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“I’d Rather Sell My Soul Than Soul Cycle”

By Jennifer Sage On January 29, 2013 Under Contraindications, Form and Technique, Keep it Real


“I’d rather sell my soul than Soul Cycle, frankly.”

That was the quote in an article in Gawker, an online entertainment magazine. Three employees from Gawker were invited to take a free class at Soul Cycle in Manhattan. The article is quite entertaining, and Soul Cycle will no doubt rue the day they invited Rich, Caity, and Leah to attend a class. But hey, they opened themselves up to honest evaluation!

I realize that these three have never taken any kind of Spinning® or indoor cycling class; in fact, they aren’t really exercisers at all, so they might joke about any class. But I do not think they would be quite as irreverent if they attended a cycling class in which the instructor taught like a true coach; someone who employs proven inspirational coaching methods instead of silly yogic clichés such as “I want your next breath to be an exorcism” or “Be honest about who you are trying to be.”

They wouldn’t have anything to mock if they were to review a class taught by an instructor who uses profiles that offer a combination of education, inspiration, and fun while utilizing correct (and safe) cycling techniques and adhering to proper exercise science training principles*. The Gawkers hit on the circus atmosphere of a Soul Cycle class and questioned why the heck they were doing what they were doing. They also have a field day discussing their instructor, Danny.

Below are a few quotes from their review, followed by my commentary:

Rich: Danny told us, “If you’re out of breath, don’t be embarrassed. It means that something shifted.” I wasn’t out of breath, nothing shifted, except for my balls, into my body, whenever we had to do a seat tap or pushup on the handlebars while seated.

Shifted? Really? What could have shifted to make you breathless? And why should anyone be embarrassed by being out of breath? There are very basic physiological reasons for being out of breath—it is a normal human response to intensity and is never anything to be embarrassed about. Being out of breath simply means you pushed yourself beyond what you normally do—that’s a good thing! And sorry to tell you, Danny, nothing “shifted,” metaphorically or literally. If it did, please call 911. Besides, you, the instructor, should tell students when you want them to be breathless or not; it’s a crucial element to proper instruction, guiding students to the intensity you want them to attain, depending on the objective of the ride.

Perhaps the only objective in a Soul Cycle class is the desire to create massive pools of sweat?

About those “tap backs.” These are a kind of “reverse jump” where you aggressively “tap” your butt back with a pelvic thrust onto the rear part of the saddle, then quickly return to a standing position. They are a high-risk move because of the deceleration required by the back muscles, otherwise, you’d slam down hard into the saddle. Not to mention that one knee is constantly hyperextending as it pushes the pedal down every second, timed with the butt tapping back. This forces the knee behind the proper alignment required to apply force to the pedal—one of the key reasons why cyclists experience knee pain.

There is zero benefit to doing tap backs. They are potentially harmful to joints and the musculature of the back, and apparently, according to Rich, the balls. They aren’t much fun to the female anatomy either.

Even the basics of how a muscle works seem to be lost on these instructors. Pushups for example. While sitting upright on a bike, they serve no purpose whatsoever, although there is a whole host of negative outcomes when doing them. To strengthen a muscle, you must oppose the force against which you are working. In the case of a pushup, gravity is the force. Gravity works straight down, so for a pushup, you need to be facing the ground to work against it.

Because most of your body weight is supported by a bike saddle, and because you are opposing the force, there’s very little resistance (even if you are standing on the bike); therefore it is nonsense to claim this is an upper body workout. To see the difference yourself, get on the floor and do 10 full body pushups. It’s hard! Then sit in a chair and do a “pushup” on the desk or table in front of you. Yup…I can see your head nodding in agreement…that wasn’t hard at all, was it?

These “elbow bends” (we can’t really call them pushups) do nothing for your upper body, but they do interfere with a smooth, continuous pedal stroke. This will absolutely reduce your power output. (See below for why power is important).

Soul Cycle instructors also claim these pushups are a core exercise. Not while sitting upright they aren’t!

Seriously…if you hired a personal trainer and he made you do pushups while seated upright, that trainer should be fired because he doesn’t know his exercise physiology.

But why is it OK in a cycling class?

It shouldn’t be.

The same uselessness goes for crunches while sitting upright (as in the photo above). A crunch should oppose the resistance (gravity)—that is why you lie down to do them. But when you are sitting on a bike and “crunch”, you are working with gravity so there’s no resistance. See how that works? Besides, any good trainer knows that crunches are passé and not the way to strengthen the core. But you need to take a certification and/or continuing education to know that.

These instructors aren’t required to have any certifications, continuing education or experience in exercise science.

Caity: I would say that from start to finish I had no to very little idea what was going on. I wish there had been some kind of prep video I could have watched beforehand.

I tried to base my moves on what those around me were doing. BUT I DIDN’T REALLY KNOW WHAT THEY WERE DOING.

