By Christina Pearson, Instructor at SoulCycle
It begins as soon as you arrive. You are bombarded with paperwork, water, and directions to the locker rooms — as what seems like a million sweaty bodies climb over each other to rush off to the next part of their day. It’s like starting at a new school, only this time you are in a dark, candlelit room or a studio, with all sorts of crazy equipment that could double as torture devices. And to think — you haven’t even begun the workout yet.
I get it, it’s overwhelming. Taking a first-time class at SoulCycle or at any new-to-you fitness studio can be scary, but please know that the instructors are your biggest advocates. We are here to guide you through your entire experience in a clear, informative, and fun way. But it’s also a two-way street. We come together with you to make it great.
My husband has a saying that he uses quite often (feel free to steal!): “Chris… you didn’t give me enough information to be successful.” I can’t tell you how many small arguments he has definitely won with that one. I also can’t help but think that this applies here as well. My hope is to give you all the information in a concise manner at the top of class so that you can have a successful class, whether it’s your first time or your hundredth class.
I was always the new kid in school, so maybe that’s why I empathize with newcomers so well — it’s always nice to see a friendly face leading the way. Maybe it’s the North Carolinian in me, but I love making people feel special and welcome in my class. I think it is imperative that instructors remain empathetic to beginners. You are what new participants will correlate with that brand, and I like to be the very best representation that I can be of the brand I am working for. A lot of times instructors only get one shot with people to make that impression a good one.
For instance, just as your typical audience member does with a Broadway show — they see it once. So those performers have one shot to deliver the message of the show to the audience. If the intentions of the actors and dancers are not crystal clear, the show would close in a week. If a new client didn’t feel welcome or have all the information needed to be successful — they most likely won’t return to that instructor. It’s not just about client retention — that’s just the cherry on top, I love seeing a returning face! What’s absolutely crucial is that participants feel safe with me — safe in what we are doing, and safe that it’s a sure bet that I will give them a fabulous workout every time. It’s all about trust!
Now this is not to say that I water down my classes so that beginners are the only ones benefiting. A great instructor can act like a conductor, satiating the more advanced crowd’s appetite for a hard workout while keeping the newbies in the loop. I truly believe that you are never too advanced to learn something new. Stay open minded. Sometimes you can have years of experience under your belt, and one instructor can say something in a way you’ve never heard before, thus changing the way you approach that part of class.
Here are a few ways YOU can be on top of your game before you start a new sweat sesh:
- Hydrate/Fuel up prior to class.
- Arrive early. Coming in late for one of your first few classes is not only stressful but dangerous. Especially if there is equipment or machinery involved.
- Have studio staff set you up. Better yet have your instructor set you up! I know your pal Sally has ridden 1.25 billion times at SoulCycle, but I can assure you that she probably doesn’t know the in’s and out’s of setting up different people of all shapes and sizes. With indoor cycling especially, your bike settings can make or break your ride. Setting up haphazardly isn’t the best for your body either.
- Leave your phones outside. No distractions — this is your time!
- Injuries/Pregnancies? Let us know! Instructors are happy to help with modifications.
Now you’re set up and ready for class to begin. A few tips for our journey together:
- Visuals. Whether it's watching the instructor demonstrate or watching the advanced riders at SoulCycle in the front row — keep your eyes peeled for something that inspires you to keep going or correct your own form.
- Corrections. Don’t be embarrassed if we give you corrections! We just want to keep you riding and thriving for as long as possible. Safety first.
- Don’t be afraid to take this at your own pace. And no, I don’t mean do your own thing the whole time. If you start to feel overwhelmed, remember… Beyoncé wasn’t built in a day. Everybody starts somewhere!
- Stay for the stretch. It’s built in to the workout and a part of the experience. Would you pull your emergency brake while driving 60mph? Your body needs to cool down.
Class is over and you are left with a few questions.
What was that “tapback” business? Holy crap that was fast - will I ever get the fast stuff? Are my bike settings right? My foot cramps every time - what gives? Again, this is where we meet halfway. I love questions and I’ve never had a bad question come my way. If you don’t ask, I’ll never know you needed an answer. By asking simple questions, you can turn an average workout into a much more focused and applied performance.
Trying a new workout could be a game changer in more ways than one. Never let the crowd or the stigma around that workout or studio deter you from trying. It could change your body, your attitude, and your life. Instructors are there like little fitness sherpas to help you along the way! We chose this line of work to watch you find your best self. Moral of the story: Take the leap because the net will appear.
Christina Pearson is from Charlotte, NC, and has been living in NYC for the past 10 years. She began dancing at the age of two, danced competitively earning several titles through her teens, and pursued her BFA in Acting from Point Park Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA. Christina has done numerous musicals, plays & this year appeared on NBC’s The Mysteries of Laura. Her fitness journey began at Physique 57, where she taught barre classes for four years. Christina created Physique 57’s Strong and Lean, a 30-minute online video, which is one of the company’s best sellers. She has been teaching at Soul Cycle for the past two years, and can be found at their West Village, Financial District, and Short Hills locations.