It is truly amazing how much you can change your body, and more importantly, your mind, in a few short months.
If someone would have had told me last winter that I would complete 11 SoulCycle classes in one week-while sick with a cold-I would’ve looked at them like they were a 21st century Gorgon.
I never understood the appeal of working out, let alone why anyone would want to pay ~$33 for 45 minutes of said loathed activity. Now, much to the chagrin of my Chase Premium Sapphire card, I am a devotee, a #soulsurvivor.
Here are a few of the insights which were reinforced over my week of driving back and forth to the red rooms of South Beach and Coral Gables, accumulating approximately 495 minutes of cycling in one week, so that I could fill out as much of my SoulCycle bingo card as possible, ultimately racking up 4 free classes!
1) You’re Just Dancing On A Bike, Who Cares If You Resemble A Botero Painting?
SoulCycle has an image problem, chiefly, that it can be intimidating AF. Everyone has abs which are not hidden (as they are likely wearing just $94 Terez leggings and a $63 SoulCycle sports bra), everyone is super-humanly good at the workout, and everyone seems to have that undefinable je ne sais quoi, the instructors most of all.
Of course, there are the occasional outliers, but essentially, that protoypical size-0 Lululemon Queen is their brand, and what keeps it having that ~exclusive~ and aspirational feeling (and to many, warranting the hefty price tag).
It’s funny because I’ve come to realize that while everyone tends to look amazing, the people who are the most dressed up are actually the beginners, as displayed when the instructor asks for first timers to raise their hand.
I absolutely straightened my hair and wore heavier eye makeup for my first ever class. I knew I would be walking into a room full of Stella McCartney for Adidas-clad swans and I didn’t want to come off as a total dud.
I quickly realized what a waste of a blowout it was to go in full glam, even if I felt a little more confident for 5 minutes, pre-class.
Now I know and accept that my hair will be completely ruined (as I will be dripping in sweat from every pore) so I just throw it up a messy bun reminiscent of women’s netherparts in 1970’s erotica. I often don’t bother with any makeup either, as it will soon be on a towel. #loveme4me
Does the locker room sometimes seem interchangeable with a Prada casting call? Yes. It is intimidating? Sometimes. But less every time!
What I have come to realize is that everyone has insecurities about how they look. My beautiful, blonde, and tiny cousin confessed to me that she was glad that I was with her to show her around Miami because she is usually intimidated by how beautiful everyone is, and I seem so comfortable in that scene.
Baby, I’m just faking it until I make it!*
2) Fake It Until You Make It (And Set The Bar High)
Not only is it key to fake being confident about your looks until you are truly fine with your mascara-less face, but you will get so much more out of your exercise experience if you also fake being good at it, until you are.
This may be ~controversial~ and depend on the studio (some are really militant about who sits where), but I LOVE sitting front row, even though I am not the best. In just one week of sitting front row, I have gotten wayyyy better, because I am forcing myself to keep up as best as I can, with the best of the best. Also, the energy which you get from front row, sitting near the instructor and the best students and vibing off of them, is truly better than any substance-fueled experience. It is authentic, real, tribal, community.
In one class, an instructor pointed at me and said “OKAY WE ARE ALL GOING TO SET THE PACE BASED ON YOU, GO AS FAST AS YOU WANT US ALL TO GO WHEN THE BEAT DROPS… WE ARE ALL WATCHING YOU, READY GO!” I literally thought he was shading me or calling me out for not being fast enough, but regardless, ran as fast as I could to the beat, with everyone staring. After class he told me how I killed it, and was super positive, and I realized that in that earlier moment, he was asking me to step up and lead because I had earned it. Such an amazing feeling, especially when having the privilege to ride next to classmates who are actually athletes and all-stars.
This never would’ve happened a few weeks ago, when I tentatively sat in the back row, as close to the door as possible.
3) You Are An Athlete (And A Warrior, Rockstar, and Renegade)
I have never, ever considered myself to be an “athlete”. Of all of the SoulCycle attributes, this is the hardest one for me to come to terms with, in regards to my own self image.
Never in my life have I been remotely sporty or into fitness. For most of my life I have been a varsity dieter, varsity calorie counter, varsity guiltmonger, varsity cleanser, all in order to stay within a certain weight range. Until a few years ago, when I said ~fuck it all~ and was a varsity weight gain expert, packing on almost 40 pounds in a few months and then not losing any of it for a few years.
