Anyone who has been within a five-foot radius of me (or follows me on social media) knows that I love Taylor Swift. And it's not just because we share the same name, birth year and penchant for red lipstick. We are kindred spirits. (But that is an entirely different post for another time, friends.)
What you might not know about me is that I am finicky when it comes to exercise. Historically, I've always been a Watch-Teen-Mom-While-on-the-Elliptical kind of girl and if I'm feeling particularly adventurous, I might partake in a Yoga to the People power vinyasa class in my neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The shirtless yogis with man-buns might be part of this motivation, but this is beside the point.
If you live in New York City as I have for over three years, you also probably know that SoulCycle has become A Thing here. But as a twentysomething who would rather spend $34ish on a night out with friends drinking whiskey gingers than sweating in a dark room while being yelled at, I've never found it all that enticing. Still, blame it on curiosity (or the knowledge that T-Swift herself is a frequent SoulCycler with BFF Karlie Kloss), I've always secretly wanted to try a class for myself. When I heard that SoulCycle was offering Taylor Swift-themed classes, I knew the time had come to pop my cherry.
So last Saturday, I called up the SoulCycle location in my neighborhood and reserved a bike for the following Monday. I was asked what seat I would like. When I told the receptionist that it was my first time, she recommended that I take a spot in the third row, so that I could see the instructor but it wouldn't be too intimidating. Bike #47 would be mine.
By Sunday evening, I was feeling excited, but nervous. I was glad to have the support of SoulCycle, though.
@taylortrudon have a great ride!
— SoulCycle (@soulcycle) November 24, 2014
On Monday, the big day, I arrive 15 minutes early, as advised by a co-worker and SoulCycle enthusiast.
"Hi, this is my first time and I have no idea what to do," I tell the front desk.
The front desk ladies don't even bat an eyelash. Instead, they smile and introduce me to a bubbly redhead named Brooke. Brooke gives me a special pair of cycling shoes in my size and shows me to my locker, which happens to be #89. I am convinced that this is fate. Brooke then tells me that I can choose any four digits as my lock code, so naturally, I choose "1989" because duh. Once I have my snappy shoes on, I clickety-clack back to the front desk, where Brooke leads me into the dark studio and takes me to my bike.
"You're petite like me!" comments Brooke, as she adjusts my bike. Brooke is officially my new favorite person. I hop on it and she patiently waits while I attempt to click my special shoes into the pedals. Once I'm set, Brooke leaves me and I immediately want to call after her, "Wait, don't gooooooo." But she does. I am ridin' solo à la Jason Derulo in the third row. I am alone, but not lonely (because T-Swift is there in spirit, obviously).
Then our instructor enters the studio. Eve has washboard abs and is wearing tight, hot pink spandex leggings and a tie-dye sports bra. Her left arm is covered in tattoos. She looks like a badass DJ goddess who is ready to rave. I am wearing mismatched socks because they are the only clean ones I could find. Before we start, Eve prefaces our ride by joking that this Taylor Swift-themed class is "very out of character" for her, but that she's doing it for us. Everyone cheers.
"I Knew You Were Trouble": Our ride kicks off with a dub-step heavy remix from my beloved Red album. I am in a club and even though I do not like clubs (eff no I won't pay a $20 cover to freeze my ass off and wait in a line outside), this is my kind of party.
At first, I'm having a good time doing my thing. But soon, I notice that the cyclists in front of me are bending their elbows and chest in a weird way. I am confused. I have flashbacks to algebra class freshman year, where I would look desperately around the room with a does-anybody-get-what's-going-on? look. It is then I realize that we are supposed to be doing push-ups using the handlebars. OK. Right. I had heard about this push-ups business. I got this. However, I quickly learn that just as I cannot rub my stomach and pat my head at the same time, nor can I pedal 900 mph and do push-ups simultaneously with my arms. Not only does it seem like everyone else can do this movement seamlessly, but they are also pedaling on a beat. I look ahead at the mirror and I see myself grossly out of sync with everyone. In fact, it looks like I'm having a full-on body spasm. I should also mention that I am sweating profusely.
