Boroughing: Soul Cycling
Stephanie Riederman

This will be no ordinary spinning class. Here, the intense instructors and yoga-vibe inspire an unlikely feat, a near spiritual awakening on a Schwinn stationary bike.

It's early morning, way too early. I can hear the aggressive thud of a hip-hop remix from the street, but once inside I am greeted by soft lighting and a row of cucumber-scented candles.

Designer-clad socialites with immaculate ponytails stand in one corner of the room comparing children's clothing boutiques. In another corner I overhear the hard-core exercise buffs discussing the latest in organic food. Then there is me, corner-less, with my typical college gear: ratty t-shirt and baggy shorts. So, without making any small talk, I edge inside to the front desk where a very blond and unbelievably happy looking woman signs me in.

Packed with bikes, every inch of the studio is coveted ground. Here is where the true hierarchy unfolds, where the most devout hard-bodies take their honored seats in the front row and the outsiders hide along the back wall. I play it safe and choose a bike somewhere in the middle. After momentarily struggling to clip into the bike, my shoes finally adhere to the pedals with a satisfying click, and I'm anchored. I warm up at my own pace, feet slowly nudging the pedals forward, legs falling into smooth arcs.

As I slip into the mindless repetitive motion that is spinning, Stacy walks in. A yoga student of Sri Pttabi Joyce in India, she is rumored to have completed the fire-walk, a feat that designer-clad exercise buffs could duly venerate. Stacy is an unlikely combination of guru and drill sergeant who carries an aura of enlightenment upon her brightly colored t-shirts and sweats. She is the consummate spinning prophet.

After changing the music to a sort of distorted chant, Stacy circles the room, intimately greeting each individual participant. She silently places her hands on top of mine, as if to ask "Are you, with your college gear, mentally prepared for the next 45 minutes?" I answer with an enthusiastic nod. The next moment she mounts her bike on a raised platform in the front of the room, and yells: "there are no men here today so feel free to talk about babies and bleeding!"

Suddenly things begin to blur. With the lights dimmed, only flickering candles guide our way as the pace picks up. I'm instantly slick with sweat, doing pushups against my handlebars to the beat of Justin Timberlake's "Sexyback," and full out sprinting to angry rock music. As the temperature rises and the mood intensifies, women dance along to the music, and proudly strip off sweaty layers of clothing to reveal toned athletic bodies.

With only a casual glance, Stacy impels me to turn up my resistance, or to pedal faster, but even in the toughest moments I feel a release, as my legs spin out of control. I am transported outdoors, as Stacy warns us of an "upcoming hill" or "tough stretch," and I glance at the mural of wide open road disappearing into the distance that serves as our backdrop.

After finishing a series of focused meditation poses, we grab weights and punch out our frustrations to the beat of 80's pop. The 30-somethings who fill the room—the young mothers and the hip unmarried alike—sing along with every word. Following a "tough hill," the class collectively assumes the Lance Armstrong, hands-raised-high-in—the-air victory pose.

Stacy turns the music off. "Close your eyes," she says soothingly. I am on the open road. "No matter who you are, or what kind of shape you are in, this is the moment where your inner athlete emerges." I pick up my pace. As Stacy slowly counts down the last moments of our final push, she adds, more quietly this time: "your perceived physical limitations are nothing."

I thought "Isn't that an Adidas slogan?" No matter—in these final moments, we spinners were a unified force, pushing each other further than Stacy could herself. When she reaches "one," my eyes open, and legs come rolling to a stop. Stacy brings her hands together and takes a long, low bow.


Stephanie Riederman is a Columbia College first-year. She might be a little too addicted to spinning class.

design by Zach van Schouwen