I was a varsity cheerleader for some of high school, which was actually very grueling, but not considered by most to be a “sport”, in spite of its decided rigor. All of the 3-hour practices and conditioning drills were buttressed by cute hair bows and making cookies for football players.
Other athletic activities never caught my attention. I hate running, I hate the faux-camaraderie of team sports, I especially hate objects flying at me or otherwise entering my personal space with wild abandon.
But, I am changing. I am coming to CRAVE the daily challenge of pushing myself a little bit farther each day.
What if you only had one chance to show the person next to you, who you really are? If you had just this one class, this one moment to inspire them?
Every time one of my teachers says that, it inspires me so much. I don’t want to let the person behind me, or next to me, down.
But what I didn’t realize until now, is that the person who I most needed to inspire, was myself.
I do so by using the heaviest weights in class, trying to keep up with the fastest choreography even if my lungs are on fire, turning up my resistance just another inch more until it feels like my legs are slogging through a primordial bog, and then… Finding the strength, gathering fuel from all of my insecurities and doubts and fears and struggles, and using it to ignite, to take off into a sprint which leaves me past words and fully absorbed into body**.
I crave that now, that high of accomplishment. Of walking out of class knowing that there isn’t anything more I could’ve done, of waking up each morning to a firmer appendage or a flatter stomach and knowing that I really earned that lost inch.
I have come so far, from the girl who was so nervous in January to work out, that she literally had to take a Xanax before walking into class.
But there is still so much progress to be made, so many challenges to be met.
It is weird for me to call myself an athlete in my head, let alone publicly. Immediately, my inner negative voice flashes images of people far more fit, far more accomplished than I will ever be, and cautions me not to place myself in the same category as them.
To that voice, I would like to publicly decree, fuck you. Everyone who finds the courage to come to class, or do any kind of workout which is a personal challenge to them, is an athlete to me. It’s not easy, especially not at first. But it is oh, so worth it.
3) Family > Friends
That said, my hardest challenge this week wasn’t my multiple double workouts (#twoadays) or driving several hundred miles back and forth between studios/work/home over the course of a week (though those were also areas of ~growth~).
The most difficult thing for me was finding a friend to bring to class, so I could complete one of my special SoulCycle challenges and earn 2 free workouts.
Miami is known for being the flakiest place on the planet. You will have an amazing conversation with someone, fully (#100%emoji) commit to plans together, and then… A last minute cancellation text, or nothing at all.
I really think it is just the culture here. No one has the same values of accountability in terms of showing up, even if you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it, or it isn’t the most convenient.
[I may have been ~dragged out of bed~ for this Homecoming event]
When I was younger, I definitely could be like that too, but my friends didn’t let me get away with it easily. Phoebe in particular was known to break into my house when I wouldn’t answer my phone, and physically drag me to wherever we had planned to go. I seem to remember waking up from a deep sleep in my own bedroom several times to find her hovering over me in my bed, demanding that I arise and get ready for India Raj or the mall. Thanks to her and others, I learned that it was crucial to be there for people, even if you would rather be comfortably ensconced in your native environment (ie. on the couch/bed, wearing no bra and watching E!).
Unfortunately, few people in Miami seem to have been subjected to the same guerilla-style friendship tactics which were effectively employed in Monroe, Connecticut circa 2006. Knowing this, I made sure to invite 4 or 5 different people to workout with me on Saturday, and by Friday, all of them had canceled.
Even a killer Friday class in South Beach couldn’t sway my mood, I was literally seeing red as I waited for the valet to pull my car up to the front of the 1 Hotel, and yelling about everyone in Miami to my real friends, my real crew.
I am so lucky to have a few friends in my life who are truly the best. So smart, so funny, so accomplished, so cool. I love you all so much, and you are not the friends I am referencing here. You are family (as demonstrated by your attendance at countless family parties, exchanging Facebook messages with my Mom, calling my brother Rihanna and knowing why, etc.) I just wish you didn’t all live a plane ride away.
As I drove home from South Beach on Friday night, I decided to give it to the Universe. If I am meant to work out with a friend this weekend (and get my 2 free rides which I so desperately want!), please put that person in my path. I am tired of trying to orchestrate it, and ultimately end up disappointed.
On Saturday morning, as I was chicly washing sports bras in the laundry room with Max, I was struck with an idea. What about my cousin, Chloe?
I had little hope that she would respond, let alone enthusiastically, and made sure to craft a text which made it clear that I knew it was last minute and would totally understand if she already had plans. For years, we had been at very different places in our lives and subsequently, had not been close, so I wasn’t expecting any kind of response at all.
