafening nightclub that you went to at 7:30 am. SoulCycle, which promises not only a perfect physical workout, but also a spiritual rejuvenation. SoulCycle, which I really know most about from that one episode of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt where Kimmy gets sucked into its cult-like aura. SoulCycle, which everyone is raving about and thus I had to try.
When my future sister-in-law arranged a weekend in DC to dress shop, we decided it was a perfect opportunity to hit up a SoulCycle studio, dragging my other SIL and another a bridesmaid in tow. Even though I was thrilled to be doing SoulCycle, I have to admit that I wasn’t actually sold on it being up to the hype. But yesterday morning at 6:15, I rolled out of bed and dragged myself to Georgetown for the early morning class. Everything was bright white and dotted with the signature SoulCycle yellow splashes — peppy and perfectly in order, exactly like the girls who signed us in and required wavers so we don’t sue when we fall into trances or whatever and flip over on our bikes. Our posse had strategically picked a line of bikes in the back of the dark room, planning to hide our shame behind the regulars, a mass of perfect shoulder muscles and brightly colored Lycra leggings. As we started to warm up, I snickered at all the writing splashed across the walls, especially the massive letters that read: “ATHLETE. LEGEND. WARRIOR. RENEGADE. ROCKSTAR.” These people do know that we are riding bikes and going nowhere, right? They do know that those weights we will be lifting halfway through weigh 1 pound???
But then our guru instructor came in, commands were yelled, candles lit, lights turned off, and I was frantically doing push-ups in tune to “Genie in a Bottle,” of which I remember a startling number of lyrics from middle school. So many push-ups, as we peddled faster and harder, harder and faster, and the instructor periodically yelled at the back row to keep our hands in place on the bar.
About halfway through, we started doing arm work with weights- those weights that I had sneered at upon entering. But now that I had been biking and doing push-ups for 20 minutes, they seemed changed. They were boulders that I could not possibly lift, no matter how Sisyphusian my strength. They were burdens I could not shoulder, no matter my resolve. They were impossible. But lift them I did, because I was, as the wall reminded me in my dark hour– ATHLETE. LEGEND.Following weights, I was physically exhausted, but still not sold on the “soul” in this cycle. Yes, our instructor was on a platform lit only by candles, and yes, the walls were speaking to me in the darkness, and yes, everyone was zoned in with not a single cell phone in sight. But still.
Then she blew out the candles and started marching around in the darkness as the music swelled — an inspirational song like the type that they play when survivors cross finish lines in symbolic fundraising 5K races for noble causes. And as I really just wanted to go make a brunch reservation, she made us turn up the resistance and go faster, yelling: “Shut your eyes. Listen to my voice – I WILL GET YOU THROUGH THIS.”
Do you know what? She did. I might have declared brash things to James afterwards about how I wanted her to be the doula when we someday have kids, because all of the sudden I was giving it everything I had and I knew that she had my back. And in that dark room, I found myself focusing on so many things that have been tying me up in knots lately, controlling me with fear, and I kind of feel like God and I had a little moment of quiet in the midst of the blaring music right there in the studio. When she yelled for us to leave it all on the floor, I felt like I did and y’all–
I might have cried just a tad.
But not pathetic tears, not “I hate this workout” tears. They were the tears of someone who felt like I was having space to let go of so many tensions that I wasn’t sure I could drop.
They were the tears of a WARRIOR, RENEGADE, and ROCKSTAR. They were ridiculous in every way, and maybe that’s why they were needed.
We stretched it out afterwards, washed up in the swank bathroom with complimentary products, snagged some free hair ties and gum, and took full advantage of that full-length mirror for some post-soul selfies. We brunched and basked in that post exercise glow, and then decided to be thoroughly basic and top our morning of trendy exercise and brunch with a seasonal Starbucks beverage.
But as goofy as it sounds, my soul does feel just a little bit lighter from that cycle.