I'll admit it, I'm addicted to SoulCycle—and I know I'm not the only one. Ever since the boutique cycling studio first opened its doors in 2006, the momentum hasn't stopped. Not only does it seem like every other person you meet clips in and taps it back on the reg, but SoulCycle has expanded to upwards of 85 studios around the country and is gaining new riders daily. Now, for the first time since the brand's inception, they're launching a new spin class offering that has everyone talking (and sweating): SoulActivate.
I had the chance to try SoulActivate last week before it opened to the public. I was told the class would be "an athletic-based workout that's 60 minutes of high intensity interval training," but other than that, I didn't know what to expect. How hard, exactly, would it be? Would we have to dismount the bike mid-ride and do burpees?
I arrived a little nervous, but with an open mind. Master SoulCycle instructor Charlee Atkins instructed the class to grab three weights, two lighter ones (3 or 5 pounds) and a heavier one (5 or 8 pounds). Right off the bat, that was different. Three weights—were we going to juggle? (FYI, there was no juggling involved.) I grabbed two 3-pound weights and a 5. I'm happy I had what I did instead of upping to the 8, because the arms portion of class was no joke, but more on that later.
Before we began, Charlee took a few minutes to write on the words "Re-Cover 2 Re-Charge Up" on the mirror in the studio. She explained that we would be doing more interval training than a regular class. So, instead of the instructor telling you to keep pushing without any breaks, there would be time allotted for us to recover with the goal of training us to do so faster (both later on in class and in future workouts). In her words, this was a class for "athletes," whether you played in college or currently belong to an intramural team. Neither of which applied to me—eek! But as a frequent rider, I felt up to the challenge.
The class started like any other SoulCycle ride—but then the intervals hit and Charlee broke out the stop watch. At one point, she told us we would be doing six 20-second runs against resistance with one-minute rest periods. By that sixth run, we were all breathing heavy, but also feeling amazing (at least I was, because it felt like a great accomplishment to push myself). Similar to other rides, Charlee was coaching us through it, asking, "What would you tell sixty people in a room to do to push through this?" That really got me thinking and moving.
When it came time for arms, we were instructed to do many of the same moves I've come to expect at SC (think: bicep curls, tricep extensions, and punches), only this time with slower reps and heavier weights. This may have been my favorite part of class, because I often rely on SoulCycle to be my full-body workout, but sometimes feel that my core and upper body are neglected.
Usually, after arms, it's smooth sailing. With two songs left, I typically cruise to the finish line, but that wasn't the case with SoulActivate. Not only was the arm section longer (and involved some runs), but there were more intervals waiting for us on the other side, this time with a shorter recovery period. Oh, and there were more than two songs.
Overall, SoulActivate was both challenging and fun, and I can't wait to do again—especially now that I know what to expect. "SoulActivate is grounded in threshold training, so riders will notice their heart rate accelerating and decelerating throughout class. Combining intense cycling, strength training, timed heart rate variations and intentional recovery, [the class] works the body's various energy systems to allow riders to train harder," says Janet Fitzgerald, Senior Master Instructor and one of the creators of SoulActivate. With the promise of burning 150-300 more calories than the usual 500 from a typical SoulCycle class, it's a good option for those interested in a tougher workout. If you want to sweat it out to SoulActivate, classes are available in select New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles studios starting today. You can apply a regular class credit to reserve your bike. Keep in mind that it's recommended for riders that have taken 10 or more SoulCycle classes.