To my surprise and happiness, she was willing to drive an hour and a half down from the Boca Raton area to workout with me last minute.
For most of our teenage years, we were out of touch. But now, serendipitously, we are both very focused on health and wellness, and have a lot of similarities to connect on. We had such an amazing time talking and bonding together in a way which we haven’t since we were kids, and in retrospect, I wouldn’t have chosen anyone else to spend the day with.
[First we had this salad for brunch. Then, I decided I needed some falafel and friez]
My mom is perpetually screaming at me how ~REJECTION IS GOD’S PROTECTION~ or in this case, an opportunity***. I am so glad that everyone I know with a 305 number canceled on me, so that I could have the chance to restart a meaningful relationship with my cousin. We already have tentative plans to workout again soon, and I am really looking forward to it!
[Post-Soul brunch bunch at The Thompson]
5) Noone Can Hold You Accountable, But You
The hardest thing about gaining weight is knowing that no one did it to yourself, but you. To lose weight effectively, you have to shine a light on how and why you gained weight, and how you can confront those issues to make sure it doesn’t happen again. If you want to lose weight, that is.
Part of me feels uncomfortable talking about losing weight so much, because I don’t think it is necessary to be thin, in order to be a successful person. Or a cool person. Or a happy person. I deliberately made one of the characters in my novel overweight, because I feel that it is important that books have characters with women of every size, who are healthy, and cool, and sexy, and smart.
Certainly, I was at one of my least healthy stages, in terms of mental health and happiness, when I was 115 pounds in college. This was one of the excuses I gave myself when I let myself gain weight.
But if you aren’t happy while thin, you probably won’t be happy when you are fat either. To quote KKD again, ~IT’S AN INSIDE JOB~. You have to be accountable for your choices, for your actions, for your reactions.
I am far from perfect at this. But, I am getting better.
This was evidenced by the fact that I woke up at 6:30AM on a Saturday morning to drive to South Beach for a Rooster class, as early morning classes are referred to in Soulingo.
It was so early that Starbucks wasn’t even open yet! (Yet, there was mysteriously traffic on 95! Oh, Miami)
As alluded to before, I LOVE sleep and have been known to forgo friendship promises, dates, school, etc. in pursuit of a few more hours of zzz. I usually don’t actually fall asleep until 1 or 2AM, and sometimes later on a weekend night, so I really relish the opportunity to sleep in until 10 or 11AM on a Saturday. For me to give that up, while battling a cold, was a big f-ing deal.
How can you be mad at people for not being accountable to you, if you yourself can’t be accountable to the workout schedule you committed to (and thereby, yourself)?
This was the nagging thought that got my ass out of bed before daylight on a Saturday, so I could earn my Rooster sticker. Don’t you hate it when your spiritual insights are greater than your excuses?
My class ended up being awesome, and as always, I was so happy that I went.
I am not sure if I will ever be a model of accountability, but I am working on it. And I am making tangible progress.
This whole week was visually appealing; I am a great candidate for gamification models because I am addicted to tracking progress and racking up accomplishments. I could see the change and the progress toward goals, epitomized by a yellow or black skull sticker that I earned, when I stepped up to different challenges.
In a way, it was a metaphor for my workout journey as a whole. At times, it made me feel insecure or hurt or forced me to go out of my comfort zone (and sometimes get rejected), but the gifts which I received as a result of challenging myself-greater belief in myself and my own personal accountability, increased physical strength and stamina, weight loss, and most importantly, renewing a family relationship-those made every moment of doubt worthwhile.
You cannot truly be a leader if you haven’t confronted your darkness, and found a way to turn it into light.
SoulCycle has given me a way to be a leader, when it no longer felt accessible to me in other areas of my life. Each day I felt like more of a rockstar, warrior, renegade and most importantly, an athlete. Though the challenge has ended (and I can’t afford to spend as much time and money in the Soul studios for the next few weeks due to other obligations), I will carry that light energy with me in my forthcoming ventures.
*to a doctor for lip injections and lipo #shrugginggirlemoji
**paging Martha Beck… Is SoulCycle also a path to Wordlessness? PS. If you want to know what I mean by that, and read the most transformative book I’ve ever read, purchase this.
***She is also known to throw Holy Water on me, and/or hover over me praying in tongues while I am sleeping in a creepy way too, so frankly, it’s a Biblical-grade miracle that I’ve adapted to ever sleep soundly, between her and Phoebe.