Studio Review

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?

Studio Review: Flywheel Old Town

Here in the Windy City, we’ve been spoiled with the greatest variety of studios, gyms, boxes, and everything in between. You want it? You’ll find it. And while I have my favorites, I definitely do my best to visit as many places as possible so that when I’m educating on our fitness community in the store, I have a good arsenal of knowledge to choose from.

So today let’s talk about Flywheel + Flybarre!

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Flywheel has been in the Gold Coast community for a few years now, but they recently opened up a new studio in Old Town, just off the corner North and Wells (Sedgwick Brown Line stop for you locals).

Flywheel was actually the first studio I began to frequent when I moved to the city, and while your first time at any small studio can be a little uncomfortable (everyone seems to know each other, where everything is, etc.), I quickly felt at home there. The staff is always friendly and they have people on hand before each class ready to help you if you’ve never used a spin bike before.

The workout itself is awesome for a few reasons.

  • It takes place in a dark, club-style room with stadium seating and bumping music, so every workout is a party. The instructor picks music that goes with the drill you’re currently doing (hills, sprints, etc.) so it all feels like a cohesive workout
  • It is only 45 minutes, and those 45 minutes FLY (no pun intended). Whenever I go to Flywheel I feel like I’m in and out in a matter of minutes, but I always leave feeling like I got my butt kicked.
  • It’s competitive. Now, I know this might actually be a downside for some people, but I like that my personal performance is tracked on a computer screen in the front of the room. I love that I can see what “place” I’m in and try to catch up to the person in front of me.
  • You are given complimentary towels and cycling shoes, so you basically just have to show up and the rest is done for you. It’s the type of workout I can decide to go to last-minute, which is helpful for those of us who are always on the go (and really, who isn’t?)

The Gold Coast location was my go-to for months, but when they opened up the Old Town site I was excited to try it out for one reason: SPACE! It’s a huge, huge space compared to its counterpart. The new space provides showers, beauty bars, couches, and a barre studio.

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A few other great tips about Flywheel, if you’ve never been:

  • As I already shared, they provide you with cycling shoes and towels, free of charge. They also have an awesome fruit bowl in the lobby so grabbing a post-workout snack is free and convenient.
  • Water bottles are available for purchase at the front desk
  • You are able to choose which bike you are on and if you want your profile to be displayed on the tracking screen in the front of the stadium
  • The lockers have digital locks — you do not have to bring your own
  • The showers are filled with all the essentials — shampoo/conditioner, body wash, spray deodorant, dry shampoo, lotion, bobby pins, hair ties, cotton balls, makeup remover, etc.
  • They provide bags to keep your stinky wet clothes in post-workout. MUCH appreciated.

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As I also mentioned, the Old Town location offers a second workout option: Flybarre.

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I’ll just throw this out there: barre is not my thing. Not for any reason other than it doesn’t get me sweaty enough. I’m a fan of high intensity, loud music, and sweat running down my face to the point where I can taste the salt. Barre just doesn’t deliver that for me. But for the sake of at least knowing what I was talking about, I tried a class here.

Flybarre is a total body toning workout that  focuses on leaning out and lengthening the muscles. It works your muscles from head to toe, to the point of muscle exhaustion (that’s the only way I can think to describe it, so forgive me, barre-lovers, if there is a more technical way to describe it). And while I don’t normally love barre, I actually had a really fun time going post-spin. I thought that together they were a great balance of workouts. Not to mention there were only four of us in class so we turned it into a bit of a dance party.

What I love about this space is how casual it is. You can walk in and get your cardio on, lengthen/strengthen your muscles, chat with your favorite instructor (I love Gideon and Candy), or eat a banana on the couch and recover while getting to know other spinners. It’s busy, but not too busy. You could truly hang out there for some time after you work out. I think this is one of my favorite differences between studios and gyms. Gyms are in-and-out — studios seem to have so much more opportunity for community-building. Flywheel + Flybarre definitely brings that to the Old Town community.

PS ClassPass is dang cheap right now and your first class at Flywheel is free, so if you ever want to hit up a class with me, just shoot me an email! You know I’m always down to fly 🙂

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Studio Review: Sproing Fitness

Last night I had the opportunity to try a new studio in Chicago: Sproing Fitness.

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Sproing?

Yeah, you read that right.

