Soulcycle Is Here! Calabasas and Westlake

Soulcycle has arrived in The Bubble – two new locations in Calabasas and Westlake Village allow you to “tap it back” and sweat your bottom off.

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Apparently I’ve been under a rock for a very long time, or at least successfully avoiding spin classes at all costs, because when Molly led me into my first Soulcycle class (indeed, my first ever spin class, period), she warned me that it would be “dark and loud,” but that still wasn’t enough to lessen the shock. Since I was late, I entered the class after any chance of being eased into it gently, after the warm-up, and right in the middle of the instructor’s ramp up to full speed. Basically, I was walking into a nightclub at full pulse, but the people were all dancing on stationary bikes, and there was no chance of a cocktail to take the edge off.

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Image courtesy of Soulcycle

The Obsession

Turns out, about a trillion people are completely obsessed with Soulcycle, a specially-designed indoor cycling class set in a candlelit room and led by “rockstar instructors” who shout commands and affirming mantras throughout the 45-minute workout. The music is loud, and mostly full of driving beats to accompany your pounding feet. The first studio opened in New York in 2005, and the craze has grown throughout the country. Once a studio gains a foothold in a community, you have to pounce on the computer or the smartphone app to get a spot in the most popular instructors’ classes. (Apparently at Calabasas it’s Franz, who I am told is just like the name sounds.)

soulcycle calabasas franz

You can reserve the exact bike you want

I didn’t know about the obsession before I took my first class, which is good because I might have been more intimidated than I already was, considering I’m out of shape (always) and I abhor cardio workouts, preferring nice happy yoga and hiking. But like I’ve said before, I am always up for trying something new, especially when invited by the happiest fitness staff on earth.

Although I plunged into the experience mid-class, I managed to follow along well. Well, just okay, but I didn’t vomit or pass out or fall off the bike, which I consider a win. And you can’t really fall off the bike, because you’re clipped in on special shoes. So I would have just sort of slumped over onto the woman next to me. The bikes are very close together.

The people in this class were all invited to brunch nearby at The Six, a Calabasas restaurant that serves up delicious brunchy salads and flatbreads, even a vegan version of the delectable goat cheese avocado flatbread – both were amazing, as was the company. That’s where I learned about how popular SoulCycle is in general, and how great it’s doing in Calabasas.

Soulcycle Calabasas app

Soulcycle Calabasas’s Alyssa demonstrates how to reserve a bike using the mobile app

The Workout

Next up, I tried out the Westlake Village studio, which is new in the plaza where Le Pain Quotidien, Pitfire Pizza, and CorePower Yoga are (Lots of fitness and food options in that plaza!) at Townsgate and Westlake Boulevard. This location seems a little bigger, but maybe that’s because I got there early for a change, and I was able to check out the place and ease into the experience with my guest Michelle.

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USB charger port inside the free locker!

We were fitted with fancy clippy shoes, led to our bikes (you actually reserve a specific bike), and shown how to clip in and adjust the resistance on the bike. The resistance wheel plays an important role in the class: the instructor will often command you to “add another turn!” and “come on, Westlake, give yourself one more turn!” increasing the difficulty of your pedaling as she urges you to “pump it faster!”

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Locker hallway outside the studio, where you wait for the previous class to end

The bulk of a SoulCycle class goes on much in this way, and a lot of it is in the dark, until the music builds to a crescendo and the lights flash and illuminate some of the room, especially the instructor so you can see what she is doing. You’re either standing up pumping the pedals as hard as you can, or sitting in the seat and doing pushups on the handlebars, or pumping little hand weights along to the music. Cool down stretches are done right there on the bike, too.

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Image courtesy of Soulcycle

The Verdict

Bottom line: I loved it. Have you ever heard me say that about cardio workouts? (Spoiler: no, no you haven’t.) Despite the fact that my heart was pounding and my face was bright red (but nobody could see me so who cares?), I enjoyed the music, the life-affirming script, the fact that I was actually able to pump it for like 5 seconds at a time before giving up and resting in the seat instead of barfing (but I couldn’t actually tap it back yet, because my back is still healing from a recent tweaking).

I was able to keep up, but with lots of resting, and I learned something I will share with you: if you’re totally pumping the pedals and you need to stop, it’s NOT like riding a street bike where you can just coast. If you stop, your feet will keep going with the bike because your shoes are clipped in! So you have to slow down gradually.

After each class, I was pumped up. Yes, I got sore, especially where I sit on the bike seat, because it’s been a while since I regularly biked. But it was good sore otherwise.

The Community

If you’re the kind of person who’s always looking for a new workout, I recommend trying SoulCycle. One great side-effect of the weird obsession people get about it is the sense of community.

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The rules

I guess it’s the way I imagine CrossFit and other branded exercise phenomena to be: full of people who are obsessed with their workout because it makes them feel so good and gives them a sense of accomplishment. At my first class I ran into my friend Julee, and I didn’t realize she was in the class because it was dark. She was so excited to tell me all about her love of the spin studio because she finds great joy in riding. If that’s what SoulCycle can give you, why not join that community?

SoulCycle Calabasas
23500 Park Sorrento
Calabasas, CA 91302
Parking is underground around the back of the building – just keep right. Yes, it’s really there.

SoulCycle Westlake Village
966 S. Westlake Blvd.
Westlake Village, CA 91361
Enter from Townsgate as if you’re going to Le Pain Quotidien. It’s on the right near Pitfire.

