Celebrities are doing it. Oprah just had an arena-wide session at her "The Life You Want Weekend" in Newark. It's called SoulCycle—"indoor cycling re-invented," as the company's website says.
"Do you want to take a SoulCycle class?" asked my daughter A, since I had planned to visit NYC this past weekend. "I'll register us for Saturday at 10:45 a.m."
"OK, let's go for it," I replied. I had taken a spinning class once before but never done SoulCycle. "Maybe we will see some celebrities," I said. I had heard that Jake Gyllenhaal was a cycler in the city.
I dressed in my artful gray and black leggings and black tee. We arrived early for the sold-out session. We checked in at the front desk and were given cycling shoes and instructed to go downstairs to put our things in a locker. I signed the waiver, since I was a first-time rider.
Ready to Ride
I watched as previous class attendees exited the exercise room—each sweating profusely. I peered around the crowd to see my comrades. Millennials were in the majority, most with ponytails and sweatbands. Was I ready for this 45-minute choreographed workout? Would my body and legs survive the intensity?
I entered the dark room with mirrored walls and wallpaper filled with impelling words. A staff member helped me adjust my assigned seat. He fixed the pedals and locked in my shoes. No escaping now.
"I'm Mantas, your instructor for this session," said Mantas as he shut the door tight and jumped on his bike. Up came the loud electronic music. "Stretch those legs," he shouted. "Are you ready for the ride?"
I stretched my legs just like we do in yoga. This is easy. I can do this.
The lights got lower. The music rocked harder. My heartbeat revved. I was nervous. It felt like I was getting ready for a roller coaster ride—and I remembered I really don't like roller coasters.
"Arms in position three. Get up off your seat," shouted Mantas. "Pedal, pedal, pedal."
What? You want me to lift my butt off this seat? No way.
"Turn the resistance up. Now sit for four counts and up for four," shouted Mantas.
I put pedal to the metal. I upped my game and my butt. It didn't last too long. Down I plopped. My legs kept spinning.
"Up two. Down two. Up four. Down four. Up eight. Down eight," shouted Mantas.
I huffed and puffed. I lifted my butt for a count of two and plopped it down again. My legs kept spinning.
"We're 15 minutes in. You're all doing great," shouted Mantas. "Breathe in. Breathe out. Know that you are doing this for yourself. You're feeling it in your soul," Mantas said, trying to inspire us.
It was close quarters. The sweat was only a third completed. Two-thirds more to go. Will I pull it off—I mean pedal off?
I reached for my water bottle to take a gulp. I breathed in, hoping that I wasn't breathing in everyone else's CO2. I breathed out. It was hot. It was really hot. Thirty minutes to go. How much longer? Would I be able to return the water bottle to its rightful holder? Yes, I did it.
"Sit up straight and grab your two-pound weights," shouted Mantas.
Can I grab the weights and keep pedaling? Yes, I did it.
"Left arm four counts. Right arm four counts. Right arm up for four. Left arm up for four. Hold both arms up for four," shouted Mantas as he encouraged us to work our upper body. "Now put the weights back in the holder."
Would I be able to put the weights behind me and keep on spinning? Yes, I did it.
"We're done," shouted Mantas. He turned up the lights and invited us to stretch our legs.
I couldn't believe I had made it through the last 30 minutes. But would I be able to walk out the door? Yes, I did it. It felt good to be back on solid ground.
Try a Class
For those who want to try SoulCycle during your life after 50, I recommend it for a cardio workout. However, if you have any kind of heart condition, check with your doctor first. At around $30 per session and $3 to rent shoes, it's not a cheap ride. First-timers receive a special $20 rate.
Founders Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler opened their first studio on New York's Upper West Side in 2006. Since then, SoulCycle has opened 25 locations nationwide and plans to open 50 to 60 studios worldwide by 2015.
I left the SoulCycle studio with an intense feeling of accomplishment. Maybe the SoulCycle spirit does really work to "let loose and empower one's strength beyond the studio walls."
Fast Forward to Sunday
"Help," I cried to my boyfriend L. "I hope I can get my body out of bed. That was some ride yesterday. Think I'll spend the rest of the day in my bathtub filled with Epsom salts."