Spin Class: The High-Intensity Workout that Thrives on Exclusivity


The thought of throwing on some old gym shorts and going to the local 24-Hour Fitness isn’t exactly sexy or appealing. In fact, there is typically a certain amount of dread and excuse-making that comes with working out at a gym. This summer, I became quite familiar with the “ugh” I would make whenever my gym buddy bailed last minute, forcing me to motivate myself through a solo workout. About halfway through the summer, I decided to seek out a more high-energy, entertaining way of working out. That’s when I remembered that SoulCycle existed.

Photo by Julia Gilman

The format of a spin class is fairly consistent across different studios. The class takes place in a dark room that uses a mix of colored lights and black lights to give a club-like atmosphere. Spinning involves pedaling at different resistance levels to the tempo of loud music while performing crunches, push-ups, and other exercises while on the bike. At a certain point, hand weights are introduced for arm exercises that are also done while pedaling. It’s an extremely high-energy workout that builds leg and core strength, while toning the arms and abdominal muscles. The class instructors are treated a bit like celebrities and usually look the part.

Going into my first class, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that it was trendy, expensive, and supposedly very difficult. As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by a group of bubbly and attractive 20-something employees, who handed me some biking shoes and got me situated on my bike. The class began filling up, and I quickly realized that I was surrounded by young, white, skinny women and other gay men. The instructor came running into the class, jumped on his bike, and began blasting Rihanna through the speakers. I was absolutely not prepared for what came next. After an hour of rapid pedaling, I was exhausted, covered in sweat, and lightheaded. I left the studio unsure if I would be able to physically complete another class.

In the weeks that followed, I was lured back in by the appeal of the loud pop music and the multicolored lights. SoulCycle had a party atmosphere that my local gym completely lacked. I looked forward to my weekly spin class and felt motivated to work out again. However, as I attended more and more classes, I realized that SoulCycle was catering to a certain audience: a wealthy, white, and skinny one. It was rare to see a person of color in a class, and even rarer to see someone without a skinny body. SoulCycle thrives on exclusivity, charging $36 per class and selling $70 branded tank tops. People pose in front of the studio for Instagram pictures, and prepare for class with a $9 green juice.

Although it is unrealistic and inaccessible to attend weekly cycling classes, I encourage readers to give spin classes a try if the high-energy workout sounds appealing. Cycology Studio is located less than a mile from campus and offers a free first class, and $20 classes following that. I have found that both Cycology Studio and Joule Studio in Colorado Springs offer the same workout as SoulCycle at nearly half the price, with less of the green-juice pretentiousness. While spin classes aren’t a realistic replacement for the gym, they can be an exciting way to mix up your workout routine.

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