In a group fitness class in which there are new people in every class, there should always be some explanation by the instructor of what is going on; some coaching about modifications and permission to ride at a lower intensity. Or at the very least, a handout that explains about intensity and what to expect.

On the other hand, when you are riding the bike properly and not like in a circus show, there is no need to explain anything elaborate…it’s just like riding a real bike!

Rich: I found that when my nose wasn’t up the ass of the guy who was cycling in front of me, I was able to follow his lead a lot better than Danny’s.

At many studios of this sort, where the bikes are crammed so close together, both fore and aft and side to side, I cannot fathom the attraction. People pay big money for this cattle-car, sweat-bath experience.

Maybe it reminds participants of a nightclub?

Moreover, these last few comments by Rich and Caity show that at Soul Cycle, it’s all about choreography and constant movement. If you’re moving around on a bike that much, it is virtually impossible to pedal correctly, smoothly, and safely. When you are constantly jerking around on the pedals, there is a great amount of stress in the joints, and all the fluff moves and constant movement causes a reduction of power output.

Power?

You might be thinking, “Why should I care about power? I’m not a real cyclist. I just want to burn calories!”

Power output is directly related to how much work you are doing, and hence, how many calories you burn. If your average power drops, your caloric consumption will drop. If we could put power meters on these bikes, we could show riders that they are burning FAR fewer calories than they are being told. The reason is because they are doing fluff moves, and not actual work. The biggest contributor to the low power output and low workload is the very high cadence at very low resistance, a signature part of a Soul Cycle ride. This type of pedaling yields extremely low power output. Ironically, the heart rate is still high, but that doesn’t translate to actual “work”. The power does.

Please bear with me for a moment while I get a little bit sciencey…I’ll try to keep it simple.

The equation for power is P = fv (power is equal to force times velocity). On a bike, velocity is equivalent to your cadence (how fast your legs are turning the pedals) and force is related to the resistance you have to push against. It doesn’t matter how fast your legs are going, if your resistance is nil, then power will be close to nil.
(Note that this power equation is oversimplified in order to keep this post from being a text book chapter).

This, my friends, is the reason why you don’t burn many calories in these classes. If they taught riders to add more resistance and pedal at a slower rate, somewhere between 60 and 110 rpm, then there would be far greater success. If they just rode the bike and used real riding techniques instead of fluff moves, caloric consumption would sky rocket.

Rich: The NY Mag article talks about how they hire stars, not necessarily experienced trainers.

This is the most important line of the article. Read it again. These instructors know little, if anything, about physiology, biomechanics, or real cycling technique. This is also a sad exposé of the fitness industry, and more specifically, the indoor cycling industry. It’s not just at this boutique brand, either. Far too few instructors have sufficient experience and education in exercise science and anatomy. A one-day indoor cycling certification is usually not enough to provide a new instructor the knowledge needed to put together and teach safe and effective classes.

Caity: But I think because I didn’t know exactly what to do, I never really got the “workout.”

This is a telling statement. She recognized that even with all the up and down and front and back and frantic pedaling and non-stop sweat, there really wasn’t much of a benefit. Not being an exerciser, she wonders what she was missing and thinks she was doing it wrong because she was unable to “follow” the instructor and therefore she thinks she missed out on the “workout.”

But the truth is, that is not the reason why she didn’t “get the workout.” The real reason is that this aerobics-on-a-bike nonsense reduces power output so there really isn’t much “workout” to be had. It is virtually impossible to maintain a good power output it if you pedal like that, or do pushups, or crunches, or tap backs. Nevertheless, heart rate will still be high because of the high cadences, the hot, humid room, and the flopping around on the bike. As stated above, calories are a result of power output, not how much you sweat or even how high your heart rate gets.

So, although she is unaware of it, she is correct. There was little “workout” to get.

Rich: It takes might to hold your arms up for a long time, though, as we learned. The weight routine, in which we had to keep our arms extended while doing all sorts of arm-crossy things with small hand weights for about five straight minutes without a break, was the best part.
…in that it was the worst.

Leah: I was too cool for the weights. I noodle-armed the shit out of those.

Leah hits the nail on the head. You can “noodle-arm the shit” out of those weights because it’s only 1 lb and not enough to cause any adaptation in the muscles. I bet most students noodle-arm the weight segment.

We did silly things like this back in the 1980s, holding our arms out forever until they burned. But we could be excused for doing silly techniques back then because exercise science was still in its infancy and we really didn’t know any better. (We, meaning the fitness industry).

But now we do know better. Exercise science teaches us that this kind of training is ineffective. Except for the very old, the frail, or those rehabbing an injury, lifting a 1-lb (or even 2-lb weight for most people) is not an upper body workout; it will not make you stronger. Anyone who is certified through a reputable agency, and who maintains and updates that certification and knowledge through attending conferences and continuing education, would know this.

