4/24/16

How I Woke Kurt Cobains Spirit at Soul Cycle


I’m not the most athletic person.

When I say that I mean, I told my gym teacher in 7th grade that I had asthma so I wouldn’t have to run as many laps as everyone else. A lie I maintained all the way through my senior year in High School.  I’d quit just about every sport I ever played, and recently gave up my gym membership because I wasn’t going - even the allure of maybe seeing a glistening, t-shirted Michael Shannon once in awhile wasn’t enough.

And while I usually consider all the walking I do to and from subway stations in New York exercise - emerging from winter hibernation mode, I realized that I barely fit my favorite clothes and that maybe it was time to find an exercise that I don't totally hate. 

Every day on my way to and from the subway, I pass a SoulCycle. One day, I pressed my nose to the big glass windows and saw the hustle and bustle of young, yoga-fit moms wearing color coordinated Lululemon workout gear, and the super happy employees giving out water bottles and smiles. Blerg. Staring at these women made me low-key feel like I was that 7th grader again, sitting on the sidelines watching my classmates run without a care, while pretending to breathe asthmatically to avoid the wrath of my gym teacher. Despite these thoughts, I decided that this would be my starting point.

The morning arrived for my first class and after a cup of coffee and a banana, I slipped on my yoga pants, wore two sports bras because one can never be too prepared when it comes to booby-bounce - slicked my hair into a ponytail, and put on my converse (I need to get some grown up work-out shoes).

I skipped over to SoulCycle 15 minutes early, and was welcomed by the friendly staff. I will say, it felt a bit strange to be on the other side of the window. Suddenly, I was surrounded by the swarm of women with glowing skin, shiny hair - all of them looking like extras from a Shakeweight infomercial. I did notice that on the inside of SoulCycle the attendees seemed a bit more aggressive and less carefree, then what I imagined. Regardless, they all operated like a school of fish, going to their lockers, stretching and waiting patiently outside the class, all together, all in sync, yet not acknowledging each other at all.

The staff checked me in and gave me my first pair of cycling shoes. The cycling shoes were red and black vinyl with three pieces of Velcro to strap your feet in, and had these big scary, square metal plates on the bottom of the shoe. They looked like some kind of posh, prison-issued bowling shoes.

After I put my things in a locker and went up the stairs, I waited outside the class with the other women, while I awkwardly fumbled to put these shoes on without a proper place to sit. I apologized to two different people who bumped into me and without my cell phone for comfort I was left to wonder what women did before a Jazzercise class in 1995.

I was nervous that I was going to be the only stumbling noobie in the bunch, that I would get a side pain, or worse, that I would pass out mid-cycle and need the jaws of life to separate me from the machine to be later whisked away on a stretcher. But just as I began to plan my escape, the employees in matching yellow shirts opened the doors to this dark room that was blasting T-Pain’s “Bootywerk (One Cheek)” and motioned us to come inside.

Again, in unison, the participants moved to their bikes, adjusted them gracefully, and began cycling before the class had begun. It was apparent that I would not be leaving this machine for the next 45 minutes.

The class was illuminated with four huge burning candles in the front of the instructors’ bike and the red emergency EXIT sign. I did wonder if the candles were a fire hazard, but then I whispered to myself, “just go with it, Carol.” I call myself that in times of need.  

In walked this burly, bald, tattooed man in his late 40s. He was wearing a black do-rag and tiny gym shorts. He scanned the room, hopped on his bike and sorta screamed into his headset, “Brooklyn, are you ready to rock?!”

I was a bit scared, but my adrenaline started pumping once he began the class with Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit.”

He proceeded to play a very diverse playlist of the Killers, Nirvana, Eminem and some old Motown jams, while coaching us on different cycling positions - who knew there were so many ways to
sit on a bike? 

Everyone in the class hooted and hollered as he told us to turn up the resistance (I never did figure out how to do that), while bopping their bodies and swinging their perfect ponys to the beat, their legs
cycling at warp speed. I don’t know if I’m extremely rhythmically challenged or if I was just that new, but everyone seemed to know what they were doing except for me. And how did all of those women know all the words to Eminem’s B-sides?

What got me through the class were five parts adrenaline, and two parts constantly contemplating if the class was half an hour or an hour.

Towards the latter half of the class, our instructor proceeded to extinguish the candle flames by whipping his tiny towel above the candles. When there was one candle still lit, he proceeded to pick it up and take it to a beautiful girl in the front of the class, and he said to her “blow it out, baby.” At that moment, I wondered if I was participating in a cult-like séance trying to bring Kurt Cobain back from the dead through the power of synchronized cycling.

My face was beet red and I was drenched like the winner of a wet t-shirt contest I never entered. But there was something really liberating about this experience. Loud music forced me to get outside of my head, the dark lights allowed me to get outside of my body, and the cherry on top was that no one was giving me judgey gym-eyes.

Also, my feet physically strapped into my machine was a great incentive to not give up after 20 minutes like I normally do on an elliptical machine. I didn’t even want to totally die when they made
us do the Macarena, while cycling, with 3-pound weights (okay it wasn’t actually the Macarena, but I don’t know how else to describe it).

Once the class was over, I followed everyone in the room in touching palms and bending at the waist in a bow, as he said some sort of weird Soul Cycle mantra that might as well have been“Namaste, bitches.”

Then the large door swung open and I wanted to hiss like a vampire when light filled the room.

“What just happened?” I wondered to myself as my jelly-legs led me one foot in front of the other to my locker and out the door into the crisp spring air. 

Whatever it was that just happened, I realized that I wanted to do it again. And somehow I knew, something awoke inside me. I think it was the spirit of Kurt. 

I have my next session booked.



Have you ever been to Soul Cycle?
Have you ever joined a cult?
Tell me about it in the comments down below!

Keep it Sassy,
xoxo
Caelan

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