It was a hot day in July, and I was running on the boardwalk — my usual Saturday night run. I had been what I called a "baby runner" for about a year, trying to run about 15 to 20 miles a week. At first, the weight came off so fast. Now, I couldn't lose a pound of anything. I tried increasing my speed, my distance, doing hills – nothing helped. As I was running that night, a thought crossed my mind: "Hey, why don't you give SoulCycle another go. It's definitely different," I thought.
Two years prior when I was in a state of turmoil in my life, I tried SoulCycle. I felt really out of place. I was close to my heaviest weight ever and was a little uncomfortable with both the way I looked and the way my body reacted. And seeing the front row move in unison was enough to scare anyone away. I argued with myself the rest of the run, went home, and signed up for a class the next morning. Ellena Takos, who works the New York/Long Island circuit, was my instructor, and she brought an absolutely amazing energy to the room. She changed my life that morning.
For the first three weeks, I only went on Sundays to Ellena's class. Then, on a Tuesday morning, I said to my coworker, "I wish I was going to SoulCycle tonight, I really feel like getting back on the bike." So I did.
My legs are stronger, thinner, and more toned than they have ever been in my adult life. Actually, maybe in my entire life. My lower abs are continually shrinking. I get excited to go. I love the smell in the room, the way I sweat, and how everyone is more welcoming than I originally thought. And when we bring all of the good energy from the room into our day, I feel completely at peace.
Whether you're a first-timer or regular, here are some ways to get the most out of your Soul experience.
Grab a buddy: cliché, I know, but I asked one of my friends to come with me the second time. I don't know what it is about having a buddy system when you're still starting out, but it was a key to my success. Now, I have no problem going alone.
Ask for help: you won't have a good ride if you're not comfortable. It may seem as if everyone knows what they're doing, but they don't. Ask a SoulCycle employee to check and make sure your shoes are tight enough. Ask them to adjust the bike for you the first time and to show you how. Remember these adjustments for the next time. Even if you can't figure out how to adjust the bike, knowing your numbers will make you feel seasoned.
Meet the instructor: go up and introduce yourself before or after class to make a personal connection. I was lucky enough to do that with Ellena, and it was awesome. She even played my favorite jam for me once when I took one of her 6 a.m. classes. (I love to sleep and get out of bed at the last possible second. I got up two hours early to take her 6 a.m. class.)
Challenge yourself: the class can be as easy — or as hard — as you make it for yourself. I personally find inspiration from the instructors. It's like they know when you need a push, and they throw out an inspirational quote right at that moment. The next thing you know, you're agreeing with them and turning the resistance up.
Just remember that it's your ride. If something is too difficult for you to do at first, just ride. If you feel like you're at top resistance, don't add anymore. Go at your own pace at first. You'll find your stride soon enough if you continue. In class, an instructor once said, "I only need you to be stronger than your last ride." All of a sudden, I felt like nothing could stop me. That quote stays with me on every ride.
Try it more than once: you may want to jump through your computer screen at me after the first try. But give it a second, and if you didn't quite click with the instructor (maybe you didn't like the playlist, or maybe it's annoying that they sing the whole time), try another one. This is not something you can write off after the first time.
Pay attention to progress: take pictures. Look at yourself naked in the mirror. Measure yourself. Note the number of breaks you need or how often you can turn the resistance up. After being through it and only going two to three times per week, I can honestly say that you will see noticeable results in a month if you're pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. I've seen it. My Soul Sista has seen it. Our other friends have seen it and pointed it out to us.
Feel it: drop any inhibitions, and allow yourself to feel the energy in the room. Feel yourself pushing and breaking barriers. Feel the sweat. It will make you feel like you're completely calm, but could conquer the world at the same time.