Caity: The rule was printed on the wall. It was like, “Do laundry so you don’t smell, don’t talk.”

Is this a Manhattan thing?

Caity: I think what I learned is that I might not excel in classes where trainers yell at you. Every time Danny pleaded with me to “PUSH IT!!!” I was unmoved. I would rather try Zumba.

She is not alone. Tip for you instructors: yelling at students is one of the least effective ways to motivate.

I could go on about the “mean girl vibe,” the co-ed locker rooms, and the narcissistic instructor who gazed at himself in the mirror, but I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about those when you read the Gawker article.

For all you educated, experienced, qualified instructors out there reading this who do understand exercise science and honor the principles of riding a bicycle, please give yourself a huge hug and a pat on the back! We need more of you.

And for all you indoor cycling fanatics who have instructors who do keep it real while also infusing their classes with fun and inspiration, and who motivate you with correct cadence and resistance ranges, give them a big hug and tell them how much you appreciate them. We need more of them!

 

*inspirational, fun, and technically correct profiles such as the ones we provide on the Indoor Cycling Association


 

Jennifer Sage is the founder of the Indoor Cycling Association, an online educational resource to educate and inspire indoor cycling instructors from all programs on all bikes. The motto of ICA is to fire up the passion of instructors and studios so they can fill their classes with raving fans. Learn more about ICA here.

Jennifer wrote the e-book Keep it Real. Since 2008, it has become one of the top industry resources for both instructors and enthusiasts alike, describing the most effective and safe ways to ride a bike indoors for optimal results. Even if you don’t ride a real bike outside, the same principles of biomechanics, physiology, kinesiology and anatomy apply to you in the same way that they do to a cyclist. Don’t let anyone tell you “it’s not a real bike so we don’t have to ride it like one”.

Don’t forget to read the Gawker article here!

 

 

 

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  • […] not just at this studio,” master Spinning instructor Jennifer Sage wrote for the Indoor Cycling Association , referring to SoulCycle, but also shedding light on other instructors in the cycling industry. […]

  • […] The lower the handlebars, the more pressure was placed on the genital area. The more pressure the area was under, the less sensation the women experienced. But while adjusting the bike set-up is one obvious solution, it goes against a standard of competitive racing: positioning the handlebars lower than the saddle for the sake of speed. Other bike-based exercise regimens require people to adopt the same setup.  […]

  • […] The lower the handlebars, the more pressure was placed on the genital area. The more pressure the area was under, the less sensation the women experienced. But while adjusting the bike set-up is one obvious solution, it goes against a standard of competitive racing: positioning the handlebars lower than the saddle for the sake of speed. Other bike-based exercise regimens require people to adopt the same setup. […]

  • […] performance over time. Several certified cycling instructors and exercise scientists have also outlined in painstaking detail how some of SoulCycle’s signature moves (handlebar push-ups, free weight […]

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    37 Comments Add yours

    1. Ellette Nyman
      January 29, 2013
      2:20 pm #comment-1

      I am a les mills RPM certified instructor and attended a Soul Cycle class when I was in NYC a few months ago. I couldn’t agree more with the above statements.

    2. Ralph Mlady
      January 29, 2013
      2:27 pm #comment-2

      Awesome post Jennifer. The infectious bug that Soul Cycle has created has presented itself in numerous Spinning(R) Instructor Orientations I have conducted in recent months. The comment usually centers itself around “I plan to bring the Soul Cycle experience to my club after this certification.” If you teach like they do at Soul Cycle, then you are not teaching the Spinning(R) program and therefore cannot call your classes Spinning(R). The aerobics-on-a-bike seems to be the trend with instructors that have experienced a Soul Cycle class or watched their youtube videos.

      Sure, you’ll pack your classes in the short term, however, they will not be there in the long-term. A true coach develops her/his students and keeps them coming back through the use of proper training principles and techniques. Swinging from TRX straps hung from the ceiling, using weights, straps, bands or body bars while riding a bike are not sound training principles and lead to ineffective and dangerous sessions. The amount of sweat on the floor should never be more important than the development of the athlete.

      Thanks again for championing the effort to keep indoor cycling safe and effective.

      Sincerely,

      Ralph Mlady
      Master Instructor – Spinning(R) Program

    3. Mary
      January 29, 2013
      2:57 pm #comment-3

      Jennifer, could you do a review on the spinning class offered by Fitness On Request? These are classes on vides offered in many gyms.
      Thanks.

      • Jennifer Sage
        January 31, 2013
        4:57 am #comment-4

        I’ll check them out Mary. Thanks. Didn’t know about them!

        • Brian Kelly
          May 19, 2013
          11:19 pm #comment-5

          I would love a review of my wife as an instructor. How I wish I could clone her! we have one other instructor that she trained. Truth of it is its almost impossible to find somebody at her level and personality so for now she instructs most of the classes. We are trying to train potential instructors from inside the studio. Quality control!

