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Fitness

NOTES FROM NYC: SOUL CYCLE SURRENDER

Claire Chitham

Big Apple Business: Claire catches up with GFU's New York reporter Renee Mundy, who will bringing all the action from the City That Never Sleeps.

Big Apple Business: Claire catches up with GFU's New York reporter Renee Mundy, who will bringing all the action from the City That Never Sleeps.

Meet Renee Mundy - our Good For You crew on the ground in New York. She'll be writing a regular feature called Notes From NYC, reporting on the latest health and wellness trends taking the Big Apple by storm. Dunedin-born, the international journalist and storyteller is based in Brooklyn and mum to two beautiful boys. You'll find her blowing off steam in a pilates class.

For her first assignment, Renee takes GFU inside the SoulCycle revolution - a fitness craze that's taken America by storm and sounds so good we can't wait for it to go global...

It's one of those cold, dreary Sunday mornings in New York. Seven degrees below zero outside and it must be at least 50 inside. The oven, an ambitious boiler and a family about to crack it from cabin fever are all dialling up the heat. The boys are starting to implode and I can hear all sorts of dramas happening downstairs. Sigh.

I need to get out, I think to myself. I’ve got to move my body or I’m gonna go a little crazy today. A text interrupts my thoughts. It’s my ‘Mom friend’ who’s also in need of an escape from her beloved family. “Need to get out. Going to SoulCycle. Meet me there?”

Ahhh, yes. Sunday just got a whole lot more interesting...

Since arriving in New York a year and a half ago I’d heard so much about the ‘SoulCycle Revolution’. Almost every second person asked me if I’d tried it and the 'SC' tribe seemed seriously devoted - cultish even. I wasn’t into cycle-based fitness, but I admit I was intrigued by rumours of dark studios and loud music where ‘working out feels like clubbing’. Yet I’d never managed to step foot inside a studio.

But my moment had clearly arrived. Seize the day and all that I think as I leap out of bed, peel on my leggings, lace up my sneakers and throw on my big down coat. I run out into the cold air bracing myself for both the low temps and a new adventure.

I am suffering from chronic lateness (again) today and my 40min subway ride to Williamsburg does not help my persistent condition. Still, I’m excited. And maybe a tiny bit terrified. Will I have to dance? Is there crazy choreography I need to master? Do I need to have rhythm?

My mind flashes to scenes of dancefloor antics from my 20s and I shudder. "It’s JUST a cycle class," I reassure myself as I step off the subway and dodge all sorts of super cool hipsters and twenty-something Williamsburg types. I feel out of my depth - in every sense.

"I’m so sorry! Am I late?” I blurt out at the girl behind the gleaming white desk as I stumble in the door.

“Mmmm.. A few minutes, but you’re fine," she says. “You’re done it before right?”

“Err, no,” I say. “But I’ve done Spin and I run and… I’ll be fine!”

I shoot her a bright, charming smile, hoping she’ll let me in. I feel like I’m 18 again trying to charm a bouncer.  She suggested that perhaps I come back for a later class after I’ve been shown the ropes.

“No thanks,” I tell her, “I’m jumping in!”

“Okay!” she says. She looks like she loves my enthusiasm. If only she knew I was packing it under that smile.

"Here, give me that,” she offers and scoops up my gear - coat, shoes and phone.

"Shall I charge it for you?" she asks.

“OMG yes. Thank you!” I'm super impressed. So far Soulcycle is ticking all my boxes.

She hands me a pair of shoes. They look like they’re for an Olympic cycling team. I frown.

How the?!... How do they even?!... "What on earth should I do with these?" I think to myself.

“Strap ‘em on, and I’ll show you how to ride!” she says.

My heart rate jumps a few beats as I follow her into the studio with my weird clickity-clackety shoes. I’m buckled up and ready to go.

The door opens and I’m plunged into darkness. Deep bass and beats shake me to my bones. My head hurts and I am literally blinded by the lights.

I notice shadows as I step inside and sense something in the darkness. Bodies maybe, or bikes, I really can’t be sure. I can’t see a damn thing.

Are there even humans in here? How many? How big is this room? And where is my friend?! Panic kicks in a little.

A warm hand grabs mine. It's my girl. She leads me over to my bike. I’m grateful for some guidance. I feel like I’m drunk and lost on the dancefloor. I launch myself up onto the bike. Her hands wrap around my ankles and snap my shoes into place on the pedals. That’s it. I’m locked in here now. I couldn’t run, even if I wanted to.

