For the better part of the past year, I've been spending my Friday mornings under the rainbow flags of San Francisco's Castro SoulCycle, being coached into my day (and through my life) by a hilarious instructor, Luigi Aldon. In fact, he's one of the biggest reasons I've fallen in love with the class, and made it part of my weekly routine.
Aside from being irrationally entertaining, he's got some seriously great tips on how to get the most out of your class. And while I feel like I could be the expert myself at this point, I wanted you to get a little insight as to what it's like to be coached by him, so I'll let him do the talking. Here are five of the top mistakes he's identified with newer riders (and honestly, some vets), and how to correct them to get the most out of your 45 minutes (and $32).
Mistake 1: You're not using enough resistance
While resistance is crucial for any type of indoor cycling class, it's especially important in SoulCycle, as the class is rooted in feeling, and there's no electronic screen giving you a sense of how fast you're going or your speed. "Starting with the right amount of resistance on the bike is like laying a good foundation on which you can build your own powerhouse," said Luigi. "Since there are no numbers on the SoulCycle resistance wheel, you'll have to rely on your gut, and the feeling of the pedal strokes in relation to the rhythm."
When in doubt, add more on — you should feel a little tension of push and pull while you pedal. You can always take more off if you're truly struggling, or pedal slower at a higher resistance. "If you feel like your rushing or not quite catching the beat, you should add or take away accordingly. Otherwise, learn to trust yourself, the instructor, and the people around you to let you know when to turn it up. Change could be as close as a couple inches to the right."
Mistake 2: You're standing out of the saddle when you're not ready
This class is challenging, and you have to build up to get to a point where you can follow every command and instruction flawlessly — trust us. "Have the strength to know when to stay up and the grace to know when it's time to sit down," he said. "Those quick jogs and runs out of the saddle can be really taxing on your stabilizer muscles; these muscles burn out quickly, but also recover quickly." It's OK to sit down — and you definitely shouldn't be embarrassed. "A short rest in the saddle will recharge them and help you build muscular endurance. As long as you are clipped in with your legs moving forward you are winning!"
Mistake 3: You're not pacing yourself
If you go too hard in the beginning, you'll feel like dying before you even get to weights at the end of class. "The SoulCycle workout is a lot like dating," said Luigi. "Think about the first song like your first date; we're just getting to know each other, the bike, the positioning of your body. Listen to what you need in order to embark on this new relationship!" It makes sense, right? "By the third song, things should be getting pretty sweaty." [are you laughing yet?] "Note: Be open to possibly finding love in a SoulCycle class! Countless riders have found the loves of their lives clipped into a bike next to them. Something about tapping it back really puts people in the mood?"
"We value progress over perfection. Remember that this is a practice of who you are being versus what you are doing."
Mistake 4: You're not getting on wait list for full classes
"I teach rooster classes (6am and 7am) almost every weekday," he said [editor's note: 7am Friday is the best one]. "They are extremely popular and always have a wait list because DUH *hair flip*." Chances are, if you love SoulCycle, you've been on a wait list or have seen a wait-listed class at least once. "The good news is that people always sleep through their alarms, or have an excuse to not workout, or just get cold feet because I am super intimidating," (he's not) "This means that there is a bike open with your name on it!"
SoulCycle really does do everything they can to get you into a class, and I personally have never been turned away from a wait list; regardless of studio, city, and instructor. Even if the class says "Wait List" or books up quickly, get on that list, and don't let a wait list keep you from scheduling your workout. "FACT: I've never had to turn people away from a morning class. Additionally, most studios have multiple spare bikes and instructors can pull riders up on podium to make room for even more of you beautiful souls. Show up!"
Mistake 5: You're beating yourself up (or you have a bad attitude)
"You missed a tap-back? Can't finish a long run? Started quick-fire obliques on the wrong side? Reset. Try again. Don't beat yourself up. We value progress over perfection. We emphasize mindset over mistakes. Remember that this is a practice of who you are being versus what you are doing," truer words have never been spoken. And although SoulCycle can seem intimidating to a newbie, I can tell you that when I was new, and I had never met Luigi, he was the first to offer a compliment, tell me I did a great job, and offer helpful feedback.
"A great way to remind yourself of that practice is to encourage the people around you. Being generous with your energy helps you get out of your own way and lets us celebrate all of our little victories together!"