    4. Christopher Hambright
      January 29, 2013
      5:45 pm #comment-6

      This article couldn’t have been timed any better.

      I started teaching at a local boutique gym at the beginning of January. A beautiful facility with Spinner bikes. I had met the owner of this gym and he expressed a true desire to have some “technical classes”. My journey began.

      My regular classes are at at two Spinning facilities here in Atlanta. We are lucky enough to have a Spinning MI on staff.

      After a couple weeks watching and taking classes. I know why he was so interested in my skills.

      No bike fit period. The one instructor who mentioned it didn’t have her bike even remotely set properly. She asked the participants to “guess” and she’d be right over to check. What?! If you guessed no one asked for assistance; you’d be right.

      I am the only instructor that doesn’t completely darken the room. I am the only instructor that uses a microphone. I am the only instructor that worries about music volume. I won’t even get into how the classes were conducted. How can you coach or lead a class that you can’t see or communicate with. Favorite cues are faster and stand up.

      This showcases many of the problems facing our industry.

      Many facilities/owners do not expect or require trained or certified instructors for their members. Instead, they hire stars aka glorified DJ Drill Sargeants.

      A couple of the instructors I introduced myself to mentioned being Spinning certified but found it boring and their classes didn’t like it. What?! I’ll hope my doctor wasn’t bored in med school.

      The professional and trained educators spend so much time trying to truly teach and do damage control for our colleagues’ failings. Their lack of education or negligence in not using it forces us to work that much harder.

      Our classes are filled with people that want so many things from us. It should be paramount that we educate them on what they need to get those things. There is a difference having a goal and doing the right things to achieve it efficiently and safely.

      Lastly, while being a consumer driven industry. Everyone of us needs to take a stand. From the club owners to the instructors. We need to educate and train the people that put their health and wellness into our hands.

      Like so many other programs, Sole Cycle is just another road block to overcome.

      I’ll repeat Ralph’s thank you for championing the effort to keep indoor cycling safe and effective.

      Christopher Hambright
      Star 3 Spinning Instructor

    5. Amy
      January 31, 2013
      9:02 pm #comment-7

      Thank you Jennifer for sharing both your insights, as well as, helping to debunk a ridiculous, non-scientifically-based bastardization of cycling. As a cyclist and spin instructor for more than 17 years, I find it frustrating to always be the one to dissuade people from the “SoulCycle” workouts of the world.

      It is my belief that one of the main reasons people gravitate toward multi-faceted activities (and I say that loosely) is the feeling that they think they are accomplishing more, and being further “entertained” in the process.

      As a “pure” cyclist; with an emphasis on form and function, I wish instructors could encourage (if you’re not already) and work to build the mental strength that is required to stick with a training/working out program; Specifically, Spinning, as this is what we’re discussing. This would lend itself to those who may feel “bored” – after all we’re “just” cycling 🙂 to find the psychological strength necessary for a great ride! Then, just maybe, when SoulCycle-type clubs pop up, people will realize that they’re unsafe, and will be stick with a challenging, great ride as was always the intention of true Spinning.

    6. Lauren
      February 4, 2013
      5:39 pm #comment-8

      In a lot of the soul cycle classes in NYC the instructors literally run out of the room during coaching the class and while out of the room they cut the AC off and then they pop back in as if nothing has happened. In about 5 minutes the mirrored walls are completely steamy and it feels like a sauna. Subsequently, the instructor will disappear out of the room again and suddenly the AC is back on (and this goes on continuously throughout the class). Is there any advantage to this strategy that some of the instructors are using or is it a trick to make people feel like they are working out harder? I just feel like there is no logical reason to do this. Any thoughts? And do any other instructors ex-Soul cycle use this technique?

    7. Jennifer Sage
      February 5, 2013
      3:30 am #comment-9

      Interesting Lauren, I’ve never heard of that. It could be a “trick” to make people think they are working out more. Although as you know, more sweat doesn’t translate to more calories or a physical benefit. There truly is no logical reason for doing this! I’d be curious if we could hear from some ex-SC instructors!

    8. Ryan James
      February 7, 2013
      3:14 am #comment-10

      I moved from the Midwest to NYC to immerse myself in the better technology and the ‘evolution’ of indoor cycling. The good news is that I learned about different styles. The bad news is that without the proper fundamentals many people think indoor cycling is dangerous.
      Back to the Basics….

