Okay, I have to ask…is cycling worthwhile if I want to lose belly fat?

If you’re hoping to lose belly fat specifically, don’t get your hopes up. You can’t spot reduce fat, the American Council on Exercise confirms—no matter what kind of physical activity you’re doing, cycling included.

It’s not all bad news, though. Cycling burns calories, and that calorie deficit can help lead to weight loss if you are supplementing your physical activity with a nutritious diet. With consistency, you’ll lose weight gradually all over, just not in one specific body part at a time (but you know this).

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Cycling also kicks your metabolism into high gear, which is helpful for weight loss. “Some people will adapt to cycling in a way that makes them continue burning calories throughout the day,” says Dr. Seltzer, “but you have to make sure you don’t use your morning cycling class as an excuse to do less during the rest of your day instead of staying active.”

The takeaway: Don’t take cycling classes with the expectation of shrinking your waistline. Use them as one component in your healthy lifestyle to help create a calorie deficit, boost your cardiovascular ability, and motivate you to practice other healthy habits outside of class, too.

How many calories are we talking here, realistically?

The number of calories you’ll burn is pretty individualized to you, the class you take, and the effort you put in. “Cycling burns between 400 and 1,000 calories an hour, depending on the intensity of the ride and how much the rider weighs,” says Lampa.

Both Lampa and Dr. Seltzer agree that an ideal workout routine for indoor cycling class aficionados would include three or four classes per week. So, in theory, you could burn anywhere from 1,200 to 4,000 calories per week by taking cycling classes. That means you *could* burn anywhere from half a pound to a pound per week if you maintain the calorie deficit you create through Spin classes by eating healthy on top of ’em. This won’t work if you *only* do cycling classes but don’t think about any other weight-loss factors (i.e. nutrition).

But it’s better to focus on doing what you reasonably can during the week as opposed to requiring yourself to take that many classes if it’s not realistic, Dr. Seltzer says. Because, hey, Spinning once a week is better than not Spinning at all.

“You have to consider your own recovery capacity, because ideally you’d be doing six days of moderate, vigorous exercise a week,” he explains. “If you can do three or four days of spinning as part of that, that’s a good start—but you need to be able to do other kinds of activity, too.”

So, cycling should just be one part of my exercise routine, huh?

Yup. As mentioned, it’s a great form of cardio, but it doesn’t strengthen all your muscles in equal ways necessarily. Incorporating other kinds of physical activity can really crank up your weight-loss efforts, help protect your bones and joints, and even maximize the benefits of cycling.

Dr. Seltzer likes the combination of resistance training and cycling, adding that if you enjoy both of those activities, you could aim for doing each one twice per week. Lampa, too, encourages supplementing your cycling with strength training. Why? Strength training will also help you build muscle, and, as you learned, the greater amount of muscle you have can increase the number of calories you burn during strength training *and* while you cycle, Lampa explains.

Cycling is on par with other cardio forms for losing weight.

Yoga can be a valuable compliment to cycling as well, she adds. “After cycling three or four times a week, the body gets stuck in that seated position while hunched over,” she points out. “It’s really important to stretch out the muscles to decrease possible injuries.”

So if strength training isn’t your thing, consider taking a couple of yoga classes per week to offset the strain that may be associated with frequent cycling. Yoga is no slouch when it comes to burning calories, either: A 155-pound person can burn about 150 calories for every 30 minutes of yoga, according to Harvard Health.

Should anyone avoid take cycling classes?

Dr. Seltzer recommends you get evaluated by your doc before taking a cycling class if you’re at all worried about your health, an injury, or how it might affect a specific condition you have. But if you’re generally healthy you should get a green light no problem. He does add that some people simply find it uncomfortable to sit on a bike seat for an hour, and if it’s really painful you can totally find another activity to do instead.

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“If you’re Spinning because you think it’s going to help you burn body fat but you actually hate it, then Spinning is not going to work for you in the long run,” he says. “It’s not like it’s way more effective than other kinds of cardio or your only option for losing weight.”

But if you adore indoor cycling? The low-impact benefits of cycling do make it an attractive option for cardio lovers who struggle with running or jogging.

“Eighty percent of Americans suffer from low back pain sometime in their life, so cycling may become more of an outlet for those who suffer from low back pain,” says Lampa.

Sarah Bradley Sarah Bradley is a freelancer writer from Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and three sons.

Why SoulCycle Isn’t Worth Your Time or Money

Before I dive in, let’s start with this. In the same way that I have pointed out in my previous articles about BODYPUMP, OrangeTheory Fitness, CrossFit, and Pure Barre, if you are trying to meet all of your body’s movement needs with one brand alone, you will run into the same basic problem. One exercise class cannot meet all of our human biological needs for movement.

Our biology is meant to move on every level, plane, and direction, with and without a load, and over across varying terrain and multiple textures. Although every single one of these brands claims to be a “full body workout” it is simply not true. Every one of them fails. And it is not their fault. This is a losing battle.

So, is the answer to spend a fortune attending each and every gym on a rotating schedule? Or is the answer to adopt a lifestyle that incorporates enough incidental movement on a day-to-day basis that these workouts become the chocolate coating on the protein bar, not the protein bar itself? I think you know where I am going with this.

Ok, with that said, let’s get into my experience with SoulCycle.

