Battle of the Bikes: Soul Cycle vs. Flywheel

When your Doctor tells you that running is no longer an option, what do you do?  That has been the dilemma I have faced for the past year now and frankly, it sucks.  I’ve tried a lot of options, but frankly break dancing is just too hard on my body to sustain long term and I hate the elliptical!  Running was always my outlet and there was something so satisfying about being drenched in sweat and sprinting the last little bit until you could barely breathe.  But, a bulging disc sitting on a nerve and my desire to still play golf has won out and thus I am faced with the task of figuring out how to proceed.

Enter the spin bike……..

At the beginning of December, my husband and I were in New York and our hotel had a Peloton Bike.  I had been so curious about it for so long especially since they opened a store up in Bellevue, but honestly, I’m not a fan of biking.  Over the years I’ve tried a few classes, but nothing that excited me or got me to return.  But the Peloton is different…..for the first time in years I felt myself pushing hard and experiencing that same wonderful feeling that running used to give me.  So when we left New York, I was immediately looking into getting a Peloton.  However, it’s going to take a little bit of time before that happens.  I put it on my #52Listsproject goal list for the year!

In the meantime, I decided to seek out some cycling classes and Bellevue is fortunate enough to have two options:  Soul Cycle and FlyWheel.

So here is the low down on both places from someone that is definitely not a cyclist, but instead a lover of being challenged, good music and a perfectionist of human performance.

Let’s first start with Soul Cycle:

  • An intro class will run you $20 to try it out.
  • It has a huge following and has people all over Bellevue buzzing!  I’ve heard from so many people about how much they love it.
  • The website was super simple to navigate and they made it really easy to pay online and sign up.  I love that!
  • I chose to go on New Years Eve and picked a class that wasn’t completely sold out since I have a tendency to get claustrophobic in small spaces or when there are crowds.
  • Upon entering, the staff was helpful and made you feel welcome.
  • This is where things took a turn for for the worse though……..Let me just say that I am a complete gym snob so it’s very possible that the things that threw me off will not bother others.
  • The hallway where all the lockers are was so packed you couldn’t move or do anything.  I tried going into the restroom and it was like a tornado hit it, I couldn’t even get in there.  Granted, they were switching out classes, but seriously, as a fitness facility, you have to plan for this and make it easier!  It’s not a huge space to begin with, but there has to be a better way to allow for clients to transition in and out of the main room.
  • The cycling room itself was a bit of a surprise.  The lights were low, candles on and it felt like a hot yoga room.
  • As I made it to my bike, an awesome employee met me and helped set up my bike since it was my first time.  That was great because I had no clue what I was doing and with it being so dark, it was hard figure out how to adjust the bike.
  • Once on, we were off, right away!  No real warm up and straight to some head banging music.  The bike has a nob you spin to adjust resistance, but no feedback on your RPMs or Torque level.
  • Without going into too much detail here on the class itself, I’m just going to say that had the room been at a better temperature, I may have felt differently.  It was so hot I couldn’t tell if I was sweating from working hard, or just from pure heat exhaustion.  It was hard to gauge my output because of it and it was also impossible to hear what the instructor was saying.  Like I said, if the room had been a better temperature, I may have been able to work much harder and walk out of there with a better feeling.  Also, my seat kept coming loose!
  • One thing I did love was using the towel for some upper body isometric work!
  • My biggest issue was with the lack of instruction on form.  I looked around the room and saw hunched over backs, hanging heads, and a lot of bouncing.  Granted I’m not a cyclist, but I do know from coaching movement that these are not great factors when it comes to cycling.  We treat injuries from these variable all the time in our office.
  • But, if Soul Cycle gets someone inspired and working out that didn’t before, they are doing their job.  People struggle all the time finding their inspiration in the gym, and sometimes it takes an environment like this to get them moving.  The music, the camaraderie amongst the participants, these are all good things!

Next up, Flywheel:

  • An intro class here will run you $15.
  • The website was also really easy to navigate and sign up.  And when you arrived, they have computers set up for you to check in at and already have your shoes set up in a cubby corresponding to the bike you reserved.
  • The facility itself is very clean and the high ceilings helped make it feel much more open and less crazy.  They also have the restrooms set up as individual rooms and a seperate changing room.  These are always nice variables for clients who do not feel comfortable changing in front of others.
  • Upon entering the cycling room, it is more of an amphitheater which helped it feel a little less confining.  Although, anytime you are packing this many bikes into a small room it is hard to avoid feeling cramped.
  • I got to my bike and my name was already on a gauge that shows you your RPMs and Torque.  This I love because I thinks it’s important to have something to aim for when exercising.
  • As I set up my bike, the instructor came right over and introduced herself and helped adjust everything.  This was great and something I feel is really important as an exercise coach.  You have to engage with your clients and help them feel more comfortable, especially when stepping into a new environment.
  • The class started, and this is where my eyes were officially opened to the power of cycling!  Yes, the music was loud and awesome just like Soul Cycle, but I could actually hear the instructor and she went above and beyond to make sure everyone had great form.  Throughout the entire workout she reminded us of correct form and reinforced the muscles we needed to engage.  She gave cues on your feet and knees, even what part of your leg to pull and push with.  As someone that knows squat about cycling, this was much appreciated and I could feel my body responding much better as a result.
  • The room was a perfect temperature, and with the fans going I felt myself being able to push hard without the worry of passing out.
  • Flywheel also has this thing called the Torqueboard.  If you sign up to do it, throughout the class you get real time stats of how you are doing compared to the rest of the class.  I love that they give you the option to do this because a lot of people don’t like this concept.
  • In the end, this was a phenomenal class that I felt so empowered by!  And when we took an upper body break to Mariah Carey’s “Heartbreaker” I couldn’t help but sing along!

Both workouts were 45 minutes, and thanks to my Apple Watch, here are the stats to give you a better idea:

(Flywheel Left, Soul Cycle Right)

The biggest difference between these two workouts is with my average heart rate.  My resting heart rate is 43 which means my top range is lower than most people.  In fact, usually when my heart rate nears 160 I start to get nauseous and end up feeling like crap after.  Part of the reason my average is lower for the Soul Cycle class is because of the heat in the room.  How on earth are you supposed to dig deep when you’re seeing stars?  During the Flywheel class I glanced a few times at my real time heart rate and I managed to hit 167!

So what’s the bottom line?  Sorry to all you Soul Cycle enthusiasts out there, but I am a Flywheel fan!  There were a lot of similarities in the actual workouts and the overall cost long term is close (Flywheel is a few dollars more), but coming from the side of injury rehab and performance, Flywheel is your better bet.

I would love to hear from all of you on your experiences with cycling classes.  Let me know if I need to try some other places out or if you think I missed the mark here!

At the end of the day, it’s important for everyone to find something that they love that gets them active!  So make sure you do you!

Cheers to week 2 of 2018!

-S

 

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