Either you’re one of two people:
1. You would rather sell your soul than be seen at a SoulCycle class.
2. You are a dedicated member of the pack.
Personally, I am the latter. However, I was never originally that person. To be honest, I forgot what exercise and “being healthy” even was for a verrrrry long time.
During high school, I experienced a traumatic family event and life came crashing down. Without even knowing it, I started eating more than I ever had in order to cope with the overwhelming sadness I was feeling.
On top of that, I quit cheerleading, which kept me in shape, because I didn’t enjoy it anymore. This way of coping led to me putting on a significant amount of weight during the rest of my time in high school.
College and the food habits that came with it sure didn’t help. I avoided the gym (and all the frat boys in it) and took full advantage of the buffet style dining hall for the next two years.
In hopes to start my 2014 New Year’s resolutions early, (yes, the cliche resolution of being healthier) my first SoulCycle class was on New Year’s Eve. Long story short, I didn’t make it through the whole thing.
PSA: If you were wondering what happens when someone leaves the room mid-ride, staff comes running from all directions to keep you from passing out (even though I definitely did).
I walked out of the studio that day and vowed to never go back. I convinced myself that it was too hard and my body couldn’t take it. My resolution ended before it even started.
Another semester passed and my diet continued to consist of three main food groups: pasta, cookies, and drunk eats. Oh, and I still hadn’t set foot in a campus gym by the end of my junior year. It was official: there was no way that I was going to get in shape and love my body again.
Senior year arrived (it comes fast kids, don’t blink!), and I made the conscious decision that this was the year that things were going to change. I was ashamed of my love handles and I wanted that to end once and for all.
Thankfully, I moved in with 30 active human beings, who just so happen to be my sorority sisters, that inspire and motivate me on a daily basis. They may not know it, but even if it is just a pal to go to the gym with, I really couldn’t do it without them.
As each week passed, I started feeling more energetic, and definitely healthier. My body was thanking me, and, don’t get me wrong, it was a great feeling, but I still hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror.
Coming home for the holidays always means homemade food (and LOTS of it). So I kept working out, but I felt myself losing motivation. Hesitantly, I gave SoulCycle another go. I rode in the very back corner of the studio so that no one could see me.
This time I made it through the whole thing and got a good workout, but I didn’t get ‘it’ (‘it’ meaning the hype of SoulCycle). I found myself trying to ride to the beat with more resistance than I could handle which only ended up frustrating me. Not enough resistance made me feel weak in comparison to the people around me, but I lost my stamina when I used too much resistance. However, I didn’t want to give up this time.
I experimented with a bunch of different instructors, until I found Lindsey S. In the middle of my first ride with her, she forced the entire room to close our eyes. At first, my reaction was “WT actual F,” but I did it anyways. I completely shut off my brain and just focused on myself, something I hadn’t done for a long time (years to be exact). That was ‘it.’
‘It’ was something I had never felt in any of my other workouts. ‘It’ was realizing how physically strong I was to complete this workout. ‘It’ was finding the mental strength to turn my inner critic into my inner coach. ‘It’ was not having to compare myself to the people around me, but using their energy to push even further.
I found myself going back multiple times a week because I needed to. I felt this overwhelming need to be surrounded by the energy of other people, even though they were strangers. I needed the inspiration of the instructors to remind me to make room for the inevitable, because we forget that the best stuff happens when we jump before we’re ready. I needed to focus on me.
At that point, SoulCycle became more than just a physical outlet, but an emotional one as well.
It may not be the best workout for you in terms of calories burned, but it is a place where the community and instructors believe in you before you believe in yourself. Instinctually, I found myself believing in myself too. Watching what my body could do with the energy it was given in the studio was incredible.
That, in and of itself, has taught me how to love myself and my body because we are human and we are all works in progress. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect right now, because the visual result is not what really matters. What really matters is how you feel.
I never look in the mirror anymore and am disappointed with what I see. My body is perfect because I feel healthy (while also being able to give into my cravings). I feel happy (because I have more energy to surround myself with those I love). I feel balanced (which is what it’s all about).
Since Syracuse obviously doesn’t have SoulCycle, I knew it would be hard to keep up this mentality. Whenever I’m having a bad day, I take a moment to step away from everything and realign myself. I also remind myself to find a balance between the positives and negatives in my life–to stay humble during the highs and not letting the lows bring me down.
Thank you Lindsey S. for being my daily bit of SOUL that reminds me what’s actually important. And to SoulCycle for teaching me how to love my body, and all its imperfections, again.