My difficult relationship with SOULCYCLE

I’m doing this up front, right now, so you know whether you want to read this. These are my personal feelings about SOUL, many of which aren’t positive. You don’t have to agree, you don’t have to change. I’m just writing down my thoughts because it’s been weighing on me.

I loved SOULCYCLE. Loved it. I’ve attended ~20 classes, and I’ve given them a ton of money. According to Mint, nearly $1000 total including classes, shoe rental, water and retail. I love a lot of things about it, so I’ll start with the positives.

I love the instructors, especially Hallie. I love the clean, modern, sleek feel to the studios. I love that the bikes don’t have numbers attached to them, so I can just push my own ride without the constant distraction (I prefer to ride by feel, but like I run by feel). I love the location of OLTN and LOOP. Their retail is fun and creative and unusual.

But I’m slowly starting to realize that SOUL isn’t really hardcore about fitness. I know, that’s a weird statement and now everyone is pissed off at me. I don’t think this because of the instructors, or the staff at the locations. I think this because of the founders, the upper, upper management, and the vibe they’re cultivating. Let me explain.

When you go to a boutique fitness studio, like Sweat, Barry’s, Flywheel/Flybarre, or others, you expect more specialized, personal, and customer-centric service. You expect to be treated like what you are: a paying member of the community. At SOUL, it’s a different vibe. Classes? They expire. Front row? Only if you’re good. Rep them on your outfit? Only if you make enough to afford a $50 t-shirt (literally, just a t-shirt, not a performance top or anything). At SOUL you feel…exclusive. You feel a notch above. And at first, that feeling was good. I was like, “Yes! I’ve finally ‘made it’—I can afford SOUL and their clothes!” and then I started to realize that when I came into classes, I felt like I was coming into a fashion show.

I don’t mean “Oh, everyone is in Nike and Lulu and they match.” I’m a huge proponent of investing in quality gear that lasts a long time, over cheap gear that you have to replace constantly, and feeling put-together on runs helps set the mood of “work” for me. Not at all knocking that, fyi. What I mean is that I feel out of place with my gym bag and college tank top, when everyone else is toting their gym gear in Goyard and Louis Vuitton Neverfulls and wearing exclusively SOUL merchandise.

I get it. I know how that paragraph sounded, and I had to rewrite it like 14 times to lessen the “whine.” I sound like an insecure baby. I know, I know. I’ve sat and wondered if that’s really what it boils down to. Maybe it does. Maybe I’m inventing this vibe. So I’ll move onto a huge problem I’m having.

I don’t feel like I’m progressing. I crank the resistance, I use 3lb and 5lb hand wights, I stay on the beat and out of the saddle. I don’t feel like I’m working out. I mean, I get sweaty, but the room is so warm that I’m not sure if it’s actually the workout. This could be due to my personal goals: I’m in excellent cardiovascular shape, and right now I’m working on strengthening my legs to help me speed up my pace while running. I notice that at the end of half marathons, I’m not winded; my legs are giving out. I can literally hold full convos down to an 8:50 pace right now, but my legs just die. I need something that actually builds muscle too, not just cardio strength.

My final issue is with my attempt at organizing a charity ride. My fundraising goal for Sophie and Madigan’s Playground and the Disney Princess Half Marathon’s Glass Slipper Challenge is $850. I wanted to raise $1000, but as an adult that’s really tough, so I settled for the $850. When I reached out to SOUL, they let me know that it would cost $850 just to use the studio. I can’t find a single other studio that charges anything near that for an event. Enrgi didn’t charge me, Barry’s doesn’t charge. Shred doesn’t charge. Like I totally get maybe $200 or so. But $850? That’s not very charitable. I would have had to ask all of my friends to pay $50 and fill 30 bikes, to make $650. I would likely only have filled 20 or fewer at $50. Even at $30, I only got 7 people to sign up. This just rubbed me the wrong way. Though, full disclaimer, they have offered me a discount at a rate of $500 for a future class. We’ll see. I’m not sure how I feel about raising money for St. Jude (who I run for) and giving $500 of it to SOUL. It’s not a charity ride at that point; I’m just paying $500 for a private ride with friends, essentially. SOUL can definitely afford to do a class now and then off their normal schedule for $200 or so. They don’t need the full amount they would make if they had a full class at that time.

So there it is. My issues with SOUL. I’m sorry if I sound like a petty baby. Like I said, my issue is so high up. I love love love the Chicago instructors and desk staff. They’re all so sweet and helpful. I’ll still stop in from time to time to ride with Hallie or Kellen. I’ll still wear my cozy OLTN sweatshirt when I’m relaxing at home. But I’m checking out new spin classes now. Flywheel isn’t my favorite (I’m not in love with their bikes) but I’m trying out Peloton at Studio Three, Full Psychle, and I’m very excited for Cyclebar in Fulton Market to open up (keep your eyes peeled for details on their grand opening!). I love Barry’s (and their classes that don’t expire for a YEAR!!) and I love Sweat. I’ll always love my Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club events, which are very high quality and free. But SOUL and I are on a break for now. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.

What do YOU think about SOUL? Am I overreacting?

--B

 This is at Flywheel/Flybarre in Old Town, a SOUL competitor.

This is at Flywheel/Flybarre in Old Town, a SOUL competitor.

Brittany2 Comments