Saturday, November 28, 2015

Elizabeth Street


SoulCycle Didn't Change My Life, But It Did Allow Me to Grieve

Aug 05, 2013

SoulCycle Didn't Change My Life, But It Did Allow Me to Grieve

I don't like exercise; I never have. When the desire to work out strikes, a leisurely jog around the park suits me just fine. So when a friend insisted we take a SoulCycle class together, I groaned inwardly, but acquiesced.

SoulCycle, like Pilates, Barry's Boot Camp, and other exercise fads before it, has inspired legions of acolytes to preach the word and preach it very loudly. In my opinion, it seemed very "New York," in that it's difficult to gain access and expensive as hell. Needless to say, spending $40 to sweat in a dark, crowded room was not at the top of my to-do list. 

In any case, we signed up for the class. As we headed out the door for our early morning class, I realized that I had forgotten my sports bra. Clad in tight pants (Lululemon would approve--here's hoping they weren't transparent), I was greeted in the studio by a clutch of girls wearing the exact same thing. I inquired after a sports bra, and one of the sales associates was more than happy to sell me one with "SoulCycle" emblazoned across the front. Imagine my face as I saw the pricetag of $40. 

Once dressed and with my shoes on, I took a moment to take in my fellow cyclists. Most fit the stereotype: toned, tanned women whose diamond rings could knock over the bikes if put to battle. As we stood waiting to enter the room, the previous class let out. Alec Baldwin strode out and chatted amiably with the other participants. He was not wearing tight pants. 

We entered the studio and mounted our bikes. The room was dark, freezing, and packed to the brim. Our instructor was excited and her enthusiasm was infectious. She started the class with tunes that got my blood pumping (think Rolling Stones and U2).

As the music grew louder and the sweat really started to flow, something surprising came over me. The grief that I've felt since losing my father a year ago bubbled to the surface. I think of my dad every single day, but rarely do I let my sadness take hold; it's too overwhelming. Instead, I keep my mind busy with work, my kids, and more. But here, in a class, with my heart pumping and all daily minutia cleared from my mind as I struggled to keep my breath even, the despair of my loss made itself known. It was as if the struggle to keep up with the rhythm of the class forced me to push aside anything that wasn't totally required to keep moving--a very "sink or swim" notion. But the mind has a funny way of doing things, and here, it decided that I needed to simply feel for a moment. 

My dad didn't like to exercise either, but biking was his thing. He loved to spend the day riding his carbon fiber bike with nothing but his music and his thoughts to keep him company. I knew that he would have loved SoulCycle, especially if we had been able to take the class together.

So there, in that darkened room, I allowed my grief to take hold and I cried. I was also sweating so much that I don't think my fellow riders noticed.

Did SoulCycle change my life? No. But it forced aside the daily grind for just long enough to allow me to stop and feel. And for that reason, I will be back next week. Next time, I'll bring tissues. 

If you do like to exercise (unlike me), check out Heidi Powell's total body workout in the slideshow above. It's amazing. 

By Christina Anderson

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