Soul Cycle/ Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

SoulCycle: raising the bar for fitness or problematic?

A new type of cycling has hit London, and this time, it has nothing to do with Boris Johnson. SoulCycle is the latest fitness franchise. Having made its mark on 22 different locations across the US, and 2 in Canada, it’s now making its way to SoHo, London. SoulCycle has proved itself popular amongst a huge range of people, from YouTubers to the likes of Michelle Obama. But what makes it different from your average spin class?

The idea has revolutionised indoor cycling. SoulCycle is a full-body workout, with various positions that work the abdominal muscles and obliques. There are also mini weights are hidden under the bike seat for an incorporated arm workout. Uniquely, it’s all held in a candle-lit studio and the workouts are in-sync with the music. It intends to make you feel completely secure.

The focus is not on getting a certain body type, but embracing your strength and ability

Its spin on spinning is to take riders on a ‘spiritual journey’. Various YouTubers, such as Sierra Schultzzie, claim that the class invigorates the mind as well as the body. The focus is not on getting that a certain body type, but embracing your strength and ability.

SoulCycle is compared to a rave, with the music, clapping and high fives. Sometimes even the instructors break-out into song, making it into something of a party with your best friends rather than a painful gym session where you’re breaking a sweat with strangers. It encourages riders to focus less on the lactic acid and more on the endorphins.

When we think about exercise, the first thought that might pop to mind is the pain of slugging away on the treadmill. And when asked why we work out, many people would probably admit that they want to lose weight, or achieve a certain look.

Fitness has become something we see as a chore. Instead, we should look at fitness as an opportunity to improve our health, strengthen our bodies and nourish our minds – and it can be fun! SoulCycle offers this. It is a unique and exciting way of looking at fitness, and that is fantastic.

In a time where body positivity and mental wellbeing are hot topics, the cycling cult has made its own tracks within the industry, reaching a level that other fitness companies have seemingly failed to meet.

The ‘fitness fads’ of Instagram can actually make workouts more accessible to those who can’t afford a personal trainer, or a gym membership

In a world of social media, there’s a lot of competition within the fitness industry. Today, your Instagram Explore feed is inundated with clip after clip of workout routines, with everything from at-home workouts to HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions.

It’s very much an image focused sector. When we see the carved-out obliques and perfectly-peachy bums of Instagram fitness influencers, all clad in Gymshark, we click the save tab on workouts that we might never use to achieve a body just like theirs.

This can be damaging. It’s easy to forget that they have an athletic physique because they are dedicated to the development of these workout routines day in and day out. They have sponsors, and they have resources that we don’t have access to.

SoulCycle is different in that it’s less focused on the body and more on making fitness into an “experience”. It’s fun, exciting and empowering.

That’s not to say that these influencers are not having a positive impact on the industry; the ‘fitness fads’ of Instagram can actually make workouts more accessible to those who can’t afford a personal trainer, or a gym membership, allowing everyone with access to the Internet to stay healthy both in mind and body.

A problem with SoulCycle is that, by contrast, it’s not budget-friendly. Currently, a ‘New Rider’ class in London will set you back £16, and an even steeper £24 for one standard class. Going to a class on a regular basis would become far more expensive than a gym membership. On top of this, the waiting list is exceptionally long – only a lucky few can expect to book a slot in the class. Securing a place is almost like trying to bag concert tickets, requiring people to wait diligently by their computers and pounce as soon as booking opens.

After all, is it not the average person who is the target audience of mentally damaging detox teas and beach-body propaganda?

In 2015, it was reported by The New York Times that SoulCycle newcomers were urged to sit in the back row, whilst an elite group of regulars would sit in the front row: “Many SoulCycle instructors insist on preapproval of their front rows, with new clients being asked whether they’d like to take a back seat.”

As a consequence, it has gained a reputation for being elitist.

Although SoulCycle offers a completely unique take on training and getting your mind in shape as well as your physique, its elitist reputation is problematic. It is arguably inaccessible to the average person, who could gain the most from its body-positive benefits. After all, is it not the average person who is the target audience of mentally damaging detox teas and beach-body propaganda? There still seems to a gap in the market for a fitness brand like SoulCycle that’s accessible to everyone. The fitness industry needs a company that is empowering and exciting, but one that you can get involved with without having to take out a loan!


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