    9. Jenn
      March 13, 2013
      8:02 pm #comment-11

      To be honest, I HATE SPINNING … I find it so boring, I want to cry from boredom and I stare the clock watching the seconds go by soooooooooooo slowly. But I LOVE LOVE LOVE SOULCYCLE! Its the funnest workout ever. It actually converted me into loving exercise. I look forward go every single class. Stop knocking on Soulcycle just because you can’t inspire that type of following and love. Its an amazing workout and so fun … wish I could say the same about regular ole spinning. I rather pay my $34/class and love my workout and pay for some cheap gym with any plain vanilla but “anatomically correct” spinning … BORINGGGGG!!! (AND I’M SURE THIS COMMENT WILL BE MODERATED SO ONLY THE COMMENTS YOU WANT ARE ON THIS BLOG!)

    10. John Smith
      April 24, 2013
      3:36 pm #comment-12

      I’ve lead classses for several years now and I always do the “Spinning” forbidden moves. There are 2 “Spinning” instructors and 2 “indoor cycling” instructors in my facility. So far the population says they like my classes.

      No injuries so far. I’d love to know when these so called injuries will occur. Take your sit-stand, sit-stand, sit-stand “spinning” and shove it.

      Hover and isolate all day long. I’ll out-ride, out last and “spinning” instructor!

    11. Jennifer Sage
      May 5, 2013
      10:42 pm #comment-13

      Well, as I always say, these are “forbidden” NOT because Spinning says so, or because some manual says so, or even because I say so….it’s because science says so. These go against what we know to be true and safe from a cycling science perspective. They go against proper technique from a biomechanical and kinesiological point of view. They show the instructor’s lack of knowledge in both exercise science and cycling technique and science. And there does not exist two sets of laws of biomechanics or physics for the cyclists and the non-cyclists. They are one and the same. If it’s bad for a cyclist, if it deters from his/her form and productivity and performance, and if it potentially will hurt that cyclist, the same applies to a “non-cyclist”.

      The population is uneducated. They do not know the difference. They see Soul Cycle on TV and Vanity Fair and every talk show out there and say “I want that!” They are fed the BS and they drink it up. They have no idea.

      The vast majority of injuries do not happen on one specific day; they are not acute. They are cumulative. What happens is that students are uncomfortable, they try it again, they are even more uncomfortable. So they don’t come back. You don’t see them, you don’t hear from them, they just stop showing up. But they are out there telling others they got hurt from “Spinning” classes, when in actual fact, they got injured or never learned how to ride safely and comfortably because of an instructor that refused to adhere to safe and effective techniques.

      So teach away, if you want. You are the one who is hurting your students’ potential. Not sure what you mean by your last sentence, it doesn’t make any sense. The question is, could you transfer what you are doing to a bike outside? You’d probably get dropped on the first big climb that required muscular endurance, a high LT and good climbing form.

    12. Jennifer Sage
      May 5, 2013
      10:53 pm #comment-14

      Jenn, you simply haven’t been to a good “Spinning” or “indoor cycling” class. If the class is boring, it’s because the instructor is boring, not the technique. Riding correctly, safely and effectively does not mean you have to sit in the saddle all the time.

      I’m always amazed at the haters who comment that we are/I am jealous because we cannot “inspire that kind of following”. I welcome opposite opinions, obviously I didn’t delete yours. But it is not constructive by attacking me or the safe and effective cycling we teach at ICA. In fact, it only points to your own ignorance.

      It’s just science. Exercise science. You would rather follow an instructor who knows nothing about science, or about cycling, who was hired for his/her entertainment attributes and not physical fitness expertise, who makes you promises that are not true (as in “this is an upper body workout”), than be motivated by a good coach who would truly do your body some good by teaching you to work properly. Fine, keep on going. You are wasting your valuable time. But this trend will pass, and the tried and true real cycling is here to stay.

      Would you go into a kick-boxing class and say, “I don’t care about kick boxing, I don’t do it in real life, so forget the technique. Just kick my ass!” or a rowing class and say, “I’m not a real rower, so dispense with the biomechanics. How can I do biceps curls on this thing?”

      It’s no different from cycling. Mega millions of dollars have been spent by the cycling industry on analyzing what works on a bike, from a biomechanical, performance and efficiency standpoint. And we are riding bikes indoors, whether you choose to believe that or not. That science is available to the industry, if only they would look. Soul Cycle says, “screw that science! We’re making money hand over fist!”

      The facts do not cease to exist simply because you choose to ignore them.

    13. Robert
      May 16, 2013
      3:01 pm #comment-15

      “Hover and isolate all day long” – really? And you’re a QUALIFIED fitness instructor?

      Anyone with an ounce of knowledge about exercise would tell you that it’s utter nonsense, in the same way that people who train properly with weights will laugh at those doing “isolation” exercises or stopping a lat raise halfway at the horizontal to “feel the burn”. Total rubbish that serves no-one except the inflated ego of the instructor doing them.

