So for the uninitiated, my job for the next month is to take four weeks of women’s fitness classes. I’m not sure if this is Thrillist’s version of putting me through “sensitivity training” after one too many off-color jokes or they just think it would be funny to see a Marine doing Zumba, but irregardless (it’s a word, look it up) the journey to women’s fitness begins today.
Day one was at Soul Cycle in Coral Gables. If you’re not familiar with Soul Cycle, it’s like a one-hour self-esteem workshop where charismatic instructors scream at you to be your best you over blaring Calvin Harris and strobe light. All conducted on stationary bikes in a room that feels like something between summer in Calcutta and the inside of a dishwasher.
If you’ve ever seen spinning classes on TV comedies that are made to look like some kind of crazy fitness cult, Soul Cycle is who they’re making fun of.
I showed up early and apparently they knew who I was. Maybe because the PR team told them, or maybe because I was, ya know, male. There actually was another guy in the class, but for the most part the crowd was a collection of UM sorority girls and Coral Gables housewives. To fit in, I stopped by Nordstrom on the way just in case I was going to have to make small talk.
As it was I didn’t and the instructor, Aubrey I think, came over and introduced herself as I was trying to size my spinning bike. I’d set it up like I usually did for triathlons, which is apparently the complete OPPOSITE of what you’re supposed to do for Soul Cycle.
“The idea here is to get your body really elongated,” she said, as she moved my seat back about two feet from the handlebars. “You want to be long, and lean. Guys always want to ride up on the front of the bike, I don’t know why.”
“Because we’re racing,” I said. She looked at me a little confused. “Guys, we’re always racing, we want to be up front. Why the Hell would we ‘sit back’ and ‘elongate?”
This was my first lesson in the difference between men’s and women’s fitness.
Just as we were about two start two girls who weren’t older than 12 came and sat on the bikes next to me. And I wondered what my drill instructors and the guys in the boxing club would think if they knew I was now doing the same workouts as A TWELVE YEAR OLD GIRL.
The class started when Aubrey turned out the lights and lit some candles, because who doesn’t enjoy a little sweating, grunting and adrenaline rush by candlelight? Yes, that’s exactly what it’s supposed to remind you of.
The workout itself was intense, with the club lighting and trance music and simultaneous movement, the difficulty of spinning with high resistance actually got a lot easier. It takes your mind off the strain, but it’s more than that. It’s feeding off the whole group, in this sort of “It takes a village to make it through spin class” mentality.
It’s a very female thing, I think, to depend on those around you to get through something difficult. And while guys are always happy to you “CMON BRO THREE MORE YOU GOT THIS!” when maxing our bench, this was something different. Not active encouragement, but almost a shared empathy.
At the end, Aubrey stopped instructing and told us to close our eyes, listen to the music, and just spin how we felt. And it got me into that sort of exercise-induced trance I hadn’t gotten into since I first started running with music. And massive amounts of ephedra. It was definitely an exercise class that put you in another place for 45 minutes, and I liked that.
I won’t lie. It wasn’t the toughest workout I’d ever experienced. But it got me going enough that I felt good for the rest of the day. And definitely look forward to starting my next week with Soul Cycle again.