SOUL CYCLE PUTS A NEW SPIN ON IT: UNION SQUARE EAST SETTLES IN - Wednesday, 5/25/2011 9:46 AM
Boy, was I happy when Soul Cycle opened up a branch in my neighborhood! Well, it’s relatively in my hood: I live on the Gramercy/Murray Hill border, an under-the-radar area nicknamed Curry Hill. I had been going to the TriBeCa facility, but this is a difference between 10 minutes and 45 minutes travel time for me. I ride my bike (unless the weather REALLY sucks), so this couldn’t have come at a better time. During the winter, zipping downtown on the Hudson River Park Greenway was a (frosty) breeze. However, as soon as the weather got better, the path gradually resembled Times Square during rush hour. It wasn’t so much the runners, skaters or skateboarders that were the pains-in-the-ass as much as those enjoying a nice Sunday stroll. Umm…earth to walkers…walk on your own damned turf. The whole experience began to remind me of being trapped in that old video game, “Paperboy”.
Now I just float over to 12 E. 18th Street (between Fifth Ave. and Broadway). What’s super exciting is that, if I’m early, I can just hop across the street to H & M for some shopping therapy. The thing is, it really IS therapy because the lines are always so long, I can never get to the cash register before my class begins. So, I never walk out with anything except my unused credit card. I can’t tell you how satisfying that is.
I love Soul Cycle. I especially love that the newest addition isn’t as packed as the TriBeCa one, the only other Soul Cycle I’ve attended. That’s a great plus because it eliminates the scariness involved with using the weights. At TriBeCa, I was always smashing my hands on the bike (or wall) behind me.
However, this relative roominess might only be because the Union Square studio is new and because the showers aren’t working yet. I know I know…gross! Well, again, I live minutes from there, so it doesn’t really matter that my sopping wet self has only a bit to go before I reach my precious bathtub.
As it is in TriBeCa, the staff is great. I now know this is more good management than an anomaly. They manage to be EXTREMELY helpful, but not in your face. And they actually THINK for themselves. One week I came in on the wrong day (don’t ask) and they could have charged me for the ride I missed the day before. Instead, they couldn’t have been more sympathetic to my plight and gave me a pass. Didn’t call a manager. Nothing. Just smart customer service.
A good way to ease into spinning is to try to score a seat at one of their community rides. They’re free, so you have to find out the time they take reservations on the Monday of the ride and keep phoning. Start at noon and don’t give up. At some point, you will get through. If they put you on the wait list, don’t fret because there is actually a chance you’ll score a seat. The only downside of the community rides is that new teachers helm them. This is how they get trained. I’ve discovered that these sessions are nowhere near as kick-ass as the sessions you pay for. There is just no comparison. That said, I wouldn’t turn one down.
The first time at a regular Soul Cycle session is killer; the second time is so much easier, you’ll be shocked. I have been going for less than a year and I can easily do anything that the instructor warns is for advanced riders. What’s so wonderful is that there is absolutely no pressure to do more than you feel comfortable doing. No one gives you creepy looks and no instructor tries to belittle you.
The lights are usually very low, some candles might be burning and you are encouraged to close your eyes for the first ride of each session. Eventually, you gain enough confidence to trust your muscles and your balance. As you do this more, you actually can feel the muscles you’re trying to develop. Once you feel those muscles, you’re on your way to some killer abs and thighs.
After the Zen-like beginning of a class, the music picks up and the instructors get all energetic. Some get off the cycles and start dancing and whooping. The one I’m currently loving (I’m not mentioning names) stalks the floor (when she’s not busting a move), occasionally turning up the resistance on front row bikers (“You’re only cheating yourselves!”). I stick to second rows.
The music differs with the instructors. I’ve noticed that the Union Square East studio rocks out more than TriBeCa, which is more soulful. Or, maybe it’s just the instructors I’ve frequented. Whatever the music, it’s FAR better than any other exercise facility I’ve ever been to. They’ve even begun to have rides devoted to specific music, like Rihanna’s oeuvre, so keep an eye out for those.
The oddest thing about spinning is that you actually get addicted to it. When you’re doing it, you feel like you have agreed to go to hell, so it’s amazing that you actually look forward to it. It might have something to do with how great you feel afterwards. Oddly, you’re not exhausted. Happily, you aren’t hungry either. I easily go past Shake Shack without hearing the siren call of a burger or fries.
That said, if you think you cannot possibly get through a session, just think about the delicious meal you can consume because you’ve already burned it off. Spinning burns an incredible amount of calories. I spin for cheeseburgers, pizza and single malt scotch. I also spin for tight jeans sans muffin top and fitted tops. I’m such a whore.
Union Square has recently beefed up the amount of classes offered, so there’s no excuse not to partake. Summer is finally here, which means bathing suits, white jeans and dresses that expose whatever flub you’ve successfully hidden all winter. And it’s not just the gals who might need a tune-up. As if the guys didn’t have enough to focus on with unsightly bellies, but skinny jeans are now becoming so popular that even Levi’s is offering what they call “Ex-Girlfriend Jeans”. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. Suffering should be equal opportunity.
So, give the new Soul Cycle USE a try. You’ll thank me. I swear.