First class is $20 and includes shoes, after that they’re $30 each plus $3 for shoe rental. Discounts apply to bulk class packages. Once you buy a class, you can reserve your bike.

I attended the classes as a guest of SoulCycle – all opinions are my own.

Mommy & Me Classes at the Dailey Method

The flyer says “crying is normal here,” and I kind of wish that it was normal without your baby, because since I haven’t yet tried the Dailey Method I am sure that my first class will have me in tears.

But that’s just me. I have friends who LOVE the Dailey Method and so I am intrigued enough to try it. Obviously I am a glutton for punishment because I keep taking these sample workout classes (so I can tell you about them) and since I don’t make time to work out on a regular basis, it’s like starting from scratch every time.

The Dailey Method is described as an “efficient full-body workout which combines ballet barre work, core conditioning and strength training sculpts, tones and lengthens muscles in an efficient one-hour class.” In the baby classes, starting this September, the workout is adapted to be effective while you are wearing your baby! How cool is that?

Dailey Baby Letter Flyer_Sept16_2015 copyCheck it out, moms of babies! And stay tuned because I will indeed try the baby-free class and let you know whether I cry or not.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Nauseous and Woozy: A Burn 60 Workout (CLOSED)

Update: Burn 60 is closed.

A workout class that involves 60 minutes of circuit training at Burn 60 can be fun, if you don’t pass out or vomit first. 9/2016 UPDATE: The Thousand Oaks location of Burn 60 is closed, but you can still get the same killer workout in Brentwood and West Hollywood.

After an hour-long workout at Burn 60 I breathlessly interviewed the instructor, Nick. He described the philosophy of the studio and his own methods, and said “It doesn’t get easier.”

I must have looked particularly horrified, because he quickly followed that with “Well, the nausea and the burning in your lungs gradually goes away…”

Oh, great. Good.

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Listen, Agoura Hills. I do these things for you, not just for myself. If there’s a new restaurant/spa/experience in town and someone invites me to try it out so I can share it with my readers, I’m game. But as I told the nice people at Burn 60, I hate to work out and I hate running. You all know I love to hike: low impact, no bouncing. Aerobic exercise is the opposite of that, but it turns out that’s what my body actually needs.

So even though I was nervous about the possibility of passing out, throwing up, or both, I headed to Burn 60 on a recent Friday morning. Because the gym is so new, the classes are not yet crowded – there were only three other people in the one I took, which was just fine. The gym has capacity for many more, which meant I got to suffer in my own little corner.

IMG_9375Have courage, and don’t pee your pants.

When the class time came, (8:15 AM), Nick started the big countdown clock on the wall. 60:00. For the first fifteen minutes he led us through interval training on the treadmill. Faster, slower, more incline, less incline. From 15-30 minutes we did weight and resistance exercises on the floor. Back to the treadmill for 30-45, and back to the floor for the last 15.

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After about 5 minutes of a brisk jog, I had to hop off the treadmill to go pee (see above – I can’t handle the bouncing. Sorry, I know that’s TMI, but mah ladies who’ve had a baby or ten know what I’m talking about). After 15 minutes, I thought I was going to die. I was smart about it and didn’t push myself too hard, because I was starting from zero endurance. My lungs were burning and I couldn’t catch my breath. I used the change from treadmill to floor get a few extra gulps in.

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During the floor parts, Nick would give us an exercise to do for a minute or a few minutes. When we got to the last seconds he would count them down. Every time he did this, I was about to give up and call it a day, but somehow his voice, and the fact that this would end in 10 seconds, inspired me to eke out one more rep of whatever it was – a situp, a lunge, a medicine ball pound. Even though my body was screaming, my lungs were on fire, and my muscles groaned, I found a tiny bit of energy to keep going.

When it was all over, I had to take a few minutes to rest. The thing is, my brain really enjoyed this workout. If I was in shape even a little bit more, the continuous changing would be entertaining to me and I wouldn’t get bored. Nick said that no two of his classes are ever the same. That’s when he said the thing about it never getting easier. Basically, you go at your own pace. Even though I was doing the exact same workout as the other three members, the 17-year-old athlete was just as exhausted as I was because he did as many pushups as he could handle, just like I did. He just did a lot more.

IMG_9384After. Still alive.

For someone like me starting from scratch, Nick recommended three days a week at Burn 60. And then once I get into a groove, four. I can see myself getting in shape, and slimming down, really fast with that kind of schedule. I might also have a better attitude about life, and more energy, too!

Nick told me that his classes at the Brentwood location of Burn 60 are always packed, and the collective energy gets everyone going and motivated. At sleepy little Thousand Oaks, the loud music and Nick’s voice were plenty of motivation for me, but I can see how a crowd can help. As more people sign up for this gym, the better it will get.

Burn 60 is brand new at The Lakes and the facility is gorgeous. It’s small, with room for about 28 total people per class, but the average class size at the time of this writing is 6-10. There are charging stations for your phones, cubbies for your stuff, a hydration station, brand new equipment, and surprising amenities in the restroom including toothbrushes and scent for your underthings. How considerate.

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Right now you can try classes for a week for free (until June 3), but otherwise your first class is only $10, a single class is $28, and packages are sold for volume discounts. If I compare it to working out with a personal trainer, this is a great deal, because that’s exactly what it’s like with class sizes so small. Get in there while you can, Conejo Valley!

Burn 60

2200 East Thousand Oaks Blvd.
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362
805.409.4375