I've been awake since 5:00 A.M. and I've already done at least half of my daily exercise. I've got about 45 minutes to go before my inaugural SoulCycle class and I'm doing my best to get pumped—loud music, punching my palms, imagining the promised endorphin high, you know, the usual. With a few minutes to spare, I look up tonight's instructor on Rate Your Burn to discover she comes highly recommended. A few tweets later, a bunch of people I follow confirm what I've just read.
The NoHo SoulCycle is teeming with people, mostly girls and what I'm almost positive is a reality TV housewife. Everybody knows what they're doing and they all seem to know each other. Immediately, I feel entirely inadequate. It's high school all over again and high school sucked. A miniature army of bubbly blondes wave me to the front desk to get me checked in and give me a special pair of cycling shoes. They're surprisingly welcoming, which is an unexpected comfort. Nestled in a corner, I wait for the friend who finally convinced me to sign up for all this. All I can think is, "I'm in so over my head right now and they all know it. Why are they laughing? Oh right, that's because they're laughing at me, giving me looks like, 'Who the fuck is this dude? And why is he here?'" As usual, I bury my head in my phone to fire off some passive aggressive tweets to ease my troubled mind. My friend finally arrives, rescuing me from my crippling lonesomeness amongst the SoulCyclists. My time is running out. Class is almost about to start.
Now I'm sitting on a bench in a very narrow corridor. The girl next to me is saying she doesn't believe in personal trainers and the "whole gym lifestyle." Well, I personally don't believe in classes, and while I'd like to argue with her and tell her she probably had a shitty trainer, I convince myself to agree to disagree. The previous class saunters past us. That impending sense of doom I mentioned? It's materialized and walking right in front of me. Jello-like bodies, dripping in sweat, dazed from exhaustion, all filing to collect their things and move on with their lives. That's what I'm going to look like in an hour, but worse. Way worse.
Slowly, my feet begin to follow suit and I take solace in knowing that, at the very least, no one is behind me to witness the most epic of plumber butts I'll be rocking with for the next 60 minutes.
Inside is dark, very dark and it's a darkness I appreciate. My assigned bike is in the back row on a riser, impossibly far away from my friend. Everybody is adjusting—moving knobs and aligning. I stand there, waiting for somebody to help me, begging for somebody to notice the weird dude who's just standing there in an intramural basketball T-shirt. Thankfully a blonde comes to help me and she even buckles my shoes in. She asks me if it's my first time. Forcing myself to let the most obvious of jokes pass, I confirm her suspicions and she congratulates me for picking not only an hour long class, but a particularly grueling one. Fan-fucking-tastic. The girl next to me widens here eyes, the apparent news hitting her like what I imagine would be a bicycle to the face. I let her know that we'll get through this together. Some kindly showoff to my right is already pedaling like a beast. Everyone's got something to prove in this city, don't they? Slowly, my feet begin to follow suit and I take solace in knowing that, at the very least, no one is behind me to witness the most epic of plumber butts I'll be rocking with for the next 60 minutes.
Laurie, our instructor, finally comes in. She's wearing a Led Zeppelin tank, in honor of the Zeppelin only class we're about to start. Her attitude is rock solid—almost immediately I know she's the rare kind of instructor that won't call you out, but will, instead, actually encourage you to succeed. I don't want to let her down or, maybe, I just don't want her to think I'm a pussy. A few insufferable whoops of excitement emerge from the darkness and it begins. Here is how things unfolded inside of my oxygen deprived, unbelievably exhausted brain:
Cycling, whatever, I can lift, like, a shit-ton of weight.
It's so hot in here, why is it so hot?
The fuck? I have to balance a water bottle on my head?
Who is this chick in the front row? Does she think she's better than us? Does she? She does.
We just started…we just fucking started, oh my god.
Oh, so Front Row Girl just thinks she owns all of us? She just owns the whole world, doesn't she?
There is fog all over the mirror. I feel like I'm in the worst music video ever.
