My First SoulCycle Experience {Review}

On Sunday my team and I went to an 11 am SoulCycle class as part of our off-campus fall break training trip. About half of the girls had been to SoulCycle before, and funnily enough, for all of the spinning and cycling I’ve done in my life, I was one of the newbies!

IMG_5331I went into my first SoulCycle class intrigued and excited, but also skeptical for a number of reasons:

  • I’m not usually a fan of high-profile, commercialized workouts
  • I am very pretty opposed to pushups and arm weights on the bike
  • Spinning for 45 minutes with very low resistance and extremely high cadence doesn’t seem all that productive to me
  • The whole “SoulCycle” stereotype kind of troubles me
  • I don’t need or like the fact that I’m working out or working hard to be disguised by bells and whistles


What Went Down: My Experience

10:30 am-10:45 am- arrived at the studio to fill out waivers, get shoes, put my stuff in a locker. Waited for the employees to open the doors to the studio

10:45 am-11:00 am- set up my bike in the studio and started to warm up on my own. Made sure to get weights for my bike (I used 3 pound weights) and put them underneath my seat.

11:00 am- class starts with a high energy song: Shake it Off by Taylor Swift. So far, SoulCycle is off to a great start!

11:15 am- the energy in the class is super high, and I’m loving it! We’ve done a few pushups on the bike, but nothing I can’t handle. The class more or less resembles spinning.

11:15 am-11:30 am- Wow, we are spinning way more with these pushup things than without them. I cut out at least 3/4 of the pushups, turn up the resistance, and focus on my legs. Music is still great, as is the energy of the class. These might be the two reasons I was convinced to keep going.

11:30 am (?)- Arm weights time! It only lasted about 5 minutes (I think), but it burned! This portion reminded me an awful lot of Barre, the way my muscles burned and shook intensely.

11:40 am- Cool down starts. I didn’t even know that it was the end of the class, because we didn’t finish with a final sprint or anything. I kind of felt like I was cruising to the finish line, rather than trying to beat the rider beside me!

11:50 am- All stretched and cooled down, I thanked the instructor as I left the studio super super sweaty. That’s got to be a sign of a good workout, right?

What I Liked

  • Awesome Music

I’ve got to say, the combination of the continuous music and it’s sheer volume really makes for an energetic class. There was a good combination of some throwback songs, pop, as well as lyric-less techno that kept things interesting, as well as appealed to most tastes. I’d sure love to figure out how to mash up my music to give it that kind of flow!

  • Energetic Instructor (Becca)

The reason we went to this particular class was today was because Alex has a serious non-romantic girl crush on Becca. Alex went to Becca’s class 2 or 3 times a week this past summer and became obsessed with her infectious enthusiasm and music- something which can be hard to do at 6am!


Sure enough, today, Becca didn’t disappoint. She literally danced into the studio, and I admit, was super overwhelming, but hey, she had personality. Becca’s cheesy but oh-so-motivating lines such as, “sometimes it’s not about how much you add, but how much you can release”, really stuck with me during those hard minute-plus sprints. She also made it very clear that it was “your ride”, meaning if you didn’t want to do all of the pushup things, that you could sit down and “sprint your face off”. Not going to lie, as unappealing as that option may sound, I definitely did it a few times. Arm thingies = not for me.

  • Good Equipment

There’s nothing worse than having a bike that sticks, squeaks, or is just plain bad. I am happy to say that the SoulCycle bikes were none of these things. They pedal smoothly, allowing you to focus on the ride, and not whatever malfunction your equipment may have.

My bike

The studio also had a ton of the little arm weights, so you didn’t have to worry about getting stuck with too heavy or too light of weights.

  • Impeccable Studio

When you walk into the Soul Cycle studio, you can count on it being clean and professional looking. The reception area is all white and bright, which, along with the peppy employees, gives off a fun, energetic vibe.



However, once you step into the bike room, you are immediately transported into a workout vortex with booming music, intense lighting, and about 50 bikes. It gives off a serious “no messing around” attitude! (But in the best possible way).


