What Happened When a Dedicated Flywheeler Tried SoulCycle's New Class
During many of my chaotic nonstop days, I’ve found the utmost peace in cycling. I took my first cycling class in March 2017 when I finally decided to make my health a priority, and I haven’t stopped putting the pedal to the medal ever since. I’d never challenged my body in such an invigorating, exciting way until I found Flywheel. Even on days when I feel drained and would rather go home, order Thai food, and hide underneath my covers, I go cycling.
And I never regret it—I leave feeling more energized than I did when I came in. The high from exercise endorphins are real, and they get me every time. The physical and mental push I experience every single second I ride those wheels motivates me to continue living my life the same way: with no limits. You can probably assume by now that I’m an avid cycler, so when I heard about SoulCycle’s new class, SoulActivate, I was game to give it a try.
I’ve been to a few SoulCycle classes before, but not nearly as much as I go to Flywheel. The first time I tried SoulCycle, I understood the hype, though—those 45 minutes were insanely inspiring. What’s exciting about SoulActivate is that it’s the first deviation from SoulCycle’s traditional classes since its inception 12 years ago. It incorporates high-intensity intervals, strength training, heavier upper-body work, and more teamwork—aka it’s SoulCycle taken up a notch.
The brand describes the 60-minute ride as an “athletic-based high-intensity interval training and strength class in which we use recovery as a tool and resistance as a way of unleashing our inner athlete.” It’s intended for advanced riders who’ve taken up to 10 classes. SoulCycle said in a press release that the “workout purposefully accelerates and decelerates your heart rate to burn fat and build endurance.” So if you’re looking for solid results and a hardcore workout, this is for you. I intentionally cycle for the full-body workout and crave results, so this sounded right up my alley.
I was invited to the first test run of this class before it was open to the public. Um, hell yes. I walked into class confident both because cycling’s my thing and because I was excited to try this not-so-typical class. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, so my anticipation was high. The moment I entered the dimly lit room I was greeted by master instructor Charlee Atkins and a room full of badass riders. We were told to grab five- or eight-pound dumbbells, as the two to three-pound weights used in normal SoulCycle classes didn’t cut it this time. Oh, shit.
That’s when I knew the next 60 minutes was about to be no joke. Prior to class, Atkins wrote on the front mirror “ReCover to ReCharge Up.” When we were locking in on our bikes, she explained that we’d be maximizing recovery time with one-minute rest breaks and going extra hard in between with intense intervals while incorporating slower movements with heavier weights. Then it became clear to me that SoulActivate taps more into the science of cycling if you’re down to burn fat faster, gain muscle strength, and see real-time results. Oh, and if you’re up for the challenge.
Let the games begin. The first few minutes of class were similar to regular SoulCycle classes. The music was pumping, my adrenaline was high, and we all danced around on our bikes together to the beat of the surround-sound speakers. I appreciated the fact that the inspiring vibe of SoulCycle was still very much so present in this new class. I got this, I said to myself. Then about halfway through the class, the switch-up came in strong with intervals.
Atkins used her stopwatch to time us and announced we’d all be committing to six 20-second runs against heavy resistance (which went up each time), along with one-minute rests in between each. I was used to resistance intervals and racing because of Flywheel, but this was a way more calculated approach. Each interval got harder than the one before it, and Atkins motivated us to push it to the max each time. She also implemented teamwork, reminding us that we’re all running up these hills together. So we cheered on our neighbors and shouted “Go!” in unison before each interval. By the last interval, I was out of breath and felt like my legs were about to fall off.
Up next were arms. I’m working on building my upper-body strength, so arms are always tough for me. I picked up five-pound weights at the beginning of class and felt like that was the best decision I’d made all day. And I was right. Arms in SoulActivate also include runs and were for a longer period of time. Usually, when I get to the arms period of any cycling class I feel like I’m smooth sailing because cool-down is on the way. Nope, not in this class. A few more intervals were ahead of me with shorter recovery times. By the end of class, my body felt like it had just run a marathon.
I’ve since been back to SoulActivate, and I’m a fan of how challenging it is. We all exercise for different reasons, which is the beauty of staying active. Sometimes I’m simply seeking a mental release and enjoy riding to the music and getting lost in my thoughts with absolutely no numbers involved, so I go to traditional SoulCycle classes. Other times I’m aiming to burn and take my body to places it’s never been before, so I go to SoulActivate. That’s the freedom in cycling, and these two very different yet equally fulfilling options are now available to you at SoulCycle. The choice is yours. But I highly recommend you give SoulActivate a whirl because you might surprise yourself—I know I did.
SoulActivate classes are available in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.