Class crashers: SoulCycle
I’ve never done a spin class, but I’ve heard the horror stories: from colleagues passing out, to housemates throwing up and one super-fit, marathon-running friend telling me: ‘Never do it. I thought I’d have a heart attack.’ So it’s fair to say I was nervous before attending my first at the new SoulCycle studio in London’s Notting Hill. But this class is supposedly different; its combination of motivational music, heart-pumping pedalling and generally good vibes won it a cult following in the US, as well as celebrity advocates including the Beckhams, Lady Gaga and Katie Holmes. And after waking up at 6.30am to make the hour-long journey to Notting Hill from my south London flat, my initial nerves are counteracted by drowsiness.
As I enter the white-walled reception, I’m immediately greeted by the hum of happy chatter from a crowd of lean influencer-types in carefully coordinated gym gear (they apparently do wake up like this). After I’ve signed a waiver, picked up my clip-on shoes and dropped my bags, it’s time to enter the darkened studio and locate my bike, which I’m happy to find towards the back. People are fiddling with their bikes and I’m unsure what to do. Luckily a smiley American woman bounds over to my aid. While adjusting my seat to hip-height, just over a forearm’s length from the handlebars, she points out the knob below I should turn to increase the resistance. I clip my shoes into the pedals and have a practise.
Our class is led by two instructors, Kendra and Lauren Naomi, both of whom look extremely toned and positive. They tell us we’re welcome to ‘woop’, flick our towels, or whip our hair at any point in class, as I continue to think about my duvet. When the pumping music starts, we pedal and Kendra asks us hit every second beat with our right foot. Despite my tiredness, I discover there’s something strangely satisfying about cycling to the beat. It’s not long before some audible ‘woops’ slip out from the riders around me. I cringe internally.
Kendra gets us to stand up as we pedal and incorporate our arms, pulling our bodies down over the handlebars to the beat of the music. I think I might fall off at first, but by focusing my weight downwards, I feel more secure. As we come into the next song, we’re encouraged to high-five the person next to us, which results in an extremely awkward and very British encounter with the equally reluctant girl to my left.
The next song has a much slower tempo and Lauren Naomi gets us to dial up our resistance, before moving our hips forwards and back over the seat. Immediately I start to feel the burn in my thighs, but I push through, determined to keep going. As the tempo picks up, we drop our resistance and pedal as fast we can, unleashing even more ‘woops’ – at 8.30am!
Next, we slow to a halt and are asked to pick up a pair of weights from the back of our bikes, doing biceps curls, triceps extensions and more. Then it’s back on our bikes for a final push. Lauren Naomi challenges us to up our resistance and push ourselves as hard as we can until the end of the song. Finally, we’re nearing the finish line and there are ‘woops’ flying left, right and centre. The song ends and I feel jubilant. All that’s left to do is unclip our feet and stretch. ‘Just click your heels, like Dorothy,’ says Lauren Naomi. There’s obviously a knack to this and several riders end up abandoning their shoes entirely.
After a quick stretch, my mood has noticeably lifted and I feel ready to face the day. While I found some elements of the class slightly cringey, including a quote about bringing the soul from the room into your heart, I can’t deny that I found myself smiling through some of the most challenging sections – I’d been converted. And as I leave the studio, Carey Mulligan walks in for a class. I decide if she can deal with the woops, so can I.
For more information and to book classes, visit soul-cycle.com