I love indoor cycling classes and I am an outdoor cycling enthusiast. I believed that this uber popular fitness class was going to be an ideal, close-to-home fit for me. After a valiant trial (about 10 classes), I just didn’t fall in love with it like I expected. Here are 7 reasons why, despite it's awesomeness Soul Cycle isn't right for me (but might be perfect for you).
First, here are my creds and the background experience behind my critique of this workout.
I completed a degree in human kinetics (how the body moves) which gives me a good understanding of biomechanics and physique change.
I was among the very first indoor cycling instructors ever certified (Keiser certification in the 90's) so I have followed the indoor cycling movement watching it grow, decline and now explode.
For the last 3 years I taught indoor cycling classes at a community centre where I crafted my own riding experience for members.
As a Fitness Director I hired instructors as well as managed and marketed the indoor cycling program.
I ride a mountain bike. Not often, and not hard core but I cycle commuted for years through my university days, and I occasionally gear up and take it to the mountain.
Here’s why I just couldn’t get into it:
1) I just can’t focus. I’m a day dreamer. My thoughts wander constantly and I find it hard to stay focussed at the best of times. I can't count how many times I have snapped out of a reverie to find the rest of the class is in their saddle sprinting while I remained out of the saddle in a slow climb.
I discovered years ago that my creativity is at its peak while i’m riding a bike or doing some sort of repetitive exercise. While on a bike (or stairclimber) I find that I write my best articles, design my best ads and come up with my best campaigns. Something great happens during repetitive movement when the mind is permitted to tune out. In a cycling class I find that I constantly tune out and miss all the cues and ended up being way out of connection with my neighbors. (I now respectfully take the bike at the back of the room so I don't mess up the people behind me).
2) My legs are fast twitchers (made of muscle fibers that contract slowly). Maybe I was born that way or maybe years of training like a bodybuilder has slowed me down, but my version of fast is my neighbour's snail’s pace. Pedaling fast just doesn't happen despite all efforts and I feel like a total slacker.
3) I’m a clutz and I can't hear the beat. What I love about classes is the motivation provided by the instructor as well as the energy of a group. However I can't do Zumba, step aerobics or choreography based classes. I am always at least 2 beats behind. Cycling classes have always appealed to me because I am drawn to choreography free classes however Soul Cycle classes have you up, down, sideways, and with multiple grip changes so fast my poor brain can't keep up. When everyone else is on count 4 out of their saddle, my butt is still planted watching to see what the the next move is. It really messes up the guy behind me and I get frustrated.
4) High speed push-ups on a bike just aren't for me. For the reasons above ( my muscles can't move fast and I can't hear the beat), and because I don’t believe that push-ups and cycles belong together, especially at high speed and while pedaling. I can never get into position correctly and the rapid-fire speed they are performed at in classes really don’t benefit me (or anyone) from a strength or endurance perspective. A good solid set of push-ups from the floor after class is far more beneficial.
5) If you hunch over and round your spine while pedaling on a bike, can you call it a crunch? No, It's only a crunch if it's against gravity. I understand the goal of packing in as much of a workout into a class as possible, but doing abdominal training on a bike while pedaling at high speed is not the best use of my time.
6) I'd rather trade the mini weight-training drills for an extra sprint or climb. I usually leave class and pound a few heavy weights for a true strength training experience. The stimulus to improve my posture and my muscle tone requires a bit more of a load than is offered in class.
7) Whoa! Too loud! Even while wearing earplugs the playlist is rockin' and the instructor is as clear as a bell. Maybe I'm getting old.
That being said
Do I enjoy my workouts? Do I get sweaty? Do I challenge myself? Does my endurance improve? Do I become better conditioned? Do I meet like minded people from my community? Will I keep going to the occasional class? Do I like the group atmosphere? Are the cycles sturdy and feel good? Is the studio nice? Are staff friendly? Would I promote it to my clients or people I care about?
A big YES to all.