“You can achieve something, if you put your mind to it. It’s not about the bike, or the music, or following along correctly. No matter what your experience is, or what level you are at, you have the opportunity to push. It’s not going to be pretty, it’s not going to be perfect, it just has to be real.”
I listen to the words of Adam, the instructor for my first class at SoulCycle, which recently opened in Yorkville Village, 55 Avenue Road. I am grateful for the darkness of the studio, as there was nothing pretty or perfect about me trying to figure out choreography on a spin bike. But it was plenty real.
Gabby Etrog Cohen, SVP PR and Brand Strategy at SoulCycle explains the history and the process. “SoulCycle inspired the boutique fitness movement when it was first founded in NYC eleven years ago. Our classes are physical, mental, and spiritual, as the dark studio allows riders to lose themselves in the workout. We offer riders the opportunity to disconnect for 45 minutes and push themselves to new levels. The class focuses on rhythm and we ride to the “energy of the pack,” which creates a strong bond between riders. This sense of community is very strong and makes the SoulCycle experience really unique. We now have over 85 locations across North America.”
After receiving requests for years to open a studio in Toronto and, after waiting for the right time to expand, they opened their first international locations on King West and in Bloor-Yorkville. A third location recently opened in Vancouver, with more Canadian locations to come.
“We always look for active and dynamic communities for new studios, and we were thrilled to open up a location in Bloor-Yorkville, as it’s such a health-conscious neighbourhood. We love our Yorkville riders!”
I have to agree, they really do. The studio is bursting with energy. The bright white and yellow décor of the reception area is clean and smells fresh. Smiling faces welcome new and regular cyclists. First time riders are offered special cycling shoes for free, with a small rental fee in future classes. I’m somewhat wary of putting on shoes that have been worn by others, and immediately I think of bowling shoes. But these shoes are pristine, and obviously disinfected with care, and my mind is put at ease.
I bounce into class (that energy is certainly catching), and I sit on my assigned bike. There are two SoulCycle employees helping riders with their seat positioning and explaining how to clip in and out. Adam walks in with his contagious smile and asks if we are ready to sweat. The woman beside me gives an enthusiastic “whoop,” and I’m glad that I’m clipped in to my pedals, as her excitement nearly knocks me off my bike.
The lights are dimmed, and candles are lit, and I am immediately relaxed. The music starts up and we begin class. Five minutes in and I’m dripping with sweat. This is the warm-up? But, like any high-cardio fitness activity, the warm up is the worst part. Soon I’m pedaling with quick legs, and trying (and not quite failing) to keep up with the choreography…yes there is choreography in this class. We push-up, tap the handlebars, move forward and back above the seat, all in time to the house music. Things slow down and we reach behind for hand weights. Slow is just as difficult as fast, at this point. Using our core to stay upright, we work our arms and shoulders. The weights are light, but curiously difficult. My arms felt like Jello, by the time the weight section was over.
Several times during the class, I think of the many other spin classes, that I have been to over the years and this one is vastly different, from the smoothness of the bikes, to the ambience with energy, to the constant fast-paced movements on the bike.
Jenna Garofalo, SoulCycle Instructor explains that the class is nothing like any other spin class you will see in Toronto. “The second I took my first SoulCycle class I quickly realized it was different from anything I’ve done before. It’s an experience that allows you to find your own breakthrough, while connecting to the people around you too. My favourite part is the true transfer of energy in the room, it’s something you can’t find elsewhere. You can get a workout so many ways, but digging a little bit deeper is why Soul is different. I mean, SoulCycle will kick your butt and give you that full body workout (and in my class, I add a little karaoke), but the mindfulness is one of the many reasons why I love it.”
The class ends with a cooldown and a stretch. I’m left invigorated and yet slightly euphoric. I am chosen to blow out one of the candles, and I loftily assume that it was because I did so well and because of all the great energy I brought to the class.
There is no membership at SoulCycle. Riders buy passes to use at any time. It is refreshing to leave without hearing a sales pitch. Alice Forsythe, SoulCycle Studio Manager, tells me that many people do not want to have a long-term commitment when it comes to fitness. “You come when you want, and I’m sure that you’ll come back. It’s great to have the flexibility.”
As someone who likes to shop around for her fitness, I tend to agree. They already have their regulars, and the staff take their time to get to know everyone who walks through the door. “We want people to feel at ease. We want to know about them, and what works for them,” Alice says.
The change room is small, but very clean with an abundance of shampoos, lotions, etc. to pamper yourself before you leave. I make my exit feeling happy and fresh, and everyone tells me to enjoy my day.
SoulCycle is located in Yorkville Village, 55 Avenue Road. Check out their schedule here.