My First SoulCycle Class

I try not to be a person who yucks someone else’s yum, especially when it comes to workouts. Partly because I don’t want to be a jerk (who does) but mostly because I believe anything that gets an otherwise sedentary body up and moving can’t be an entirely bad thing. But I am also an avid cyclist for recreation and for locomotion purposes so the idea of cycling indoors better involve a velodrome or at least a virtual world where I can race against friends and pros.

For those reasons I have thus far in my 40-some years on this planet avoided spin classes. But last night, that all changed at my local SoulCycle location.

SoulCycle is a “45-minute indoor cycling class that features high-intensity cardio, muscle-sculpting strength training, and rhythm-based choreography.” Their website goes on and on from there but I know better than to base my judgement on the marketing jargon of a website, so let’s skip the rest.

It was easy to sign-up for a class online and I luckily have a location within walking (or cycling) distance of my home—score. I signed up on a Sunday and was ready to rock on a Monday. I packed some shorts, socks, a singlette, and a towel in my backpack and arrived the mandatory 15 minutes before class so I could sign the waivers, find a locker, rent some shoes (they have proprietary clips on their shoes), and get changed.

I was ushered into a dark room, with pumping music, and pretty much left to my own devices. I knew that I had been assigned to Bike #30 and I have to admit that it took me a minute or two to figure out where the numbers were on the bikes. I would have asked someone but the music was too loud to bother. So yeah, not off to a great start. But I was determined to keep an open mind. So, I suppressed a middle-aged harumph and started class.

Fast-forward to after class.

As I walked home, I mulled over, again and again, exactly which aspects of the class I would focus on in this article. After sleeping on it, this is what I came up with.

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I took a 45-minute Peloton spin class every day and saw surprising results after 2 weeks

  • Peloton, the stationary bike company that’s recently exploded in popularity, filed for its initial public offering (IPO) on Tuesday.
  • Data from last year suggests the company has surpassed the spin giant SoulCycle in customers.
  • The $1,995 bike is equipped with a wifi-enabled touch-screen which allows you to join high-intensity spin classes from home.
  • Over the course of two weeks, I put it to the test, taking a 45-minute class every day. And to measure my progress, I did a before and after fitness assessment — which revealed some pretty surprising results.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Benji Jones: This bike costs $2,000, and it’s taking the cycling world by storm. It’s sold by the company Peloton, which reportedly now has more customers than even the spin giant SoulCycle. But what really sets it apart is convenience. Using a monitor attached to the bike, you can join a spin class from anywhere and, according to the company, get a studio-grade workout. Now, that sounds pretty nice, but is it really worth the hype?

To find out, I took a Peloton bike for a spin. Over the course of two weeks, I did a 45-minute Peloton class every day. And how did it go? Well, let’s just say I’ll probably never be this fit ever again. First things first: To figure out just how good of a workout I’d be getting, I visited the athletic trainer Sean Kuechenmeister before my first class.

Sean Kuechenmeister: You’re going to hopefully establish your baseline level of fitness for biking specifically.

Benji: Sean works at the New York Sports Science Lab in Staten Island, and there he assesses the physical ability of professional athletes. And now me, your more average gym-goer. All right, good to go. We started out by gathering some basic metrics like weight and body fat. Next were some not-so-basic measurements.

I feel like I’m in, like, an ejection seat. That’s an isokinetic extremity machine. It measures the strength of my quads. After that, we tested leg power…

Sean: Jump.

Benji: …mobility, and something called muscle drive.

Sean: So drive would be how much electrical current you’re getting from the brain through those nerves. The muscles are really just kind of like the mindless meat. The nerves are what determines how efficiently the muscles move.

Benji: But the most difficult test of all? A measure of what’s called VO2 max.

Sean: The reason why the VO2 max is so relevant for bikers is that’s a measurement of how well your body’s utilizing the oxygen that you’re taking in when you breathe. The better you use the oxygen, the more it’s gonna be transported throughout your body and the more efficiently you’re gonna be able to move and perform whatever exercise it is you’re doing.

Benji: I scored below average in VO2 max, in the 47th percentile, which was kind of a bummer. But overall, I was in pretty good shape, and with the assessment behind me, it was time to ride. This time, fortunately, without a gas mask.

It got off to kind of a rough start because I couldn’t really get on the bike at first. I was just totally not feeling the music, just kind of like oldies or, like, rock. I’m not about to bike out to rock. I ended up joining a prerecorded class, and I thought I was, like, doing really well in the class and then looked and saw that I was in 589th place, I think. To my credit, there were like 2,500 people in this class, and that made me feel pretty average, which is totally fine. My quads are already starting to feel it. I can definitely feel a burn. I did a little bit better today, look at that. 2,136th place out of 10,000. I mean, not terrible!

I was tired almost right from the start, but the days went by quickly, and soon enough I was a week in. I am proud to say that I made it seven days in a row! But I wasn’t exactly seeing much progress. Instead, I was actually feeling some pain. I’m definitely starting to feel a little bit of pain in my right knee. You know, to be honest, all of my stats look exactly the same today as they did my first ride. I was burning a little over 500 calories a class, no matter how exhausted I felt at the finish line, but I wasn’t about to quit, especially since Sean had predicted some pretty rad results I could look forward to.

Sean: I think if you’re gonna lose fat and then potentially burn into some muscle, I think we may see you go from 143 maybe to about 141, 140, um, but I do expect your endurance to go up, and I do expect this number with your VO2 max to go from fair to good.

Benji: For my eighth ride, I switched it up. Instead of riding at home, I went to the Peloton studio in Manhattan where the classes are filmed. I was curious if I would push myself harder in front of an instructor and in the presence of what seems to be some of New York City’s most fit and attractive.