I look around me and slowly start to realise I’m in a room full of people. More than I thought, 20 or 30 maybe. I see flicks of blonde hair, and there is the instructor! Rising up on her bike under gleaming golden lights like some kind of gilded wellness deity.

I notice the darkened mirrors in front of me and spot my friend two bikes along from me. I breathe a sigh of relief and I wave like an excited three-year-old. One who’s just laid eyes on her Mom in the playground. I’m waving like mad but I don't think she sees me as everyone else seems to have their hands in the air too. I'm trying to catch her attention with an array of different expressions and then realise that probably ain't so cool.

Concentrate. Do your thing. Just ride, Ren.

The class pumps through some demanding choreography. I rise up and down on my cycle and throw myself back and forward over the handlebars like the instructor does. I wonder what kind of pain I’m going to be in tomorrow after doing all these ridiculous moves.

Just as well it's dark in here. I feel like a prancing peacock. I try to keep up with the timing. The music is goooood. My heart rate is rising steadily and - after 20mins or so - I find myself fully into the cardio, singing along loudly with my head down as I pump, pump, pump my legs.

I’m doing it! Yup, I'm feeling it. I'm a Soul Cyclist!

We get to the end and the instructor takes us through a few inspiring meditations about gathering up the good vibes from the class and taking them with us into our weekend.

We stretch. We salute the sun. We give thanks to ourselves. We are grateful.

I turn and grab my friend’s arm as we walk out. We are both dripping with sweat. To be honest, I've never been so obviously sweaty before. I'm kinda taken back by the sweat level, I mean I worked hard but I could have dialled it up a bit, if I wasn’t so distracted by... everything.

Feeling impressed and invigorated, we are beat. And beet. Bright red and every shade of pink.

But we are also smiling. Glowing. Happy. We are filled with oxygen. We hug each other with wide smiling eyes, exchange stories about the crazy room, tease each other for being so wet and stinky and laugh as we wander out under clear blue skies into the crisp, freezing air of New York. We totally nailed #selfcaresunday.

For more updates from Renee, follow her @bondixbrooklyn

 

WHY PILATES IS GOOD FOR YOU

Claire Chitham

A pilates instructor for more than 10 years, Claire knows a thing or two about the effectiveness that this unique combo of stretching and resistance training provides.  

So why is Pilates so good for you? Well, the short answer to that question is – because it helps build strength and tone while you’re body is in its most ideal postural form. This improves your overall health and longevity and ability to live a pain-free life. Boom! There’s a reason this form of exercise - one many called a fad back when it first appeared - is still going strong today. 

Pilates can create strength and flexibility (without bulk) in a way that supports all functional movement and structural health. And one of the positive upsides of that is that when we build tone from a place of correct posture, we're also shaping the body in its most ideal way too. 

After doing regular pilates classes for eight months,  I literally stretched myself taller. Yep, I had lengthened my spine by 1.5cm and the marks are still on the wall to prove it! 

I first started pilates in 2003, when I was looking for an exercise regime that wasn’t about doing weights at a gym. I hated exercise. But I desperately needed to get fit if I was to hold down the career that I had going on. I was about to do a four-week season of a demanding play six nights a week, whilst shooting Shortland Street full-time during the day, so I needed energy. I was also sick of seeing my terrible, slouchy posture on screen. Once I tried pilates, I loved it so much that a year later I began training as an instructor and the following year I taught my first-ever class. 

I’ve now taught in different cities and countries over the years and been exposed to many different philosophies and styles. And the one thing I can say, is that I still love the method and style that is taught at my home studio in Auckland - Suna Pilates - the most. Their focus is firstly on educating you about your own body and how it works and then building strength to support your best posture and shape. From there, we make sure to change it up and keep it fun so that boredom doesn’t have a chance to sabotage your #fitnessgoals. 

I love that we have clients of all ages, shapes, sizes and genders. We have taught All Blacks, Tall Blacks and 85-year-old legends all in the same class. The coolest thing is that everyone finds it challenging in their own individual way.

Pilates is also great if you are post-physio, trying to prevent an old injury from flaring up, trying to stay strong for a particular hobby or sport - such as golfing, skiing riding, running or tennis. Really it's an antidote for anything that requires functional movement that you know can be tough on the body. Pilates is also amazing at helping the body perform better. The exercises taught help build strength fro the inside out because it ALWAYS starts with activation from your core. This builds strength around your spine and bones. Plus everything else just flows better once your core has switched on.

More than anything I love the body awareness that pilates has taught me. I know when my posture is letting me down, and what to do to correct it. 

- Yours In Health and Happiness, CC