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