SOUL Squad

Ten years ago, this past August, I found myself standing on the streets of Pennsylvania in the rain with no shirt and no shoes.  My boyfriend of two years had beaten me, raped me, and left me on the side of the road.

As I walked six miles to the train station, and a payphone, I wondered how this happened…how did I come to be half-naked, miles from home, covered in bruises and blood?

Like most victims of domestic violence, I thought the answer was clear: I had obviously done something.  There had to be something wrong with me.  Somehow, some way, this was all my fault.

The last words he spoke to me were, “Lauren, you’re nothing.  You’re no one.  And no matter where you go or who you’re with, no one is ever going to love you like I do.”

*

I wish I could tell you things got better – that I came out the other side strong, determined, and promised myself I’d never be in that situation again.  But the fact of the matter is when someone you love tells you you’re nothing without them, you tend to believe them.

I dated more bad men.  Not as bad as the one who left me, but not much better either.  My heart was already broken, but now my spirit was falling apart as well.

That’s when I turned to food.  Food never let me down – it never said no.  It never judged me or hurt me or called me stupid.  It was always there for me and, of course, it facilitated the perfect illusion.

For the first time in my life, I thought I had control over something.  I decided what went in and out of my body.  I decided when to eat and where to eat – or at least, I thought I did.

*

Like most life changing problems, mine started small.  I found myself adjusting my driver’s seat back further, going up a pant size (who doesn’t, right?) and occasionally getting winded going up the stairs. And then one morning, I looked in the mirror and decided I needed to avoid looking in mirrors.

Yet, I still turned to food.  I’d swapped one addiction for the other, and this one was just as lethal.  I decided it was time to get my shit together.  I didn’t just want to lose weight, I wanted to be healthy.

I started seeing a nutritionist, joined a gym, and even began talking to a counselor.  But still, nothing was happening.  The scale remained the same, and so did my attitude.  I was ready to call it quits.

*

Obsession.  Cult.  Addiction.  These are some of the words you may hear when it comes to SoulCycle.  But there are other words like ELITIST, OVERPRICED, and EXCLUSIVE, that you DEFINITELY hear when it comes to SoulCycle.

Before I entered the SoulCycle studio for the first time, I had a very specific idea of what I would find.  I thought it would be full of rich, white, thin women with high ponytails.  I thought they’d be repulsed by me and I’d automatically be shunned as an outsider.  Obviously, that didn’t happen.

Despite being an overweight Asian who drives a busted Camry, everyone (from the riders to the staff) treated me not only as if I belonged there, but as though they WANTED me there.

My first class was terrible.  Not because of the instructor, but because I picked the wrong shoes, cut off circulation to my feet, and had to leave early.  I was convinced that I needed to go back and finish at least one class in its entirety.  That’s when I fell in love.

*

Twenty-seven classes later, I’m hooked.  And I’m sure part of it is the endorphin rush, but the larger part of it is the people I’ve met at SoulCycle.  My favorite instructor, Jade, introduced me to some of her regular riders who have now become my people.

They’re always there with support, encouragement, and helpful advice that makes me ride harder and stronger.  We text on Monday mornings to make sure we take as many classes together as we can, and talk to each other throughout the day about how we can’t wait to get to SOUL.

My success is their success.  My struggle is their struggle.  That’s what’s so great about SoulCycle – it’s not a cult, it’s a community. The girls at the front desk know my name, ask how my day is, and are sometimes in class riding alongside me.

*

In this day and age (omg that just made me sound 1,000!), there are so many haters out there.  The Internet is crawling with trolls who can’t wait to take you down.  So to those people who think SoulCycle (or my obsession with it) is lame, to all those people who think it’s pretentious, or not worth the money, I say fine.  You’re entitled to your opinion.  And I am so happy that you’ve never been in a place where you felt like your confidence was so lacking that you didn’t need someone to root for you, but I am.

Also, SoulCycle may be expensive, but so is negativity (and triple bypass).  Being a Facebook troll is way more lame than getting psyched to work out and if you think SoulCycle is exclusive, that just proves you’ve never been in a studio.  And judging something before you’ve given it a chance is definitely way more lame than anything else.

My SOULSquad has become a second family.  They’re there when I’m at my weakest, and push me to hang onto strength when I find it.  Just because we’re on stationary bikes, doesn’t mean we’re not going anywhere.

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