(LA TIMES) James S. Fell — I’m an outdoorsy type, and you won’t get me on a stationary bike unless there are a few inches of snow on the ground. But I’ve pedaled my way through enough indoor-cycling classes to know that instructors need to be engaging and entertaining to keep you coming back.
Which brings me to SoulCycle. It’s a hot name in fitness, and it’s on its way to Los Angeles. This 5-year-old New York City-based chain of indoor cycling studios became famous for merging upper-body exercises with traditional stationary bike workouts. Throw in some candlelight, a whiff of aromatherapy to cover the B.O. and charismatic instructors shouting encouragement over upbeat dance music and you’ve got a cardio class with a devoted following.
Some of SoulCycle’s followers are folks you may have heard of, including Brooke Shields, Chelsea Clinton, Anderson Cooper and Tom Cruise, according to media reports. What’s more, actress and talk show host Kelly Ripa gushed about the place in an on-air segment last year: “This class, SoulCycle, is more than an exercise class. It really is an inspirational class that is as good for your brain as it is for your body.” With buzz like this, it’s not surprising classes sell out within minutes of being posted online.
SoulCycle is emphasizing the primary thing I’ve highlighted to my clients and readers: the importance of finding an exercise you love and embracing it with fervor. And it appears to be working. The company has expanded well beyond its Manhattan base. Studios are slated to open in West Hollywood in January and in Brentwood in the spring, with more California locations to follow.
Exercise adherence is all about feeling the love, so what’s not to love about SoulCycle?
SoulCycle takes an enthusiastic approach to exercise that I want to endorse. But I give this company a failing grade for exercise physiology and biomechanics. The whole idea of working one’s upper body while pedaling a stationary bike is not only counterproductive, it can be physically detrimental over time, according to several experts I talked to.
Unfortunately, neither of the co-founders, Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler, is an exercise physiologist or a certified cycling instructor. (Before opening SoulCycle, Rice was a Hollywood talent manager and Cutler sold luxury real estate.) Rice told me they worked with an exercise physiologist to create the routines, but that still doesn’t erase my concerns about safety or efficacy.