Old Town

SoulCycle Chicago (Studio Review)

I know I know…I still owe you a review of my doughnut-making class. But since I feel like I’ve been sharing nothing but indulgence lately I think it’s time to maybe kinda remind you folks that I kinda sorta workout too. No, I don’t just spend my free time at eating donuts, sampling cheese at farmers markets, and racing to see who can get to the bottom of their margarita fastest (although these are definitely some of my greatest extracurriculars).

A few weeks ago I had the awesome privilege to try out the new SoulCycle studio in Chicago thanks to WCBC. It’s located in the Old Town neighborhood right off Division and Wells (for locals, the closest L stop is the Clark/Division Red Line).

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Photo courtesy of Sara, who takes photos at events like a good blogger!

First impression? Paradise. Why? The entire place smells like a grapefruit. I hear they sell the candles that make the whole place feel like you’re swimming in a pool of citrus, but I’m sure they cost $40 a pop. One of these days I’ll splurge…

The grapefruit-coated air perked me up upon entering and I was re-energized for my workout. I attended a 6:30pm class, which is a lot later than I like to exercise in the day. I’m usually sluggish by that point and more often than not, I’ll end up bailing (especially if I’m working out alone). I appreciated walking in to such a friendly lobby with such an energized feel to it (meeting up with Susie, Erin, Erica and Sara added to the energy as well).

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The lobby was clean, bright, and welcoming. I know it may seem insignificant but walking into a studio that is floor-to-ceiling glossy white with bright yellow accents literally brightened my eyes and gave me a boost of energy before I even had my cycle shoes on. Before you head into the studio, there is a common area for you to change into your shoes and place your belongings into lockers. The lockers don’t require locks (one of my favorite parts about any gym), but instead a four-digit code to open and close. They weren’t overly large lockers, but then again most people don’t carry a bag the size of a toddler like I do. I peeked inside the bathroom/changing area and saw a wall full of mirrors ready to accommodate the dozens of women I’m sure get ready for work here in the morning. I didn’t see them myself but I know the facility has showers as well, which is another huge plus.

The studio itself contains 51 bikes, with the instructor’s bike on a platform so everyone has a good view. It isn’t stadium seating like other studios have, but I actually liked this layout better. It emphasized camaraderie and teamwork. Everything about the workout screamed “We’re all in this together!”

As for the workout itself, I came in having a lot to compare to. I’ve done spin classes for years, from the YMCA to XSport and all the way up to Flywheel which is where I’ve been regularly attending since I moved to Chicago. So how does SoulCycle compare to any other spin class I’ve been to?

The Workout

  • 45-minute classes, including hand weights (very light, 1 and 2 pound weights) and other choreography such as core movements and push-ups
  • Riders typically burn between 500-700 calories (obviously this number depends on a variety of factors. This is just an estimate).

Pros

  • Class is spent mostly in third position. It truly felt like a workout from start to finish.
  • Staff members are in the room before class ready to help any newbies get situated on their bikes
  • The music is bumping! It was current and I loved every song they played. They also do specific rides with specific types of music (think Britney Spears or Red Hot Chili Peppers rides) which is freaking awesome. One time I woke up at 7am on a Saturday for a spin class and walked into 60min of 80s pop. I wanted to rip my hair out. This eliminates that from ever happening again!
  • The room does not go completely dark, but is instead is accented by fake candles. I liked the ambiance. It felt like a cardio workout in a yoga environment. Yes please.
  • The instructor was incredibly passionate about being there. Nothing better than an instructor who is full to the brim with passion for what they’re doing!
  • The facilities are gorgeous. Crisp, clean, white walls accented by bright yellow motivational sayings displayed at every turn made it feel like a very high-end experience.
  • You can go on their website and really get to know the instructors, listen to music that has been featured in classes, read blog posts, etc. I love when studios are up-to-date with technology and social media.

Cons

  • This can be a pro or a con, but there wasn’t any competition. No monitors, no way to know exactly how much torque to add (“turn your knob up three times” “turn your knob down a quarter turn” etc. etc. can get confusing and I felt like I might have been off for a bit). I appreciate numbers when I work out, so this was challenging for me.
  • I know that the point of SoulCycle is to be spiritual (it has its name for a reason), but at points I felt uncomfortable with it. Now, I know this is what some people look for. I can definitely tell this workout attracts the “I’m spiritual, not religious” crowd. And I’m all for having beautiful, meaningful experiences when I’m connecting my mind and body. I mean, sure, throw some spirit in there too. But I prefer my spiritual moments during exercise to be organic, and at points it felt forced. There were times when I felt like I should have been having a moving experience based on what the instructor was saying (there were a lot of mantras and motivational sayings being yelled out), but I wasn’t. Knowing me, I was probably resisting because I don’t like people telling me what to do or how to feel (#rebel). That kind of environment definitely isn’t a deal breaker for me, but it’s worth noting that that’s a HUGE part of what SoulCycle is.
  • You knew this was coming: the cost. Let’s not mince words here. Attending SoulCycle regularly is a status symbol, and for good reason. You pay to be part of a dedicated fitness community. You pay for support, accountability, wonderful facilities (showers, water, shoes, THE GRAPEFRUIT AIR, etc.). But as with any studio, it is quite an expensive habit. I’m lucky enough to work for a company that allows me to explore studios like this. Not unlimited, but enough that I get to try things out and decide what’s worth it and what isn’t. If I had to pay the drop-in fee, I would probably attend SoulCycle once a month, with friends, before a killer brunch. I would need to make an event out of it. SoulCycle’s pricing is outlined below:
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Overall, I liked my experience! I didn’t fall head-over heels in love with it but I liked it enough that I will probably go back every now and then. Many of our educators at lululemon work there now as well so it will be easy to get a group to go and support our team. I love when workouts aren’t just an hour of sweating but instead are places of gathering for our fitness community. And SoulCycle definitely knows how to maintain a supportive community.

Like I said, I had fun attending with friends so I can definitely see this being a monthly girls get-together where you get sweaty at SoulCycle, hit the showers, and then spend the afternoon at brunch mimosa-ing all the calories you burned and reveling in the positive attitude you leave there with.

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If I had to sum up SoulCycle in one phrase, it would be: “You never know until you try!” Go in, and see if you get hooked! I know many, many people do!

……now does anyone seriously know how to get my hands on one of those candles?

Fun Fact: 10,000 riders take SoulCycle classes every day

Say what?!

Questions:

  • Have you ever been to SoulCycle? If not, would you want to try it out?
  • What’s the most you’ll pay for an exercise class (drop-in fee) or gym membership?
  • Is exercise spiritual for you?