It was a good time. It’s the day before Valentine’s Day, so there was lots of breakup songs, which was great. But as it turns out, all bikes are calibrated differently, so my readout on my bike in the studio was super different than the bike that I have at home. There was probably like a 200-calorie difference. So I did push myself harder in the studio. My average heart rate was 10% higher than it was at home, but according to the display on my studio bike, my output and calorie count was my lowest yet. So fair warning, the calorie counters might be different if you don’t use the same bike every time. As I reached the middle of the second week, my output was finally starting to improve.

I feel pretty good. Losing body fat, feeling like my legs are probably like a thousand times stronger. Hopefully that’s the case. I also broke 600 calories in one ride today, which means that I’m getting better in the, like, on my journey to strength on the bike. Wait, journey to strength? Side note: If I had any critique of Peloton as I neared the end, it’s not the quality of the workout…

Instructor: If something came up for you in the form of energy

Benji: It’s the language the instructors use to motivate you. It might be a personal thing, but it just feels so inauthentic. This is an exercise class, not therapy. Anyway. A few days later came the moment I was waiting for. The end! Woo! 14 classes! Yeah, it feels really good to be done, probably ’cause of meeting my goal of doing this, partly because I am so excited to not feel so exhausted and not have to bike every day. Not that it hasn’t been rewarding, it’s just obviously too much to do this every single day.

Let’s see, 14 workouts, 10 1/2 hours, 194 miles, 7,745 calories, that was the best output I’ve gotten so far. I also broke 600 calories in one ride today, which means that I’m getting better, and you can see that I kind of started out really strong and then kind of took a dip and then started working up again. The next day, I returned to the lab for my follow-up assessment.

Sean: Your initial measurement, you were 143.5. You’re 142 today along with that point zero, but your lean body mass, which is your muscle, your bone, you know, the connected tissue, first time was 125.2. Second time, it’s 125.4, so you lost nothing but fat. You maintained your muscle. In fact, you gained 0.2 pounds of muscle during all of that.

Benji: Interestingly, all that new muscle I’d gained ended up in just one spot: my left leg. Remember that pain I was talking about in my right knee? Well, I adapted by relying more on my left to pedal, building muscle there as a result. Everywhere else in my body, I actually lost muscle weight.

Sean: You lost weight in the trunk. You lost weight in your left arm, and you lost weight in your right arm.

Benji: And that’s because I was only doing one type of activity every day. But the biggest change was in my VO2 max.

Trainer: So this was his initial, and this is his new one where he’s ranked only 79% now.

Camera operator: That is incredible!

Sean: 47 to 79.

Benji: So I’m, like, better than most people?

Sean: Yes. You went from worse than most people to a lot better than most people.

Benji: Wow. That’s amazing, wow! OK, so more muscle in my left leg, less everywhere else, and much greater endurance. What about strength?

Sean: You actually lost power. You increased in your strength in terms of your endurance, as far as aerobic capacity, but as far as anaerobic, the system of our body that uses more sugar, uses glycogen, what we use to produce power and strength, you actually decreased in that.

Benji: And in terms of just, like, trying to understand these numbers, for two weeks, like are these pretty big changes?

Sean: Oh yeah, for sure, for sure. I think most, most doctors will recommend that about a pound to a pound and a quarter of fat per month is a healthy rate to be losing fat, so you’re actually well ahead of that, so I think if you were to continue this, you would probably – you’d lose more fat, you might gain some more muscle, but eventually there would be a point of diminishing returns where we’d need to change something up in the routine.

Benji: Got it, OK.

Sean: This was good for a two-week challenge, but I think it’s not very long-term sustainable.

Benji: OK. And that’s a good thing because the thought of biking right now, well, it’s kind of terrible. But should I ever need to lose weight again and stumble upon a mountain of cash, I’m confident that two weeks of intense cycling like this will totally do the trick.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on March 29, 2019.

This SoulCycle Instructor Will Inspire You to Stop Criticizing Your Body for Good

Photo: Emma Weiss

Washington D.C.-based SoulCycle instructor Abby Effron opens up about her former obsession with fad diets, the pressures of being a fitness instructor on social media, and how she found happiness in letting go of expectations and loving her body exactly the way it is.

Growing up, I was a dancer and always active, so I never thought much about food. It just wasn’t on my radar. Once I got to college, I wasn’t taking as many ballet classes anymore, and I started to notice that my body looked and felt different. After my freshman year, everyone was talking about fad diets, doing juice cleanses and master cleanses-really crazy stuff. I felt like I should be doing them too. My body was feeling different, bigger-and since, across the board, we’re told that getting bigger is unacceptable-I was basically willing to do anything to remedy that, whether it was healthy or not.

I’ve done the master cleanse (where you only drink maple syrup and cayenne pepper for days). I’ve done Weight Watchers. I’ve done Atkins. I’ve gone paleo. I’ve gone vegan. I’ve gone vegetarian. And with all those, I would have temporary “success.” I use that term very loosely, because, at the time, success meant losing weight. But that would always be followed by a rebound binge and loss of control. Or even just going back to some kind of “regular” eating habits-the way I used to eat growing up. It wasn’t in the exact regiment of whichever diet I was trying to follow at that time, so I ultimately ended up always feeling like a failure no matter what I was doing.

