We’re back with the second installment of our new workout series! If you missed the last post, we’re trying different workout classes around Chicago and letting you know what we think of them. Since so many of you told us that you rely on spin classes to stay fit, I knew I wanted to try a cycling class for our next workout review.
I’m fairly loyal to Flywheel, so I still hadn’t gotten around to checking out one of Chicago’s SoulCycle studios. (More on the differences between the two below.) But when some of my friends organized a charity ride for MS Awareness Week, I jumped at the opportunity to try the workout. By the way, if any of you are interested in organizing a charity ride of your own, you can do that here. My friends said their SoulCycle contact could not have been nicer or easier to work with!
Here’s what the workout was like:
The workout: Classic SoulCycle class at the Old Town studio
Quick description: 45-minute indoor cycling class in a candlelit room, with a bit of arm-sculpting sprinkled in at the end.
Price: If you’re a first-timer, you can get one class + one free class (to use within 30 days) for $34. After that, you can buy multiple-class packages to shave a few dollars off each class. There’s definitely a reason it’s a celebrity workout—though honestly, I feel like all boutique workout classes are pretty pricey these days.
What it was like: The hardest part of any spin class is always making sure your bike is properly set up, right? Luckily, there are several kind people stationed around the SoulCycle classroom when you first walk in who are there specifically for that purpose. I declined help at first, thinking I had been to enough spin classes to be able to figure it out on my own, but I quickly learned that I had done it totally wrong. Since you spend most of your time standing in a SoulCycle class, you want your handlebars to be a little bit further forward than you might be used to. Also, the seats are a lot harder than bikes you may have ridden before, so they’ll give you a cushy seat cover to use if you feel uncomfortable. #NoShame
Our class was led by Old Town instructor Naz, who was AWESOME. SoulCycle has a reputation for being part-workout, part-group therapy, and there was no shortage of encouragement during the class. Naz had us cheering, clapping, swinging our towels above our heads—going in, I thought this was all going to feel pretty cheesy, but it really was uplifting. There were over fifty people in our class, and it was pretty cool to see everyone working hard and moving completely in sync.
Oh, and that thing I said about standing up most of the time? That’s no joke. The class alternated between sprint intervals and heavy resistance, most of which was done in “position two” (hands in the middle of the bars, butt over the seat). You also do a lot of dipping to one side, pushups, moving forward, moving backward, all while moving your feet very, very fast. You’re going to feel awkward at first, but you get used to it. I found it helpful to focus on hitting the beat with my right foot every time, and then following everyone else’s arm movements. It seemed that no matter what intensity level we were at in terms of speed or resistance, we would go until I was just about ready to quit, and then we would be rewarded with a minute or two of blissful recovery. Luckily, the playlist was super motivating—we all loved this song, in particular, and added it to our own workout playlists after the class!
You finish up the class with a song or two of arms, followed by one last cycling song. The few boys in the class snickered at the size of the weights when we first pulled them off the back of our bikes, but even 3-pound weights feel hard after five straight minutes of using them. We worked the chest, biceps, triceps, and shoulders—it was a great way to balance out all the hard work our legs were doing.
Overall impression: The class was a blast! It’s a little hard to figure out the rhythm of the spinning/simultaneous pushups and dips when you’re first getting started, but once you figure it out, you feel like you’re dancing on a bike. The 45 minutes flew by, and you’re SO sweaty by the end (in a good way). None of us were too sore the next day, but we all slept very well that night.
Now, for a comparison between Chicago cycling studios—if I had to pick a favorite, I still think it would be Flywheel. I’m a numbers-oriented person, and I like how Flywheel gives you a “TORQ” value for how hard you’ve worked at the end of the class. You also get to see how you’re stacking up against your neighbors during the class, which is motivating for a not-so-secretly competitive person like me. I really enjoy Studio Three spin classes, as well—it could be because I always take the 7 am Saturday class, but every experience I’ve had at Studio Three has been consistently challenging.
I’m so grateful to SoulCycle for offering charity rides, and to my friends for setting up the event—picture of our very happy class, post-workout, below!
Keep the workout review requests coming! Someone suggested on our last post that we do a comparison of Orangetheory, Shred415 and Barry’s Bootcamp, which I thought was a GREAT idea. I’m planning on trying out all three of those over the next few weeks, and I’ll let you know what I think in the next installment of the series! If I survive, that is…