Thanks to the great setting, the class had an infectious energy, which pumped me up a lot for the first 10 minutes! After that I started to settle into the hard work, and the novelty of the vibes wore off a little, but nevertheless persisted throughout the class.

What I Didn’t Love

  • So. Many. Bike. Pushups

Going into my Soul Cycle experience, I knew that pushups on the bike were going to be part of the class. However, I was not aware that they would be such a prominent feature! There was more spinning with the arm movements than without, which really shocked me. As someone who prefers to concentrate solely on biking movements while cycling, I found this hard to get used to.

  • Lack of Climbs, Intervals and Breaks

I prefer to integrate variety into spin classes with intervals, climbs, and breaks. SoulCycle seems to aim to achieve this goal by adding arm movements, “tap backs”, “up downs”, and light weights. While I’m sure that many people like this format, it’s not what I’m used to, and I therefore had difficulty adjusting accordingly.

  • No Exertion Level or Time Countdown

Since the class didn’t revolve around timed intervals, I often found myself guessing my level of perceived exertion. Not being told how hard to push, or how long to push for left me a little uneasy, since I was weary of not leaving enough gas in the tank.

  • Spinning Out of Control

On the drive back to school, Alex and I were talking about the class, and I mentioned how the class would have been impossible to complete without clip-in shoes. First off, there are no straps on the pedals, which forces participants to either rent shoes, or bring their own. As someone who always spins with cleats, this didn’t really surprise or phase me. However, once we were about 15 minutes into the class, I realized why the clip in shoes were so essential to SoulCycle. The majority of the class was spent running at a very high cadence (I’d say probably >120 RPM), which would have been very unsafe without cycle shoes. While I do enjoy “spin-tervals” (spinning at a very high cadence) once in a while, I would have liked there to have been at least a couple songs of higher resistance and lower cadence.

Bottom Line

Given all of these pros and cons, would I go back? I have to say, I do prefer actual “spinning” to SoulCycle, mostly because I am used to it. I’m a creature of habit, and really like working super hard with well deserved breaks, and loading on resistance for climbs. I also tend to visualize myself riding an actual bike, and for that reason, don’t find the pushups and arm weights particularly useful, since they don’t translate to better biking skills.

Despite all of this, I can’t deny that the energy of the class was unparalleled, and unlike any other fitness class I’ve ever been to. It really made me want to be a part of the community (okay, minus the skull-printed gear). I was reminded just how powerful group exercise is, especially when every participant is stoked out of their mind to be there.

It’s really amazing how SoulCycle has been able to market a painful, stationary activity, where you are literally 1 foot away from another sweaty individual as a life-changing, best-selling activity. Way to go, SoulCycle!


Have you ever been to SoulCycle? Did you like it? 

Do you go to SoulCycle or another type of indoor cycling class regularly? 

My Philly Workout Obsession: Unite Fitness

If you’ve read any of my posts from my summer in Philadelphia, there’s a pretty high chance that you readabout my killer workouts at Unite Fitness.heartmusclemindfitness

Killer, in the best way possible, of course 🙂

Following my incredible fitness and foodie weekend visiting friends in NYC, I decided I wanted to find a place to cross train in Philly. My friend, Kat, had heard about this place, Unite Fitness, which was supposedly the place to go for intense cardio and strength workouts. (ALSO- Be Well Philly just rated Unite as the #1 workout spot in Philadelphia!)

I signed up online for my free trial, and then popped in to check it out in person later on when I happened to be in the area. The staff I met were super friendly and welcoming, and had no trouble convincing me to come back later that day for my free trial.

What goes down at Unite Fitness?