That continued throughout college and even for a few years after, once I moved to New York City to work in public relations. It was at this point that I found SoulCycle. A girlfriend dragged me to a studio in New York, and I really didn’t want to go. I could not have been less excited. But within the first few moments of class, I fell in love. The lights are down, everything is lit by candles, and it’s just you riding to the beat of the music. It was one of the first times that I felt like I wasn’t staring at myself in the mirror; I wasn’t criticizing myself, thinking things like, “Are my arms jiggling? Do I have an extra roll here?” It was the first time I felt connected to a form of movement that felt really authentic, really natural, and was something that I was truly enjoyed. I became obsessed.

At that time I started leaning away from really extreme fad diets and getting more into health, wellness, and fitness in general, but I was never really approaching it with a mindset of pure health. I was doing these healthful practices but with the motivation of wanting to be thinner-so even if I was being my most healthy and my body was feeling great, the only time I really felt success was if the scale was down.

After about a year, I decided to leave my corporate gig and audition to become a SoulCycle instructor. I was riding 12 to 15 times a week while teaching class, so I was incredibly active. In that first year of teaching, I definitely felt a little bit of pressure. Working in the fitness industry, I felt like I needed to look the part-to have that “fit chick” body, with the most amazing abs and arms and booty. I was fueling my body with food and I was super active, but I still felt dissatisfied with my appearance and with my weight. Finally, I realized that this was probably the fittest I would ever be. It was the most I’d exercised and the healthiest I’d ever been with my food. I was eating to fuel my body and to be able to do my job.

But even at my fittest, I still wasn’t happy with my weight and with what I looked like.

Then it hit me: if you’re not happy now, there’s something deeper that needs to change, and cutting out carbs or going vegan, or whatever the next fad diet that came along wasn’t going to be the answer. That wasn’t going to be the thing that allows me to finally find peace and actually like myself. So I decided to throw in the towel-not on my health, but on trying to be thin. I was exhausted; it had been years and years and years of cycling through different weights and different diets and always feeling like a failure. I just got to a point where I thought: “enough is enough. I am going to be the healthiest version of myself, but I’m not going to let it consume my life, and whatever my body looks like is what it’s going to look like.”

I started to educate myself on and throw myself into the world of body positivity and health at every size. The more I learned about the movement and the more I immersed myself in it-simple things like changing the accounts that I follow on Instagram, following people of all different shapes and sizes-slowly, my mindset changed.

I stopped trying to follow a regimented diet plan and started eating more intuitively; I was paying attention to how did I felt when I was eating something, how I felt after, how I felt during the day when I was teaching classes. (Here’s more on intuitive eating.) That was when I really realized that the things I was doing that I thought would “make me skinny” actually didn’t feel that good. And no matter how I felt about my body on a particular day, I would always teach class in my sports bra. If I was really feeling that pressure of teaching or felt like I wasn’t really on point with my food, I would rock my sports bra like cutest Lululemon top anyway. It’s my way of not letting those feelings control me-no matter what, I’m going to rock my body. I also threw away my scale. I have never gotten off it with any sort of positive feeling or had any sort of positive result in the hours that followed. I also listen to podcasts about health at every size and found that really immersing myself in the positive way of thinking can really help, especially when I’m having like a bad day or negative body image. (Try Abby’s faves, Food Psych and coaching from Isabel Foxen Duke or these hashtags that’ll fill your feed with self-love.)

I think everyone, no matter what industry you work in, feels a pressure to look a certain way. I had obviously felt that for time before I was teaching at SoulCycle and entered the fitness industry. There’s a lot of pressure that comes from the fact that I’m standing up in front of 60 people every day and I feel like I have to motivate them to work harder and be better-and for a while, I thought they wouldn’t be motivated unless I looked a certain way and I fit a certain mold. I feel that’s partially a product of social media. I think that the most freeing thing, for me, was when I started sharing my insecurity. That’s when I realized that the thing that’s going to connect, inspire, and help people relate to me that’s going to have people relate to me isn’t how great my abs looked that day-it’s knowing that I deal with and think about the exact same things. I truly believe that there’s not a person in this world who doesn’t have some sort of insecurity-no matter what size you are, what you look like, what your job is, no matter what your physical persona. Once I started being open about my insecurities and not hiding behind it and being ashamed that I was struggling with this stuff, that was when I felt so much more connected to people-more than I ever did when I was posting some core circuit. When I was actually posting about the things that were difficult and relatable and real, that’s when I felt more and more connected to my community and my riders. (Also check out SoulCycle’s inspirational Army of Love campaign.)

I wish I could go back and tell myself that being thin wasn’t magically going to get me the life that I wanted, and it wasn’t going to make me happy. I was always under the impression that I needed to be at a certain weight to have a great job, to have great relationships, to have all of these things that I thought would make me successful. What’s funny is, at the exact point that I am right now, I’m definitely not the biggest I’ve ever been and I’m definitely not the smallest I’ve ever been. I’m somewhere in the middle (which I think tends to happen a lot when you let your body just do what it’s going to do). But I am the happiest I’ve ever been. I have a job that I’m obsessed with, and I get to connect with so many people every day about body positivity and body image and things that have plagued me for so many years. I finally have everything I’ve ever wanted, and I achieved it all just by being me.

  • By By Abby Effron as told to Lauren Mazzo

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SoulCycle is bad for you

A million hearts across Los Angeles and Manhattan broke this week when reports that SoulCycle and Equinox owner Stephen Ross would hold a fundraiser for President Trump. Needless to say, Hollywood was hardest hit.

