A different spin

Photographs courtesy of SoulCycle

Many workouts talk a good game about mind, body, spirit. SoulCycle – which is heating up riders from Hollywood to the Hamptons – is one that aims to deliver. The luxury fitness brand puts a new spin on, well, spinning with candlelit, choreographed workouts that combine elements of yoga, dance, light weightlifting, Eastern philosophy and, of course, biking while emphasizing the entire body and a communal experience. The newest location is a 5,000-plus-square-foot site in downtown Greenwich with a pristine modernism offset by its cheery optimism. Part of it has to do with the touches of bright yellow and blue-gray against the all-white backdrop, particularly in the SoulCycle Boutique. But mostly the spiritedness of the place comes from its philosophy – crystallized in the neon sign that reads “Take your journey. Find your body. Change your soul” – and from the exhorting instructors and other upbeat staffers. During WAG’s visit to the Greenwich site – the other area studio is in Scarsdale – we were guided by receptionists Chelsea Ellis and Ossi Pennella, who showed us the immaculate locker rooms and showers for men and for women; the Listening Bar, where you can sample the various instructors’ playlists; the Polaroid Wall of riders and staffers’ pix; and the boutique featuring both private label stuff and SoulCycle’s own clothing line. Alas, we were too late to sample the lunchtime class, but the fact that we were not admitted once class started demonstrates SoulCycle’s commitment to creating an enveloping environment in which the rider can pay serious attention to mind, body and spirit. Ellis for one is sold.

“SoulCycle to me is life,” she said.

Class is set in a darkened, candlelit room in which 62 riders have their own space and yet feel the proximity of others. Ellis remembered the first time she got on a SoulCycle bike, wearing the special shoes that clip on to it:

“It felt so good. Riding to the music is infectious. And you’re close enough together that you feed off the energy. You feel everyone’s energy. It’s a very unique experience.”

For a taste, check out Kelly Ripa of “Live With Kelly & Michael” doing a SoulCycle workout on YouTube. Other celeb fans include her sometime co-host, CNN’s and “60 Minutes’” Anderson Cooper.

How SoulCycle got started is something of an urban legend. Two strangers – one, Julie Rice, a hard-charging L.A. talent manager; the other, Elizabeth Cutler, a Far East-trekking seeker out of Chicago – found themselves transplanted to New York and in search of good cardio. The two met at lunch, started their business humbly in 2006 in the back of an Upper West Side lobby and the rest is, as they say, Soulhistory, with 14 Soul sites – 11 in the New York metro area and three in Los Angeles.

WAG caught up with them recently by email to get their spin on their hot, hot, hot biz.

Julie and Elizabeth, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions from WAG. We’ve had a taste of SoulCycle, but what in your opinion makes it different from other bike-based fitness centers?

“SoulCycle has revolutionized indoor cycling by making it a full-body workout. SoulCycle uses one pound weights on the bike, simultaneously toning the upper body and core, while getting an intense cardio workout. Riders burn between 500 and 700 calories in 45 minutes. It’s like a cardio party on the bike.”

It looks pretty intense. Is the workout suitable for everyone, or are there some people who shouldn’t be doing it?

“SoulCycle is for everyone. We ride in candlelight to provide an accessible, nonintimidating sanctuary. SoulCycle’s philosophy is ‘Mind, Body, Cardio,’ and our goal is to make fitness joyful every day, every ride. Of course with any type of exercise, consult with your doctor if you have any medical issues or are pregnant.”

What do you like about this kind of indoor biking as opposed to other kinds of exercises?

“We each had taken our fair share of indoor-cycling classes and had ideas on how to elevate the experience. We both believed indoor cycling could be inspiring. We both believed you could incorporate an upper body and core workout into the routine. And finally, we believed with some great branding, a beautiful environment and outstanding customer service, the 45-minute class could be transformed into a unique experience each time.”

How often are you two on the bikes?

“Like most women, we’ve had to find the balance between running a business, being moms and finding the time for exercise. We’re happy if we can ride three to four times a week.”

SoulCycle will be coming to the Rye Ridge Shopping Center in Rye Brook this summer. What else is on the horizon?

“In addition to opening in Rye Ridge … we have an aggressive expansion plan in place to bring SoulCycle to people across the U.S. and beyond. This includes expansion in our current markets – the New York/tristate area and Los Angeles – and new markets, including San Francisco and London. SoulCycle is on track to double its footprint in the next year and operate upwards of 60 locations in the next five years (nationally and internationally).” n

The locker room of one

of SoulCycle’s Los Angeles studios.

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