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photo 3-1In a city like New York where trends spread like wildfire, health and fitness crazes are treated no differently. In recent years, going to the gym has transitioned from being a chore to a place of social gathering. The latest fitness crazes have been capitalized on by the top 1%, who set themselves apart with their luxury, high-end gyms and egregiously expensive workout apparel that serves as a fashion statement. This is where SoulCycle comes in. Founded in 2006, SoulCycle began as an indoor spin-cycling chain in New York City. After establishing numerous studios throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, the business extended to wealthy areas in California, D.C. and Long Island, including the North Shore and the playground of the world’s wealthiest, the Hamptons.[1] Not long after the birth of SoulCycle did the craze begin. For enthusiasts of the high-energy, high-priced spin class, SoulCycle is a lifestyle with a cult like following..that is, if you can afford to buy into it.

Most classes cost around $40 for a 45 minute session, in which one endures long sprints and tough bouts of heavy climbing with resistance, all the while moving to loud, booming music. To most people, spending so much on just one class is excessive. This made me question whether the classes were truly worth the money, or if this was just another way for New York yuppies to set themselves apart. Considering I am merely a broke college student who does not have the luxury of spending such money on just one class, I took advantage of a deal that offers free classes to Fordham students. I hopped on the subway unsure of what to expect as I made my way to this spin-cycling mecca.

When I arrive, I walk up to the front counter and am greeted by a young, fresh-faced blonde who is eager to squeeze money out of me, encouraging me to browse the apparel while I wait for my class to start. Heeding her advice, I peruse the apparel section in hopes of finding a new pair of workout pants or tank top. I’m taken aback to find that a flimsy shirt decorated with their slogan “LIVE,LOVE,SOUL” to be $42; a small, strappy sports bra will run you $50. Instead of hastily spending money on a tank top I’d most likely regret, I check out the rest of the spot. The entire studio, from the front counter to the bathrooms and lockers, is absolutely pristine. Everything is white and smells like lemon verbena. The lights are a bright white that seem to point of every little imperfection in the mirror. All along the walls in big writing are “SOUL”, “WARRIOR”, “ATHLETE”, “LEGEND” and other inspirational words. Before entering the cycling room there’s a list of etiquette rules, which I laugh under my breath and think “these people seem to take all of this WAY too seriously”.

The company strongly emphasizes proper etiquette when on the bike.

The company strongly emphasizes proper etiquette when on the bike.

It’s finally time to make my way into the spin studio. As the previous class wraps up, men and women come stumbling out drenched in sweat. The majority of participants are attractive, fit young men and women who somehow manage to make sweating look glamourous. I walk into the room, which is dimly lit by 4 large white candles that are positioned around the spin instructors’ podium. I take a seat in the front row, which I’m told is usually reserved for “the pack”, which are the most seasoned, experienced SoulCycle-rs that seem to lead the rest of the class. I’ve taken many a spin class before at my own gym, so I don’t see how this could be much different aside from the hype surrounding it. The class is about to start and as I strap myself in, the instructor comes around and introduces herself to every participant. She’s a beautiful young woman, wearing nothing but spandex pants and a sports bra that show off her perfectly toned arms and flat stomach. She seems genuinely happy and excited to be there, which in turn snaps me out of my pre-finals funk and into a better mindset. The lights go down and the room is filled with sound. The stresses in my life were momentarily non-existent. The heavy beats bounce off the walls and circulate through my body as I move my feet in sync with the music.

All the while the instructor is motivating us with words of encouragement. “How can you be your best self today?” she yells over the music, “I want you to channel any negative emotions that you’re feeling into this ride, because these next 45 minutes are all about you.” The vibes that emanate through the room are like none I have ever felt in a gym class before; while most are staring at the clock waiting for the class to be over, everyone is hooting, hollering and singing along with the music despite being out of breath. The energy is palpable in the room; every single person is choosing to let out their negative emotions and bring forth their positive energies. Once the 45 minutes is up, we finish with a stretch as the instructor tells us all “namaste, soul-cyclers”. I finally grasp an understanding of why people are so eager to buy into the company’s brand. I leave the room feeling even more energized than before and surprised by how fast the class went by.

While the experience was an overall positive one, I am still not fully sold. Unless I had the luxury, I would not go out of my way to pay so much for a single workout session. SoulCycle is certainly no poor mans cycling studio and the company makes no secret of it. While most would opt for an all-inclusive gym that offers exercise machines, weights, and group classes for so little as $10 a month, SoulCycle enthusiasts have no problem spending upwards of $200 a week for five 45 minute classes. This is a hefty price to pay, especially if one chooses to do this on a weekly basis. These self-proclaimed “warriors” of Soulcycle show their earned stripes through their $100 lululemon yoga pants and designer sneakers. Participants buy into the company’s marketing strategies to be perceived as a luxury brand, in which one must look the part and live out their ideologies.

SoulCycle’s business model is only enhanced by their strategic move to build studios in some of America’s wealthiest ZIP codes, where $40 a day for a spin class is merely part of one’s morning routine. The classes are kept exclusive considering there is no monthly fee; rather, sign-ups for classes occur every Monday online and are given on a first come, first serve basis. This exclusivity of it proves that top priority is given to those who are most dedicated and have the fattest wallets. Although the brand of SoulCycle only continues to grow as the company plans on building more studios, their model for growth is somewhat problematic in that a huge demographic are outright ignored. For now, you can find me at my local gym.

 

[1] Willett, Megan. Sept. 30, 2014. Why People Pay $34 A Class For The Most Popular Cycling Work Out In America. http://www.businessinsider.com/why-people-pay-34-for-soulcycle-2014-9

 

 

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