I rode with SoulCycle for more than 5 years. To think the money I spent on your classes went into the pockets of Stephen Ross and therefore fundraisers for the likes of Donald Trump are unacceptable. As long as he owns you, I will not be riding. #StephenRoss https://t.co/FdLkhzMed7

— Amber Tamblyn (@ambertamblyn) August 7, 2019

I am a freak who loves @soulcycle. it genuinely makes me feel good and excited about my body and my health. that being said, the loser owner supports trump and I didn’t know that! so I will no longer take classes there. sharing bc I had no idea & maybe u didn’t either! fuck that.

— Mitra Jouhari (@tweetrajouhari) August 7, 2019

That’s it! Just cancelled my @SoulCycle membership! https://t.co/YvoG4pQv7w

— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) August 7, 2019

Jokes about Michael Moore fitting his derriere on a SoulCycle bicycle aside, you shouldn’t flush your money down the drain at SoulCycle anyways – not because it’s expensive, but because it’s a bad workout for people who want the exclusivity of an overpriced gym without any of the actual gain or pain of a real workout.

As a purely mathematical question, SoulCycle posits a terrible return on your investment. To retain its air of elitism, the company refuses to partner with Class Pass or any popular program allowing less wealthy patrons to try out a variety of gyms at a slightly reduced rates. A single SoulCycle class in New York City costs $36 for a 45-minute class, yet the actual workout itself is weak.

SoulCycle fails to produce any meaningful strength training or core toning, but even if you’re just trying to lose weight, it still doesn’t give you good bang for your buck. Based on a number of estimations, SoulCycle burns just 300 to 600 calories, even though it advertises burning 500 to 700 calories per session. For reference, you burn about 500 calories in 45 minutes of merely walking up a treadmill at an easy 10 or 11% incline at a brisk pace, and you can do that with a discount gym membership. An hour of jogging at a pace of ten minutes per mile burns around 700 calories, and you can do that for free.

But more alarmingly, SoulCycle might be messing with your genitals.

No, I’m not kidding. The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that cycling classes with low handlebars damage the pelvic floor and compresses nerves and arteries in the nether regions. For men, SoulCycle may lead to erectile dysfunction. In contrast, simple squats and glute bridges strengthen the pelvic floor, and you just need a weight or a basement gym to do those.

Of all the stupidity stemming from the Stephen Ross news cycle, the dumbest is the notion that you should even have a SoulCycle membership to cancel to begin with.

(Courtesy of SoulCycle)

Age: 27

Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts in contemporary dance choreography from Concordia University

Length of time as a SoulCycle instructor: Two and a half months. I finished the training program in December, taught a bit in New York City—which was craziness—and now here I am.

What drew you to SoulCycle compared to other exercise programs?
When you experience it, you understand why it’s a step up. I do everything 120 percent and I decided that if I wanted to do this, SoulCycle was a company that I could move up with. You don’t just get certified and then you’re done. You’re constantly being challenged to advance your training or your class. Plus, you get to develop as an instructor, a motivational speaker and as a human. There’s no limit.

Did your background in dance also factor into your decision to join?
One hundred percent. It’s such a crazy thing though, even with my background, the first class I did was rough. But after a while, it gets into your body. Everybody feels music and moves, so the same thing happens on a bike, it’s just that your dance floor happens to be moving with you.

Did you decide you wanted to be an instructor after going to a SoulCycle class?
I had seen an ad looking for a “rockstar spinning instructor” at another studio. I thought that was something I could do and began teaching there. All the while, I kept hearing about SoulCycle, and I finally went and took a class in New York City. It was an hour-long session and it was packed. Half way through the class, I was dying and then the instructor shouted, “4-3-2-1 get up!” and the bass dropped. I wanted to cry and laugh all at the same time. I did a bunch of classes after that and decided this was something I needed to do.

So how exactly do you become an instructor?
You apply with a cover letter then they invite you for an audition. I auditioned in Toronto, but they also hold auditions in New York City and do audition tours. For ours, we did a group class and then we each went up and taught a few songs. It’s fast, but they know what they’re looking for, and if you’ve got it, you’ve got it.

How did you stand out at your audition?
I was very nervous and they called me to go first at the audition. I tend to just say what I’m thinking when I’m nervous, but it seemed to go over pretty well. I didn’t want to go up and say things I didn’t mean. I was just me up there.

I know you’re just starting, but how many classes will you teach per day?
At the moment, I think the most I’m going to do is two per day, but it can go up to three or four. Some people in NYC teach five a day.

That’s a lot. How will you keep up your energy through that?
The music. Yes, I have to fuel and sleep and hydrate, but there’s a certain point where if you’re not into it, then you’re not into it. That’s why choosing my own music for the classes is so important to me.

Music seems to be a big driving force for you. What are your top picks for:

A pump-up song to listen to on your way to class?
“Bitch” by Meredith Brooks—it’s my karaoke song, too.

A song to get you through that mid-class wall?
“Doo Wop” by Lauryn Hill. It’s just a throwback that helps you to keep pushing.

A cool down song?
“Million Reasons” by Lady Gaga.

Song for your walk home? ‘
Something old-school like “Drops of Jupiter” by Train.

If you’ve had a really terrible day, how do you turn it around and be a positive person for your class?
This room is so different than the crazy hustle and bustle of outside. When I come to SoulCycle, I know that I’m going into a room full of positive people who want to have a 45-minute dance party. I can put everything outside and say, “Sometimes it gets a bit crazy out there, how about we come in here and have a good time.”