"Blank Space": "OK, even I love this song," Eve admits. Because we are in the dark and because I am obsessed with this music video, I take this opportunity to channel T-Swift and make as many ugly/insane/dramatic faces as possible. I hope there aren't hidden cameras in here. I try and sing the words, but it is very challenging so I mouth them instead. "You can tell me when it's over, if the high was worth the pain," sings Taylor. I don't know if this is worth the pain, but one of the Front Row Girls with long, blonde curly hair circa Fearless-era tosses her mane back and is straight-up smiling. [Side note: Who can SoulCycle with their hair down??] I am immediately suspicious of her.
"22": Taylor sings, "It feels like the perfect night to dress up like hipsters." One of the Front Row Girls lets out an enthusiastic "woo-hoo!" #williamsburg
"You're Not Sorry": I think. I can't actually remember, because this may have been the point where I blacked out. Eve encourages us to take a sip of water. I look down and see my bottle of SmartWater has fallen out of the holder and has rolled away on the floor along with my sanity. I feel panicked. Should I stop and attempt to disconnect my feet from the pedals so I can retrieve it? That sounds dangerous. But before I can make a decision, Eve yells out, "Give it another full turn!" LOL.
"Clean": Oh, good, a "slow" song. Plot twist! Eve tells us to increase our resistance. My legs feel like I'm moving through a swamp. I think about what I'm going to eat for dinner. I think about things that make me happy, like strawberry-frosted Pop-Tarts and laundry fresh out of the dryer and Harry Styles' hair. I wonder if I'm hallucinating.
"Shake It Off": It is time for the weights. "I see the dirty looks on your faces," says Eve. I see my life flashing before my eyes, but I do not say this out loud. The way Eve is bouncing on her bike is akin to me having drunk two Four Lokos. A single bead of sweat rolls down my forehead and onto my nose but I can't wipe it away because my arms are becoming numb from lifting two-pound dumbbells above my head, which feel like bricks. Does the "But my elbows are double-jointed!" excuse from elementary school still work in this scenario? This song must be some weird extended version, because it literally goes on forever. I hate these weights. I hate this class. I hate everything. But not Taylor. I could never hate her.
"This Love": The room goes completely dark and Eve tells us to close our eyes. I obey. I think about Lena Dunham because this is the song Taylor supposedly wrote for Lena and her boyfriend, Jack Antonoff. I wonder if they will walk down the aisle to this song. I wonder if Lena will still have neon-green hair by then. Maybe Taylor will be a bridesmaid. I bet she'll get teary-eyed a little. Eve continues to give what I assume to be positive affirmations, but for all I know, they could be Wiccan incantations because I am in such a daze.
"Welcome to New York": "This is the end of our ride," says Eve and my ears perk up. I guess that wasn't so bad, I think to myself, the way I assume a pregnant woman who goes into labor and pops out a kid a million hours probably does. At this point, I give it my all, pedaling as hard as I can. My legs burn. I am Karlie Kloss. I am a supermodel. I am a Victoria's Secret Angel and I HAVE WINGS DAMMIT.
It's over. I whip my feet out of those pedals as if they've been set on fire. We stretch while listening to "Bad Blood." I locate my runaway water bottle and chug it like a frat bro shotgunning a beer.
Eve then says that we should make this T-Swift-inspired class "a thing," but alas she will be in the Hamptons next week. I will be in suburbia for the holiday weekend eating Chinese takeout and wearing flannel pajama pants, but that is neither here nor there.
Back in the locker room, my fellow cyclists (who are clearly regulars) talk about coming back on Thursday for the "Turkey Burn" class. They are brave women, but I am not one of them. Instead, I hobble outside into the abnormally warm November air feeling accomplished, slightly disoriented and extremely sweaty. At the same time.