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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

A whirl of a time

Tess+Hill%2C+18%2C+had+an+energetic+time+at+her+first+SoulCycle+class+%28Photo+Courtesy+of+Tess+Hill%2C+18%29.
Tess Hill, ’18, had an energetic time at her first SoulCycle class (Photo Courtesy of Tess Hill, ’18).

Trying out the latest spin craze


I sat on my stationary bike in the back of the dark room, locked my feet into the pedals and began riding. The “Hamilton” soundtrack pounded in my head as a bead of sweat dripped down my back. I had joined the SoulCycle fad.

SoulCycle is a fast-growing boutique gym that combines spinning with loud, energetic music to motivate participants to ride faster and better. With 85 locations in the United States, thousands of Americans are riding the newest fitness craze, and I was now one of them.

Unfortunately, less than 24 hours before start time, I caught the stomach flu as it made its way around campus. But I had heard about the transformative powers of SoulCycle, so I decided to tough it out.

The Ardmore location of SoulCycle draws students from both Saint Joseph’s University and Villanova University, as well as many Main-Liners. It offers regular, music-specific classes, with titles like Beyoncé and Break Ups, and a monthly Broadway class. It even offers group class options.

Last semester, leaders from the Appalachian Experience (APEX) service trip participated in group classes at SoulCycle to work on teamwork and cohesiveness in their individual groups.

Tricia Jennings, ’17, an APEX leader and member of the group who went to the class, said she enjoyed the experience.

“It was something different and very empowering, even though I wanted to die,” Jennings joked. “The instructor was super helpful and motivational and most importantly she kept me going.”

Individual participants are advised to sign up for classes on SoulCycle’s website as soon as they are released at noon on Mondays. Broadway classes usually fill up within 30 minutes of being opened. I fought the masses to get a prized $30 seat in the class called, “Hamilton: A Hip Hop Musical Ride.”

New students are advised to arrive 15 minutes early so that they can learn how to lock into the pedals, the positions of the class and have time to ask any questions. I only gave myself five minutes, and that wasn’t enough.

I hurried to the back of the room – with the rest of the newcomers – and haphazardly locked my shoes into place. I sat down and surveyed the room. The more advanced SoulCycle participants sat in the front and were already standing on their pedals and riding to the music. The newcomers, like me, looked uneasy.

All the lights turned off and the first song from the “Hamilton” soundtrack grew louder. Many participants let out shrieks and yells in preparation for the hour-long class. A spotlight shined on the instructor.

Ryan Lewis has been an instructor at SoulCycle for two years, beginning in locations in New York City. On his fourth class of the day in the Ardmore studio, Lewis still had extremely high energy levels, which he said comes from his students.

He sat facing the classroom, wearing a tight blue workout shirt, black leggings with gold stars, and a black microphone attached to his ear.

From the back corner, I watched as the riders in the room bounced up and down on their bikes and realized that I needed to start pedaling. I began mirroring their movements and waited for the next instructions.

Lewis told us to keep the rhythm, to lift off our seats and believe in ourselves. I tried to do all of this, but as soon as I caught the rhythm, Lewis shouted new instructions for arm lifts.

By watching both Lewis and the experienced SoulCycle participants, I learned that a “tap back” is a move in which the participants grab the bars and move their bodies back towards the seat without sitting down.

SoulCycle classes always aim to excite their participants. Rachel Heller, ’17, began working for SoulCycle in May 2016. To liven up some of their favorite classes, Heller and her coworkers “dance bomb” the classroom. The instructors run into the room with flashlights during some of the most exciting songs. They flash their lights on and off like they’re in a club and then run out after 10 seconds.

Although the dance bombs are some of Heller’s favorite memories at SoulCycle, she noted that the classes have much more to offer than that.

“I have been more conscious about what I eat so I can be better at riding,” Heller said. “SoulCycle is all about catching the beat, so the more in shape I am, the better I’ll be at catching the beat, which means I’ll be even better at riding.”

As my class went on, I felt a mini transformation in both skill and health. I finally caught the beat, knew when to tap back, where to put my hands on the bars and how to adjust the resistance.

After 40 minutes of Hamilton songs, I began to picture myself as a SoulCycle groupie, wearing only athletic clothes and having a killer butt.

I was snapped back to reality as Lewis moved into the transformative portion of the class. The company promotes itself as not only an exercise experience, but one for the mind, too. SoulCycle wants its students to not only learn how to better their skills on the bicycle, but to better their soul as well.

Before Lewis began speaking, he lit candles and placed them in the center of the room. He turned down the music and stood at the front, and  told us we had left our baggage at the door and conquered our inner demons through this class.

Heller recalled her first class with Lewis. “During the soulful moment, I cried and I left the class feeling really, really good,” she remembered. “It was just what I needed.”

Although I didn’t cry, I felt uplifted and encouraged by Lewis. Even though I know I was the worst in the class, he made me feel confident and appreciated. That’s exactly what Lewis intended for me, and for himself.

“I have never walked out of the room the way I felt walking in,” Lewis said. “If you’re feeling down before class, I really believe that you’ll feel better leaving. [The classes] make the good things feel better.”

I was, as they say, transformed. For an hour, I even forgot I had the stomach flu.

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