      It’s not a case of being good vs having fun – it’s exercise vs a pathetic circus trick

    14. Barb Hanrahan
      August 14, 2013
      10:29 pm #comment-16

      I just got around to reading these posts and had to add my two cents. I am a Keiser certified instructor teaching for over 15 years. I am an instructor who loves to teach, loves to have a great time in class and loves my students. I am also someone who gets very bored doing the same class over and over. I would love for Jenn to come to one of my classes and then say she was bored. If she only went to one class and sampled only one instructor (or so-called instructor), she cannot give an honest critique of an indoor cycling class. My students are constantly telling me they had so much fun while working out and we follow the rules! A good instructor will make a huge difference in how someone looks at any class they take. I myself have not gone back to other types of classes because I know what should and shouldn’t be done while working out. As for why we don’t do crazy moves….I’ve had several instances of why not while teaching. 1-I had a gal go to stand during a warmup and her chain broke. Imagine doing that if you aren’t in control of the pedals! I also had a tall guy who, no matter how much I cued, leaned on his handlebars badly. Since he was so tall and the flywheel was in the back and only weighs 40 lbs, he tipped the bike forward. Luckily he caught himself and it gave me a great opportunity to use it as an example of why you don’t lean on the bars or do “4 corners” (another instructor at our facility did these even though we were all certified together!) or other crazy, exaggerated moves. My final example of why I constantly cue proper form is a gal who would lean on her handlebars and sink her head low between her shoulders. One day she told me her neck had been hurting her. We had a chiro in the class and he told her to come in. Ended up she had a pinched nerve in her neck due to her form in class.

      There is a reason to our madness

      • well said. i am also a instructor. madd dog athletics though (love keisser!). i was always taught that the bike is for riding…not arm work, not core work, not crazy weird dancing moves etc. but yes i think that some ppl want a whole package…they want to come in and get it all in. so i started to offer a class that is 45 minutes on the bike and then we go into another studio where we do arm work, plyometric work, ab work etc. and then we cool down and stretch that is the safer way to do it. not to mention much much much more effective.

    15. Barbara B
      September 10, 2013
      8:03 pm #comment-18

      Hi Jennifer,
      I am not instructor but a rider at SoulCycle. I really really love riding. I love my instructors and she has really changed my life with her words in and out of class. Here’s the thing about SoulCycle I really don’t think they are selling fitness they are selling having a good time and feeling good, because regardless of their teaching style I leave feeling like I can conquer the world. They have an AMAZING marketing department obviously. They are selling a lifestyle and obviously it’s working for them. Their classes are crazy packed and wait lists are a mile long for certain instructors. It’s really a cult because I am the first one to say I find it disgusting that half of my paycheck goes towards that. I have taken other exercise classes and never really enjoyed them. SO when I tried Soul I thought at least its a workout I will look forward to going. I have tried other spin classes at regular gyms and even though I wasn’t in love with it, I think thats probably because I didn’t click with any teachers the way I clicked with my Soul instructor. What I trying to say is that there’s not need for other commenters to be rude to you for having a different view of Soul. There’s millions of people in the world and everyone has different views and tastes. I wish you and all your classes luck.
      PS. Whats your opinion of Flywheel?

    16. Jennifer Sage
      September 12, 2013
      3:20 pm #comment-21

      Hi Barbara,
      I really appreciate your comment, thank you so much. I do agree that there are some benefits to what Soul Cycle is doing. I wrote an article for my members at ICA entitled “What is Soul Cycle Doing Right” and asked how we can tap into that. The community, the empowerment, the connection, all that is awesome. Is it better than not doing anything? Sure is (but I doubt that is the case with most of their clientele. Their market isn’t unfit slobs who have never taken a fitness class.)

      I absolutely agree that everyone has different views and tastes, and that this type of class appeals to certain people, like you. I applaud that, especially if it’s the only exercise class you (or others) will do.

      From a marketing perspective, they are utilizing all the top tricks of the trade: celebrity endorsements, exclusivity, the “takeaway” (better reserve your spot as soon as it’s available or you’ll MISS OUT!”), creating a cult (as you and many have pointed out) and of course….$$$$$ invested into PR. They have a marketing and PR juggernaut behind them, and that is a huge reason for its popularity.

      The problem is that they ARE marketing it as a workout, as “fitness”, and they are using false statements and unproven (incorrect) techniques. In other words, those pushups or 1-2 lb weights are not making it an upper body workout as they are claiming. And tap backs are potentially dangerous for the joints and most definitely do reduce pedaling ability and power output, and thus caloric consumption. And without resistance and that super high cadence pedaling, riders are not burning the calories they are led to believe they are. Or that those “core exercises” are doing anything for the core (they are not). Soul Cycle is the first to state (in some articles I’ve seen as well as in their auditions) that they are not looking for a fitness expert for their instructors, they prefer an entertainer.