Unite has 3 main focuses:

  • Cardio
  • Strength
  • Yoga and Stretching



Here’s a little breakdown on each component, and what I like about them:

Cardio (30 minutes)


  • All high intensity interval training. Ever get bored on cardio machines? Thanks to great music and intervals, you don’t ever have to worry about biking endlessly and getting tired of staring at the clock.
  • Only 30 minutes, including warm up. Sounds like nothing, right? Well, it’s not. After 15 minutes I’m already starting to wonder how much time is left in the cardio portion, and thankfully, thanks to the intervals, the second half of the workout flies by.
  • Time countdowns. No more guessing exactly how long is left in that sprint interval! I really appreciated that the trainers will give you a reliable countdown, so that you can push all the way to the end. Some instructors (I’ve experienced this at spin, mostly), don’t give countdowns, and you’re left wondering how hard you should push, because you don’t know how long to keep it up for!
  • They’re watching. Okay, that sounds creepy. But actually, I pushed myself harder because I knew that the coach could see my mph/RMP/gear/speed when he/she would walk around, and I didn’t want to be a slacker!
  • Specific incline and gear levels. If you’re on the treadmill, the trainer will give you an incline range to aim for, but will leave the speed up to you. If you’re biking, you will be given a range of gears, as well as an RMP to hit. For the longer intervals, the trainers at Unite will work on an exertion scale, which goes by percentages. For example, your warmup may start at 70% for 2 minutes, and then you will bring it up to 80% for 3 minutes before recovering. The combination of specific gears/inclines and the exertion scale is what helped me push my hardest every single time.

Strength (30 minutes)


  • Fast paced and engaging. Do you ever get bored at the gym because a) you’re waiting for machines to become available, b) you’re waiting for your muscles to recover, or c) you only ever do 3 sets and 15 reps of a long list of exercises? Instead of this standard, time consuming method, Unite cuts out a lot of the rest, and focuses on 3-4 timed sets that last anywhere from 3-8 minutes, followed by short recoveries.
  • The heart stays pumpin’! Just because you’re out of the cardio room, doesn’t mean that you won’t still be breaking a sweat during the strength portion! Since the exercises are fast paced, and often incorporate multi-joint movements, your heart rate stays up, which personally, I found quite motivating!
  • New and familiar exercises. I was pleased to learn new exercises for certain muscle groups, as well as work on some old standbys (squats, lunges, bench press). This allowed me to challenge myself mentally and physically by attempting these movements, while also being able to push myself physically with familiar exercises. As much as I love doing new crazy things (still waiting for the day when I can actually do new, crazy things), it’s nice feeling competent, and good about yourself. And while I can’t always do perfect pistol squats (OWW!!!!), it’s good to know that at least I can fall back on the standard dumbbell squat.
  • Individual attention. Worried about your form? Weights aren’t heavy enough? No fear, your trainer is constantly walking around the room, both to motivate you and check your form to make sure that you are performing the exercises safely and to the best of your ability. If you want to go heavier on the bench press, your trainer will come over and spot you to make sure that you get the most out of your reps.

Yoga + Stretch (15 minutes)


  • Short, yet effective. Let me fill you in on something quickly: I am not a good stretcher. Why? I’m not flexible. I don’t find it engaging. It’s hard for me. I get bored, and then I get hungry. Therefore for me, knowing that this yoga stretch sequence is only roughly 10 minutes long is pretty comforting.
  • One word: Massage. Need incentive to stay to the end and do all the stretches? A quick, relaxing massage might do the trick! Each class finishes with the trainer coming around to each participant and performing a quick massage/adjustment to your shoulders, neck, and back. At first, I was a little skeptical of this, because I was just so, so sweaty (like uncomfortably sweaty), but by my second class, I had gotten used to the idea, and looked forward to my quick readjustment at the end of each class.

What else makes Unite unique?


