The Cycle of Life

Thirty dollars can buy you a lot. It’s three custom sandwiches from Whole Foods, plus three kombucha, if you’re a kombucha kind of person (I am). It can fill three-quarters of my gas tank, which can get me up to Sunset or to TPumps five times, six if I’m lucky. It’s two meals at Blue Barn, or a whole lot of bagels. Or you could spend that 30 dollars like me, and clip into a bike at SoulCycle. I’m the punchline of a lot of jokes driving my parents’ car into the city to ride in a color-coordinated, candlelit studio with Beyonce thrumming in my ears, surrounded by the Marina District’s finest. But for me, every class is worth it – the rush-hour traffic over the bridge, the entrance fee, the sarcastic remarks from my friends.  It’s more than just a workout, it’s therapy.

For a long time, I was one of the many who scoff at SoulCycle. I couldn’t understand my friends who would spend so much to do so little. But one Saturday in May, one of my mock trial teammates dragged me with her to a class.

“The instructor’s really hot, Gigi, come on. It’ll be fun. You’ll love it, I promise,” she begged me. “And we can go to Nekter after!”

So with the promise of eye candy and an açai bowl on my friend, I decided to bite the bullet and give it a shot. I walked into the Marin studio and was immediately uncomfortable in an old college t-shirt and leggings, whose cleanliness was questionable at best. Surrounded by coordinating spandex outfits and fresh blowouts, I had a growing sense of dread as I signed the waiver and paid another five dollars for shoes and a SmartWater.

This feeling was only exacerbated as I watched the previous class file out of the studio, beet-faced and soaked with sweat. I wanted my 30 dollars back.

Five minutes before our class began, we entered the studio as Beyonce’s “Partition” blasted through speakers overhead and shook the huge mirror which entirely covered one wall. A cheery employee swapped out the five-pound weights under my seat for two-pounders with a smile and a chipper, “Good luck! If you feel like you’re going to pass out or throw up, don’t be afraid to take a break! Have fun!”

Seated in the back row, I was so close to the rider in front of me that I could practically lick the logo on the back of her leggings. Our instructor sauntered up onto the podium and bellowed, “We ready to rock, Marin?”  Cheers erupted from the Lululemon army around me.  The lights shut off, the music somehow got louder than it already was, and we were off.

The next 45 minutes were some of the hardest and sweatiest of my life as I struggled to hit my “tap-backs” (a sort of squat-push-up hybrid, performed in quick succession to the beat of a song) and keep up with rapid-fire bicep curls while continuing to pedal. But though I wanted to cry a few times and spent an embarrassing amount of sprints trying to just breathe, let alone pedal, I no longer wanted my money back. I left the studio feeling broken physically, but mentally, I was on top of the world.

Thirty dollars is a lot of money, let alone for a single exercise class. But for me, and for the thousands of other riders at studios around the country, every time we clip into our favorite bikes and flip our towels over the handlebars, all of our problems melt away. Every class, I push myself to the very edge of my physical capability, and it’s in those moments that I feel weightless. I inhale intention and exhale expectation. I rejoice in my climbs and find freedom in my sprints. It’s how I work through problems, even those that seem insurmountable: enter class with an issue on my mind and 45 minutes later I have a solution. In fact, SoulCycle has been such an integral part of my life and such a perfect stress-coping mechanism that it was the subject of my first Common Application essay. It’s worth the money and then some.  So next time you have 30 dollars and a lot on your mind, give it a shot. Just like I read on the wall of the studio that fateful day back in May, I am part of “the tribe, the pack, the posse,” and I couldn’t be prouder.