WHEN SPINNING IS NOT ENOUGH: WELCOME TO SoulCycle’s SoulBands! - Monday, 9/5/2011 5:06 PM
There I was, actually choosing bikes in the FRONT ROWS of my spin classes at SoulCycle, when I decided that, maybe, I was ready for a new challenge. I was still sweating like a pig during every class and my body was still pleading for mercy somewhere around the middle of the second songs, but I guess I’m just more of a masochist than I care to believe…or more competitive. I’ve never felt competitive with others, but very much with myself. I mean, what’s the point of repetition if there’s something else, something MORE?
I decided to check out what are called SoulBands classes. That meant that I had to return to SoulCycle’s Tribeca location because the Union Square studio doesn’t have them. Though I love being only five minutes from Soul Union Square, it’s really just a 15 minute bike ride using the Waterfront Greenway path off the Hudson, so, off I went.
The first class was a real eye-opener. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing because it had little to do with the regular spin classes. Oh sure, you start out the same, spinning with the lights very low and your eyes shut, but I was so stupid, I didn’t copy everyone else when they tied the rubber sheets hanging from the ceiling into a giant knot, so I kept slamming my head into them. No biggie, really, since they are very thin, but that can get quite annoying over the course of a very long song and ruin the zone you’re supposed to get into, what with the lack of lights and the closed eyes. Then, when we were told to grab the bands, I couldn’t understand why my hands were being mercilessly strangled after I twisted the rubber sheets around each hand like everyone else did. I hadn’t noticed that, before the class, everyone took gloves from the crates surrounding the teacher. Thankfully, the teacher, very quickly, noticed my distress and fetched a pair for me. I didn’t find that they helped much, but I kept going. The instructor kept telling us to keep our chins up (“You can’t breathe if your chins are down!”) and to NOT use our arms when pulling (“Use your cores! Like a crunch!”), but…good luck with that.
So, the first session was kind of a mess because these things are so much about form and my form was non-existent. When I asked the instructor, at the end of the class, why my hands hurt so badly, she told me it was because those muscles had to become developed. That didn’t bode well because developing muscles takes time and, boy, were my hands cramped.
Nevertheless, I was quite happy that my triceps killed me the next day. The big reason I wanted to try band classes, besides the aforementioned challenge, was to firm up my triceps and core. I must say that, since I’ve been spinning, I’ve had so many compliments from those half my age on how toned I am in both areas, but I just don’t agree. Listen, if I’m deluded, this is way down on the scale of dangerous ones. Is there even a name for muscular anorexia?
The next week, I finally began to understand where my focus should be. I also did something that I would highly recommend to others with weak hands (females?) after speaking to a friend who teaches spinning. He told me his gloves are totally leather. Not wanting to make such an investment yet, I put on one pair of the free gloves backwards, with the leather on the palms. That helped quite a bit. I kept my chin up and concentrated on using my core muscles to pull down the bands, rather than my arms and hands. Another bit of information…that I hadn’t been told during the first session…is that the grey and black sheets consist of different levels of tension. Gee…you think that might have been important to know? You see, if the bands are too heavy, you tend to use the wrong muscles (like the arms and chin) because you are over-compensating for not having the strength in your core. That sort of strength can’t come where it should come from if you are using the wrong muscles to begin with. Another bit of info missing from the first session was that you don’t need to be spinning like you normally do: Increase the resistance and spin slower.
By the third class, I was fine. First of all, I improved on my little glove experiment and wore one pair of gloves backwards with the leather against the palms, then pulled on a second, larger pair of gloves over those, with the leather against the back of my hands. I decided that this was a Poor (Wo)Man’s Leather Glove. MacGyver would have been proud because this worked WONDERFULLY.
Secondly, I stuck with the lighter bands to keep my form. I always know I can go for more resistance at any time, but, usually, the most important variable in getting the most from exercise is maintaining the correct form. (Unless, of course, you’re a genius/freak like Michael Phelps and invent your own!)
Don’t worry if you don’t seem to break the amount of sweat as you normally do with spin classes because the rooms are kept cooler. Another interesting effect is that, when you use the free weights like you do during the regular classes, they seem so much easier. Finally, if you start to flag, just take a look at the abs and arms of the instructor: Believe me, those will inspire you!
So, if you feel that you want more of an upper body workout, give these a try. You will be concentrating much more on the biceps, triceps, abs and lats than you would in a regular spin class. Due to the two different weights of the bands, plus using them all together at once, you can easily control what you do, according to what is comfortable for yourself, and you will always feel challenged.
To find out which SoulCycle studios offer this option, check out their website http://soul-cycle.com.