How do you fuel up before a class?
I make sure I’ve had a lot of water—I like to fill my water bottle up at least five times in a day—and a good amount of carbs. If I have an early class, I make sure I have a big dinner. I eat a lot of snacks throughout the day like hard-boiled eggs, nuts and dried fruit, which helps right before a class.

What kind of planning goes into a class?
Training sets a good foundation for what the classes entail, and then we put our own flair on it. Each city has its own flavour as well. I go over my choreography in my head many times, but the music also tells me what to do. You don’t have to choreograph much, it’s there in the music.

(Photo: Courtesy SoulCycle)

As an instructor, what is going through your mind during a class?
I overthink everything in life and there are only two times when I’m not: when I’m improv dancing, and when I’m on the bike. It’s just happening. I’m thinking about the music, the person over there that has a smile on her face, the person in the corner that needs to adjust their hips. It’s crazy that I get to be 100 percent in the moment.

Do you ever feel self-conscious about teaching a class or leading those motivational segments?
I used to. Then I realized that these were not people who were out to judge me. They’re just here to ride and have a good time. Now, I feel so lucky that I get to do this in front of people. It’s fun, exhilarating and just the greatest time.

There’s an entire segment of the class with one- to five-pound weights. Do those small weights actually do anything?
Yes. Oh yes. Because we’re doing repetitive motions over and over, it starts to build up a burn. I’d say that the most muscle I’ve gained since becoming an instructor is in my shoulders, arms and back from the weights.

Have you encountered any challenges so far as a woman in the fitness industry?
In the fitness industry as a whole, there are definitely challenges because it’s so focused on image. From my experience at SoulCycle though, not in the slightest. It’s such an open and accepting community that there’s no pressure about what you look like.

What is the best part of your average work day?
Seeing people smile on a bike.

What is the worst part?
Having to go to sleep and turn my brain off.

Who is someone in this field that inspires you and why?
Misty Copeland. She was told her whole career that her bust was too big, her calves were too large and she didn’t have the right body for ballet. Now she’s the first African-American principal ballet dancer for the American Ballet Theatre.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to be on the bike at the front of the class?
Let your freak flag fly. Don’t try and be another instructor. Think about what you would want to bring to a class. If you were up on that bike, what would you say? What would you want to tell that room full of people? And then go with that.

After getting so hyped during a class, how do you unwind?
Food. I love to cook. Give me my kitchen, some jazz and a glass of red wine and I’m a happy camper.

Related:
What It’s Really Like to Be an Award-Winning Personal Trainer
What It’s Like to Work at Canada’s Coolest Wellness Company
What It Was Really Like to Cover Election 2016
What It’s Really Like to Be a Ski Patroller

Oh, you guys. I’ve been waiting nearly a year to hit publish on this blog post.

It’s a long one this morning, but if you only have time to read one thing today, let it be this:

When your instincts tell you to throw your whole heart into something, do it. Just go all in.

Now, let’s settle in and take a step back. Coffee at-the-ready? Okay, good.

///
Where we last left off on the personal front, I’d somewhat recently left my job in digital media. I was content, I guess, but not fulfilled. Not stimulated, you know?

While I’ve alluded to the fact that I’ve been very heads-down in pursuit of a passion project, I haven’t been ready to talk to you about it — until now. (So thanks for your patience and understanding of my privacy.)

I won’t flatter myself into thinking you’ve been sitting around wondering what it is that I’ve actually been up to, so let’s get right to it.

I’m a SoulCycle INSTRUCTOR-IN-TRAINING!

(*Update: As of March 2016, I’m now an instructor! You can view my schedule here.)

Holy shit. Is this real?!

(For those of you who might not be familiar, SoulCycle is an indoor cycling studio that’s really popular in New York, LA, etc.)

You might not know this about me, but training to become an Instructor is a dream I’ve been working towards for a very, very long time.

It’s been a hybrid of blisters, sweat, tears, confidence-building and crippling self-doubt — all things you can relate to, I’m sure, which is why I want to talk to you about it.

This journey has single-handedly changed my life — and as a result, I hope my story can impact yours.

Now, before you ask and/or begin to state the obvious, allow me to beat you to it:

No, I don’t come from a group fitness background. I don’t have any formal teacher experience and I am not a professional dancer (after 10 p.m. on weekends, though, this is debatable).

In fact, I’ve spent the past seven-plus years of my life behind a desk – though this has never defined me.

Here’s why none of that matters:

At my very core, I am an athlete. I’m a leader. I’m a motivator, a giver and an inspiration-seeker. Music is my second language and empowering people is my passion – whether it’s through writing or in-person. I’ve ultimately grown into an insatiable aspiration to inspire other people.

Simply put: SoulCycle is my lifestyle.


//

Here’s how it happened:

Nearly two years ago (in 2013), I moved to New York to chase “The Dream” — you might remember that story.

The Dream, you know? The one your parents and professors or other people in your life may pressure you to pursue.

At the time, I was working in digital marketing/advertising, so I figured that a good dream was to work at a reputable agency on the ever-popular pedestrian Madison Avenue.

That’s how it goes, right? college, job, promotion, corporate ladder. Check, check, check.

(Ugh.)

For seven years of my post-graduate life, I worked really hard. Like, really fucking hard. And I worked a lot. I was one of those people who woke up with her hand clawed around her iPhone in the morning. My e-mail was never not in sync — and one wrong push notification was all it took to dictate my mood.