  • Perfect group fitness setting. Since there’s a max limit of 20 people per class, you won’t feel as though you’re lost in the crowd, while still being able to benefit from the energy of the other participants. Plus, it’s nice having others to commiserate with when you’re being taught the toughest part of the workout 😉
  • Unite offers fitness and nutrition. I personally didn’t sign up for it, but Unite has a meal program where you can order pre made healthy meals each week. It’s super convenient, since you can pick it up from the fridge at Unite after your workout, and from what I’ve heard, the food is delicious!
  • They also offer personal training. Want some one-on-one training? All of the coaches are certified personal trainers, and a few of them also train clients on the side. I never actually had time to complete one of these sessions, but based on my experience at the group fitness sessions, I am positive that I would have loved it as well.
  • You’ll never do the same workout twice. I went 4x a week for 5 weeks. That’s a lot of classes. Not once did I ever do the same exact workout. Sure there were some repeated exercises, but never was a workout the exactly the same. This was hands-down, one of my favourite parts about my Unite experience.
  • I loved every.single.trainer. If you go to a gym or studio that offers group fitness classes, it’s likely that you have a “favourite” instructor. At Unite, I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single coach’s class equally, and loved that each one of them has their own kick-ass style.
  • Can’t make it to the gym? Do it at home! No, you won’t get the same experience as you would in the real Unite setting, but if you’re pressed for time and looking for workout motivation, Unite offers free sample workouts on their YouTube channel. Woo! Fitness anywhere, anytime!
  • Welcomes all levels. Are you a pro athlete? A workout enthusiast? Someone who’s looking to shed 10, 20 or even 60 pounds? Then you can do Unite’s workouts. If an exercise is too challenging, you can always ask the trainer for a modification, and most times, they will offer ways to make movements both more and less challenging.
  • It’s a community. This was my favourite part about being at Unite: I instantly felt included in the Unite community. This feeling grew as I spent more and more time working out at the studio, and I was so sad to leave after my last session. Furthermore, I noticed that the trainers would pay special attention to newcomers in order to make them feel welcome, and make sure that they had a successful experience. It can be intimidating going to a new gym or workout class if you don’t know the ropes, but all of the coaches put in extra effort to make your experience as positive as possible.

Changes I noticed in my body


I religiously used Unite as my mode of strength conditioning for 5 weeks, and I (think) that I noticed the following changes in my body:

  • Stronger upper body. As someone who is naturally stronger in her legs, and weaker in the arms, I really had nowhere to go but up. After 5 weeks of consistent upper body training, I’ve found that I can now perform exercises with heavier weights, and I can do real pushups! I’m not a pushup person, but I’ve been able to increase my strength and range of motion in my shoulders, which has helped me be able to get my chest to the floor, and push back up. I feel pretty legit  now;)
  • Less ab work, but stronger abs. During June and most of July, I was doing long ab sessions 2-3x a week. Previously, I had been frustrated because my go-to ab workouts no longer seemed to be challenging, and I definitely needed to change it up. At Unite, we did some ab work, but a lot of the exercises also forced you to brace your core to perform the movement effectively. I think that this extra focus really helped engage my core in different ways, and ultimately made it stronger, or kept it just as strong.
  • (My mom told me) I look stronger and leaner. I didn’t take any before/after pictures, so I can’t really compare, but I do know that my arms have become more muscular (like I said, they couldn’t have gotten any worse), and I think that my abs are a little more defined as well. I know that a lot of “muscular definition” has to do with diet and body fat percentage, but since I kept my diet relatively the same as before, I think that I can attribute most of the changes in my body to my dedication to Unite’s program.


And last but not least….

  • I feel strong and healthy. I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle so that I feel happy inside and out (does that even make sense?!), but I don’t always feel “strong”. As a self-proclaimed “cardio queen”, in the past I’ve found it more difficult to push myself physically when it comes to strength training. I’m good at cardio, so why not keep getting better at what you’re already good at? Well, every so often I will hit a plateau, and know that I need to change something up. Unite did this in the best possible way for me, because I was still able to get my cardio fix, and then strength train.

Bottom Line:

If you’re in Philadelphia and looking to get worked, sign up for a free trial at Unite, and I can almost 100% guarantee that you will love it. I brought a few friends to the studio to work out this summer (yes, that is my idea of a “fun” hangout 😉 ), and they became obsessed with it too. The trainers are cool, the workouts are fun, and you’ll feel amazing at the end. What do you have to lose?

Now What???

I gotta say, I’m going through serious Unite withdrawals. I’m hoping to go complete their Decathlon on October 11th if I can find someone to do it with me, which would be great incentive to keep training so that I can actually survive it. Although I’d love to keep up my Unite workouts, squash season is about to start up and my efforts and workouts are going to be much more directed towards that. I’m hoping (and expecting) that the work I put in at Unite this summer will pay off on the squash court, and I’m excited to see if I’m any faster/stronger/better when it comes down to serious matches!