When I told people where I was heading to sweat today, multiple people asked me what Sproing was. And to that, all I could do was shrug my shoulders and say “I think it’s something like running on a trampoline?” It’s a bit of a mystery, because unlike other workouts that you can easily categorize (bikram yoga, barre, reformer pilates, etc.), this one is pretty outside the box. Unlike other studios, where you know exactly what you’re getting into, Sproing is one of those workouts you have to see to believe.

I walked through the front door and was immediately greeted by a clean, bright orange and white studio filled with other Chicago bloggers. I was immediately greeted by co-founder Paul and Matt, who were very down-to-earth, friendly, and excited to explain just what Sproing is all about.

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I urge you to go to their website to really understand the workout, but I’ll sum it up for you here: it’s essentially a low impact workout that mimics a treadmill run + strength training, without all that unhealthy pounding on your joints that many of us experience because we don’t have the right running form. It feels like running on the beach! The workout helps promote the right running form and, in my opinion, would be the perfect supplement to any race training.

Since I’m a visual learner (and I’m sure many of you all are too) I found this pretty hilarious video of Sproing on the Steve Harvey show.

I started out by getting hooked up to a heart rate monitor. Now, I’m a bad runner and have never worn a heart rate monitor before. I’m “that person” who, when I first got my Garmin, just charged that bad boy up and left all the other techie stuff in the box (heart rate monitor included — whoops). I didn’t think I’d like the feeling of running with a device strapped to my chest, and have always been worried about it moving up and down while I move.

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I hooked it up right under my sports bra and, surprise surprise, it didn’t move an inch during my workout. Plus I know that including a heart rate monitor is a great indicator of your intensity when running — they hold you accountable to push yourself. Numbers don’t lie, after all.

Soon we all gathered in the studio and were faced with a room full of treadmill-looking machines, chandeliers, and a giant timer. It was really a cool facility: half studio, half nightclub.

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I will say it was pretty intimidating — the machines are like cushiony treadmills with straps and hooks all over, and you have to strap yourself in before you start. It was pretty funny trying to figure it out but the staff at Sproing was great about helping step-by-step. I really hope they give that much attention to all newbies, because I definitely don’t think I would’ve figured it out if there wasn’t a staff member specifically telling me what to hook up where. Luckily Erin was there to figure it out with me.

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Before we knew it the workout began! We started with 15 minutes of explanations/warm ups and then dove right into a seriously intense 30 minute HIIT sequence of running (leaning forward), running (leaning back), inchworms, pushups, bicep curls, jumping jacks, squat jumps, etc. etc. We were instructed to follow our progress on the board and try to stay in the Orange Zone as much as possible (85% max heart rate or higher). I loved having a “scoreboard” like this! I’m terribly competitive so anytime I saw myself fall below the orange zone and into the green, I gave myself a mental push and kicked it into high gear.

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This workout was tough stuff. We only had ten second breaks between rounds, but if you’ve ever done a HIIT workout before, you know that ten seconds really means five. But at the end of it all Erin and I absolutely crushed it in the Orange Zone!

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Three cheers for being 5’10 aka burning the most calories aka getting to eat the most chocolate chips when I got home!

Because we spent more than 20 minutes in the Orange Zone throughout our workout, Paul took our photo (with a Polaroid camera no less) to put on their #dripwall. So basically we’re Chicago celebrities now. NBD.

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#polaroidofapolaroid

We will forever live on in Sproing infamy.

I stayed afterwards to chat more with Paul and Matt and really grew to respect the brand. Paul is the former CEO of Bally Total Fitness and the other co-founder is a very accomplished engineer, so between the two of them they have the passion and the brains to really see this thing through. Paul put it very well: Sproing is unlike any other workout in Chicago. There will always be cycling, yoga and barre studios, but this is truly a revolutionary idea that I think should become more well-known in this city, especially one that is so running-focused.

I know that when I begin training for the Chicago marathon soon, I’ll consider making Sproing a part of my fitness routine. I would definitely put my trust in this machine to improve my form, my time, and my overall cardiovascular fitness. If nothing else, I can definitely see myself replacing tempo runs or other short runs with this workout. I’m much more likely to push myself when I’m doing it in a group setting.

For all my Chicago readers (and anyone visiting), Sproing offers a free first week so take advantage and see what it’s all about!

Questions:

  • Have you ever heard of Sproing before?
  • What’s the most unique workout you’ve heard of lately?