I’m not saying these are bad things — I actually love to work. Working actually makes me really happy. But we’ll get to that.

Throughout my exploratory love affair with New York City, I began to experiment with hobbies beyond blogging — and drinking/my social life, haha.

Jess suggested that I check out SoulCycle, and it was only a matter of time before I caved and agreed to see what the hype was about. I’ve always been an athlete/enjoyed exercise, but a workout that’s life-altering and addicting? Yeah, we’ll see.

I remember every single detail of my first class — down to the smell. (I won’t bore you with those details, but if you’d like to hear the story, shoot me an e-mail.)

I clipped in, zoned out and the rest is history.

As we’ve established, living and working in New York is stressful. The highs are high and the lows are low.

Was I happy at work? Sure. Did I want to look at data in Excel and work in PowerPoint for the rest of my life? I dunno, maybe? I’m just trying to pay rent, order food and buy nice things, here.

Time continues to pass, and the ambiguity of what I “really” wanted to do with my life stressed me out (even further), so I threw myself into the escapism of SoulCycle.

My after-work hobby soon became a full-blown obsession and — not long thereafter — foundational to my life. At some point, it became spiritual. I reazlied this when I began to notice the way I felt before, during and after a class. (Sweaty, tired, confident and fucking amazing.)

It was a workout, sure, but more so than anything else: It was a release and an escape from the everyday chaos of living in New York City. (Living period, really.)

//

Periodically, I’d find myself crying in class.

Like, full-blown ugly crying. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew that I was working through a mess of mental garbage in those 45-minute spurts.

Looking back, it’s clear that SoulCycle helped me mentally and physically evolve away from my demons and doubts and into the person I’ve always wanted to be. (Even if I’ve never known how to describe who she is.)

It’s not that I became a health-nut, necessarily –but I finally understood that you’re responsible for filling your life with as much positive energy as possible…

(On a related note, I’m testing out matcha and tea instead of coffee-all-day as a concept and so far it’s going well.)

Though it may sound cheesy, I found a home within my SoulCycle community.

SoulCycle shifted my entire life’s perspective, which ultimately spilled over into the content I create for corals + cognacs (which is now known as Among Other Things — you can read the story of my recent re-brand here).

I started to write about the breakthroughs I’d have in classes — which entailed everything from inner beauty to being more mindful and yep, even the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my 20’s.

That type of content, it seems, became your favorite. Yay! Because incidentally, it’s my favorite!

The fact that I was doing what I loved — writing and empowering people — felt really awesome. If you want to be happy, you give. It really is that simple. Whether it’s words, advice, inspiration or compliments. You just give what you can.

You don’t get less happiness when you give out your own, you simply create more of it.

This is where the idea was born that I could further manifest my passions — in training to (hopefully) become a SoulCycle Instructor.

Little did I know the long, challenging journey that was about to unfold in front of me…

///

Here’s the irony:

It wasn’t until I became so blindly caught up in chasing down my corporate career — or living the life I thought I was supposed to — that I threw myself into my hobby to escape.

Turns out, it’s what I was meant to do all along.

My career path is anything but linear — and indirectly, it’s one that led me to SoulCycle.


The ah-ha moment came in May 2014.

After seven years in the corporate world – and many, many months of subconscious “Soul searching” – it dawned on me that I was done with digital. I was ready to stop running on the corporate treadmill.

Slowly, this dream came to fruition. I was Soul’ing (as a verb) pretty much every day — it was all I thought about.

Life seemed like one steady stream of collective consciousness. I quit my full-time job to more fully dedicate myself to the practice, because if you love something so much, you’ve got to go all in… Regardless of how long it takes you to get there.

///

The Audition

At long last, I was ready. I applied and auditioned for SoulCycle’s Instructor Training Program in August 2014.

The audition went well. So well! I was really proud of myself — and my Soul mentors were too. This was IT! Finally! It’s all happening.

The next day, I got the e-mail.

Nope.

I didn’t get in.

Simple as that.

I was heartbroken. I cried. I questioned everything and began to think very critically of myself. (That was right around when this post was written.) I’d worked so hard! This wasn’t the plan.

… Now what?

///

Here’s what hearing ‘no’ taught me:

Have you ever felt this, too? Well…

When you face the reality of missing out on your dreams, taking action is not a choice. It’s essential. There are no other options.

This reality brings your dreams into sharper focus. It forces you to take the reins of your life into your own hands and to align your actions with the life you want. It challenges you to accept your obstacles, face them head-on and allow them to make you stronger.

In retrospect, hearing “no” at the time was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.

I realized what this dream meant to me, so I stopped questioning the outcome and went back to work on the process — on creating and shaping my own transformation.

In those next four months, SoulCycle showed me that it’s okay to veer off the life path we envision for ourselves. In fact, it’s inevitable. And it’s even better when you realize and embrace that you’re exactly where you’re meant to be.

They say that if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough – but you can’t just tell people your dreams… You have to show them.

///

The Journey, Part Two:

In December 2014, I re-auditioned for SoulCycle’s Instructor Training Program.

I got in.

///

Regardless of whether you do or don’t have a desire to try SoulCycle, I am living proof that your dreams can be an inspiring, transformative experience. Twenty-some pounds and a shitload of endorphins later, here I am: Instructor-in-Training.

As I type, I’m sitting on the floor of my apartment, massaging my back against the wall.

We’re four weeks into the (very intensive) program; and you guys, I can’t quite explain it — it’s the most physically, mentally and emotionally challenging thing I’ve ever been through, but I can’t get enough.