I wonder how many of these people follow me on Twitter…
DON'T CALL ME OUT. DON'T CALL ME OUT. DON'TCALLMEOUT.
Why did I think that Zeppelin sang "Freebird"? God, I'm an idiot.
Oh, so everybody here is moving to the beat of the song and I'm the one guy screwing it all up. Good one, John.
Laurie just told me that I have to think strong to be strong, and she's right. I am strong. I am a fucking Greek god. I will pick up this bike and throw it into the wall.
Hey, you, person who opened the door, can you please stop ruining everything ever?
Fuck, I dropped my water bottle. Where is it? Who will get it? I'm so thirsty already.
But seriously, what if I just got off my bike and left?
I can't believe you made me do this, Kate. Worst friend of all time.
It's official, I'm going to die here. I'm going to die in SoulCycle and everybody in Manhattan will hate me forever because they'll have to close SoulCycle because I died here. And they won't even find me until class is over.
That was just the warmup? I like you Laurie, but goddamn you make it hard for me to love you.
Fuck you, stationary bike thing. Your'e just a machine. I am a man. I will destroy you. You are mine.
Guitar solo! Thank you baby Jesus.
Nobody wants to be the coward who couldn't make it the last 90 seconds, so I shut my eyes and start head banging my face off.
At this point, I'm honestly starting to warm up to the whole thing. After a while, you stop focusing on the exertion and start focusing on the ride. I know how that sounds, but you kind of can't explain it unless you actually do it, bitch. Our bodies are all in the same rhythm and a mob mentality is taking over. Laurie screams over us. She is our chief and she rides her mystical bike through the darkness. My legs are on fire, my crotch is chaffed and I'm doing everything I can to just keep up. Laurie's voice cuts through the music and informs us we're more than 3/4 of the way there.
Seriously? It feels like it's been 15 minutes. I am indeed a god amongst men.
Look at my fucking sexy ass face in that mirror. I'm biking up Mt. Everest right now and looking damn good doing it.
Front Row Girl, I know we've had our differences, but now I can see that I respect you and your crazy. I got nothing but mad love for you, gurl.
Am I gonna fist pound everybody after this? What are the logistics of something like that?
There will come a day when the courage of men fails, but it is not this day!
If I don't finish this ride, the entire country will fall apart. I have to do this shit for America.
"Stairway to Heaven" is playing and I can barely make out the person next to me. The resistance on our bikes is high and the build in the music is slower than I remember. Climb. Time. My legs are shot and all I can think about is how blissfully good it will feel when I hit the cold air outside. I know the song well and the anticipation builds. And sure enough, like all things eventually, it comes. We're told to sprint. You can hear the pedals moving faster and faster and there's this sense of looming doom/release in the room. 90 seconds to go. Nobody wants to be the coward who couldn't make it the last 90 seconds, so I shut my eyes and start head banging my face off. There are some final encouraging words from Laurie that resemble a eulogy and the song fades.
We all shuffle back down the hallway, trying our hardest not to touch each other because a single graze means certain death. I instantly recall seeing the first class exit the room an hour prior. Another friend of mine who happened to be there touched my shoulder, but quickly recoiled with a loud and disgusted, "Oh! You're really wet." She speaks the truth. Every part of my being is drenched. All I want to do is get outside. I pray to god that the sweat on my shirt freezes and shocks me back into reality.
Outside I feel like I'm stoned out of my goddamn mind. It's a euphoric trance. I can't feel anything below my waist and the resulting endorphin rush makes me feel like I could punch a hole through a bus. Tomorrow I'll resume my normal fitness routine in the morning. By then the rush will have subsided and I'll be feeling all sorts of pain that I never new existed, topped off with what I imagine will be a world record unpleasantness in my groin. I consider my return to SoulCycle, my triumphant swan song, a hero's return. It's hard to say if I'll be back for sure. But all that matters is that I left feeling a lot better than I did when I walked in. And if that sounds like something you'd be interested in, I suggest you brave the thunderdome for yourself—Laurie's class, specifically the Zeppelin one.