      As an industry, and as instructors, we have an obligation to tell the truth to our customers and to deliver safe and effective classes. We have an obligation not to sell snake oil. We have an obligation to make sure what we are doing is not putting riders/clients at risk and that we understand how the body works. No matter how much you, or anyone else, enjoys these classes, I do not believe it is right to have instructors who do not know anything about how the body works, how it burns or doesn’t burn calories (reading Shape magazine does not count), how the muscles gain strength, or how the body interacts with a bicycle (biomechanics). But that is the case with Soul Cycle instructors.

      It’s like believing labels on highly processed food products that say “Part of a healthy diet” or “All natural” but then reading the label to find HFCS as the first ingredient. It’s false advertising and it is misleading. I saw a commercial the other day for a sweet chocolate-milk-based breakfast drink being marketed to mothers for their children, stating they could feel confident sending their kids off to school after having this for breakfast because it provided protein and nutrition they needed. It was wrong on so many levels—but I’m sure many mothers bought into it. The fitness industry is often no better in misleading claims.

      So what’s the solution? That’s a tough one.

      My question is, why can’t we have all the things you love about Soul Cycle, the camaraderie, the passionate motivating instructor, the good music, the sense of community, the exclusivity, but take out the nonsense and add knowledge and correct technique? Do you go to Soul Cycle because of the 1-2 lb weights or the tap-backs or silly crunches? Why do you have to do those? Can’t you leave them out and still connect with the instructor and have a great workout? Absolutely!

      Is it that some instructors who do “keep it real” (i.e. teach safe and effective techniques proven to increase performance, strength, endurance, and hence burn more calories and create greater path to success in weight loss and fitness), need to learn more about being an empowered and empowering instructor? That may be. It’s a conundrum I’m always grappling with. It’s what we are trying to do at the Indoor Cycling Association—teach the science but also teach the instructor how to be inspiring and motivational, and to combine the two. We are trying to find that happy medium between using proper training principles based on science and entertainment/inspiration. It does exist!

      Barbara, I probably will never convince you, or many others, to reconsider taking these classes. You found something you love, and that is a good thing. But just keep in the back of your mind the fact that you aren’t getting out of it everything they are telling you (fitness wise); instead, look at it as a fun diversion—which is not a bad thing! My advice is to not do the tap backs—very high risk on the knees and low back. The pushups and crunches probably won’t “hurt” you so if you feel like it you can continue doing those; they just won’t make your arms/shoulders/chest or core stronger. When it comes time to lift the weights, think of it as a “recovery” and not a part of the workout, because your muscles will not make strength adaptations to that low of weight (unless you are super super unfit, which I doubt). And when they want you to pedal really really fast (over 110 rpm) with no resistance? Just turn it up and ride the bike! You’ll have to go do a real upper body and core workout afterward in the gym. If you take this advice, you might get the best of both worlds—your enjoyment and inspiration from a Soul Cycle class, plus better results and less chances for injury.

      I know there are thousands of instructors in NYC. Try these instructors: Rachel Vazirelli at Equinox (not sure which one), Michael O’Reilly, also at Equinox and the JCC, Pablo at Pablo Fitness. There are many more really great ones.

      And, as you’ve discovered, there are many who are not motivating…

    17. Jamie
      September 25, 2013
      8:38 pm #comment-23

      It’s clearly biomechanically somewhat flawed, but it’s awesomely fun and look around… 90 percent are ripped… dig it all you want, those who attend and those who teach it are happy and hot as hell!!

    18. Jon Robinson
      November 21, 2013
      2:25 am #comment-25

      great post!

    19. Shelli
      January 14, 2014
      4:46 pm #comment-26

      Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. As a spin instructor, athlete, road cyclist, do-er of all activities within my realm of possibility – you have hit the nail on the head with this review. Between the “everyone’s doing it” & “drink the kool aid” vibe to the incomprehensible attempt at an exercise routine for 45 min. my experience led me to believe that there was little to no concern for the students. And for the amount of $$ being dished out per class?! The thing that really got me was how quickly my knees began to hurt. I stubbornly refused to go as fast as everyone else and just added more resistance on to my bike and slowed it down. I wasn’t a very good participant since I didn’t do most of what was being done in class but it just didn’t feel safe or right. The studio’s very nice with their fancy shampoos, towels & smart waters. Good spin bikes, great sound system, motivational ambience. But what an incredibly ineffective and DANGEROUS (lack-of-a) workout. Sorry, SoulCycle.

    20. James
      January 26, 2014
      3:55 pm #comment-28

      This is JUST as bad!!!! https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10201383754227868

    21. James
      January 26, 2014
      4:04 pm #comment-29

      As for your note to Barbara, the flaw is that, at Soul Cycle they ridicule the concept of, “Doing it Right”! “Oh, that instructor belongs in a gym, NOT at Soul Cycle!” You CAN’T take someone who, 6 months earlier, worked at the front desk and expect them to understand how to be safe on the bike, when they have no other experience in the fitness world, except riding in a Soul Cycle class! Don’t get me started! (I guess you already did!) Hahaha

    22. Jennifer Sage
      January 26, 2014
      4:53 pm #comment-30

      Yes James, I get a lot of people started! 😉

      Wow, they ridicule the concept of “doing it right”? outrageous.