At one time, fitness was once a daily stress relief. Now, it’s a fundamental way to connect, motivate and empower myself and the people around me. I have never been happier — and I think my happiness increased a lot when I focused on living my real life and spending time in positive, inspiring communities; not just making things on a computer. (Though, again, still something I love.)

Great. Happy for you. Now how does this relate to me?

It’s one of those days where I’m just rambling, isn’t it?

Well, here’s the gist: I can’t say this enough to you guys, because seriously: If you commit to consistency and resilience, you can do literally anything with your life. Even if the odds are not in your favor.

And if you still don’t know what you want to do, it’s okay. Everyone’s path is different. (I’m 29-years-old, for what it’s worth.) Devote yourself to doing things that make you happy, and you will be successful.

One day, perhaps, you’ll show up in spandex at a boutique fitness studio on 18th street — and later, you’ll look back and realize that it was your LIFE waiting for you at the door.

Life is short — so just f’ing go for it. If someone tells you ‘no,’ push even harder. As crazy and unattainable as your dream might seem to everyone you know, trust yourself and lean into it. Be so genuinely good that they can’t ignore you.

The dream is free. The hustle’s sold separately. And it’s never to late to explore your fork in the road…

Love,
Hallie x

///

PS, in case you’re wondering…

Are you going to keep blogging? Yes.

Are you turning into a fitness blogger? No.

Is your blog going to change? Not really — I think it’ll just get better and more fun to read.

**Update, I’m now an instructor! You can view my schedule here.

And lastly, a quick shoutout to SoulCycle Group 17 (below) — so much love to everywhere in the United States we’ve all dispersed to. I love you, fam!

Yesterday I auditioned to be an instructor at SoulCycle.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t make it past the first round. Which I’m not totally surprised about. But it was a great experience and I’m glad I decided to go for it.

Why I Decided To Audition In the First Place

Because I’ve auditioned for almost every other fitness studio in NYC except SoulCycle? I’m half kidding, but six years ago when I first decided I wanted to be in fitness it sure felt like I was auditioning for every single studio in this city.

For some reason I never auditioned at SoulCycle, though. Partially because I didn’t think I was “cool” enough. I don’t have any tattoos or funky piercings.

I honestly also thought I’d never teach at Y7 because of my lack of “cool” vibes. I def still don’t give off cool vibes, but I guess that didn’t stop me from getting hired by Y7.

I’ve never been a Soul “regular” because money but it’s always been my favorite of the spin options in NYC. One night I was perusing around the SoulCycle website, as one does, and I realized instructor auditions were coming up.

In many ways being a SoulCycle instructor would be a dream come true. I love the class. I love teaching. I’ve been told I’m really loud as a yoga teacher. And it would mean having a full-time gig with benefits in the fitness industry. That’s basically unheard of.

So I decided to audition because WHY NOT. What’s the worst that can happen?

The audition.

I’ve always been curious what goes down at a SoulCycle audition. I only got to see a snippet of it because I didn’t make it past the first round, but guys it was INSANITY. I felt like I was in A Chorus Line. At least 150 people auditioned yesterday. THAT IS A LOT OF PEOPLE! Before going into the room to ride it was real loud in the studio. Like apparently everyone was auditioning with friends and seemed to know each other? I kind of felt like I was on some bizarre fitness instructor reality TV show in which everyone showed up with fancy blowouts and in their best Lululemon. Okay, I was guilty of the latter but def put zero effort into my hair.

The first part was riding as a pack. For 15 minutes we were given different tempos, moves and paces to follow. While all this was going on veteran SoulCycle instructors walked around the room to make notes about us and if we were riding on the beat. I’ll be honest, I’m not the most seasoned Soul rider so was definitely a little worried about nailing all the bike choreography.

The most powerful part was riding in a crowded room with everyone working their ass off to be on tempo, despite all the nervous energy buzzing around.

Afterwards bike numbers were called out of people moving onto the next round which would have involved teaching on the podium.

I’m not heartbroken I didn’t get past the first round

Yes becoming an instructor would be “lifechanging” but I also wasn’t banking on it happening. I joked with my mom beforehand that I was going in with low expectations, an open heart and my loud mouth.

i’m glad I did it, though

It’s easy to call yourself out before you even do the thing. I was pretty close to not applying to teach at Y7 because I thought they would laugh in my face. And full transparency: I didn’t get the gig the first time I auditioned. I got to the final round of auditions and received amazing and super helpful feedback. But I wasn’t ready.

A year later I decided to audition again, and here I am — I taught my first class there last Saturday.

If it’s meant to be, it will be

Let me get woo-woo on you for a second. I’ve become a huge believer that things will happen when they are supposed to.

For example: Not getting hired at Y7 last summer ended up being a blessing in disguise. The timing would’ve been awful. I was still in grad school and had just started teaching sculpt at CorePower Yoga. Yes, I would have made it work, but I’m happy I instead got to focus on really getting confident as a sculpt teacher.

Now, a year later, I have the capacity to really dive in as a Y7 instructor and master their class style.

If I’m meant to be a SoulCycle instructor, it will happen later. Will I audition again? Maybe. Depending on what’s going on in my life during the next round of auditions.

Instead I’m taking it as a woo-woo sign from the universe that this right now was not the opportunity for me. And I’m fine with that.

Your Turn: When’s the last time you put yourself out there for your career aspirations?

Soulcycle before and after

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