      Yes, that video is pretty darn awful, we plan on doing a critique of it soon.
      But…tell that to the participants! They are enjoying it, and obviously a lot of the commenters think it’s awesome. The element of fun is definitely there, but that doesn’t make it right. That’s the hard nut to crack in this conundrum…

      I believe, that regardless of how “fun” something is, we as instructors have an obligation to do what’s safe and effective. The audience are clueless, so they look up to the instructor for knowledge, believing that he/she is educated and knowledgable.

    23. Amber
      January 26, 2014
      8:13 pm #comment-31

      You spinning purist make me gag!
      Yes it’s gimmicky and distracting at soul cycle,but it’s fun!
      Regular spin is a total bore

    24. okay…so I just got home from my first soul cycle class. i am a cycle instructor myself and i guess i have always had a negative thought about soul cycle/ fly wheel going into this. but my friend gave me a GC for my birthday and i thought- hey why not- lets try. and i decided to give it a fair shot- no pre-judgements going in there. but after i left i was sitting there thinking….is it just me? or is soul cycle not good at all? haha i agree with all of your statments. i felt like i was bouncing around so much doing weird noneffective movements with my arms and working my “core” (yeah right) that there was almost no emphasis on ACTUAL riding. which is the point of a spin class. i dunno…im paying 35 dollars per class… for 45 minutes. i want you to kick my ass. and when the class was over i was sweating but not that much…it wasnt reallly that hard at all. it was more danicng and fun and distracting than an actual hard core workout. additionally- she came up to me on my bike and turned my knob to the right. telling me i didnt have enough resistance. what?! in my classes- of COURSE i try to push my participants but i also recognize not only is everyone at different fitness levels but when they walk through the door everyone wants something different out of their workout…some ppl are tired and reall yjust want to get their legs moving, some ppl want you to kick their ass, some ppl are sore from something else and are looking to have low resistance to get the blood flow back int he legs etc. you know what i mean. i had just run a half marathon…legs were feeling heavy. didnt want a lot of resistance. and she comes up doesnt ask me anything and acts like im doing it wrong because my resistance isnt as high as she wanted it. i told her that i wanted it that way because i just ran a half and she was like oh. okay. haaha leave me alone lady! anyway…. its not worth the 35. at all. hated it.

    25. Ed Esposito
      June 7, 2014
      11:48 am #comment-33

      They have been a joke for years. Why have to be proficient at what you do when you have hired a great p.r. firm? SoulCycle is a great business model, hardly a great fitness model. No serious athlete goes to SC to train. It is amazing they have not been hit with a class action suit yet with there invented certification that is not recognized industry-wide. SC proves again for every sucker born, two to take ’em…

    26. Ed Esposito
      June 7, 2014
      11:52 am #comment-34

      If any of you have been to a boring Spinning class, you need to find another instructor. Nobody is bored when they are in the middle of a well planned out profile in a class.

    27. Michelle
      September 7, 2014
      10:43 am #comment-35

      Wow, look at all of the haters on this page? It’s actually quite sad. Why don’t you take the time to offer (for any other individuals/businesses trying to do well) positive/helpful suggestions instead of ripping them to shreads to make yourselves feel better?

      Soulcycle might not be as good from an instruction standpoint but they have a purpose that is great for “their” target audience. Perhaps they need to find better instructors and that would resolve the issue.

      Maybe you should do a little soul searching and get a life. If this class didn’t work for you, don’t support them but no need to spend your waking hours bashing them and trying to spread the word for others to do the same. Perhaps many of the people on this blog are just jealous instructors who haven’t found a way to increase their own client base.

      Each person has the power to influence one person in some way. The world needs more positive thinking people, not Negative Nellys, Debbie Downers, and Henry Haters.

      Choose to the be Positive.

    28. Couldn’t agree more to the technical aspect of this article. I will have to agree with Michelle’s comment above me in that- for some people- they enjoy grooving to the beat and the love positive vibes that soul cycle brings with it- and for those people- more power to them- do what makes you happy! but in terms of the technical stuff- form, etc… I agree 100% with the article. soul cycle is no good. I wrote a blog post about it.

      http://sistersrunningthekitchen.com/2015/06/18/why-soul-cycle-is-dangerous-ineffective/

    29. Jessica T
      July 22, 2015
      9:01 pm #comment-37

      I absolutely love SoulCycle!!! It’s the only cardio that isn’t boring and in just the first three weeks of taking classes I lost weight and and am much more toned. I love the instructors and the fun of the class. I can’t stand the elliptical, although I do it when I don’t spin, and the treadmill is so boring. It always feels like a complete body workout the next day.

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