In an effort to market beyond the elite mothers of Chevy Chase, Soul Cycle generously invited The Rival staff to come in for a free ride. While I’m generally against exercise of any kind, something about it excited me. I think it was a combination of Cycle being compared to a cult, and that Lena Dunham had a Soul Cycle birthday party. “If Lena can do it, I can do it,” I thought.
When I walked into the glowing white building that is 4931 Elm Street to a crew of excited and fresh-faced friends saying things like “thanks so much for coming” and “sign your name and head right in,” it felt like it would be a breeze. I could totally see myself “finding my soul” here, despite having no idea what that means.
When the time came to lock up our things in the all-white locker room next to the all-white crew of regulars (which should have been my red flag—white people always do the craziest shit), I was pumped.
I tapped my way in on the shoes that were about to drag me to my downfall. I made fellow Rival writer and angel among us, Addie, totally ignore her own needs to help me adjust my seat, and literally grab my foot to lock it in for me.
As I asked her to please drag my body out of the studio if I died there, the room went dark, and the instructor hopped in to start the music. He asked if anyone was here for the first time. Afraid to be seen as an outsider, I hesitated but raised my hand in hope that someone would pay attention and be ready to rescue me when Thunderstruck inevitably came on and I could no longer keep up. It was an “Old School Rock” theme ride.
We started with Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” and I really did try to have fun. While my legs felt like they were going to fall off within the first five minutes, I tried to smile through it and sing along. But by minute fifteen, I found myself with my right foot unclipped, the weighted wheel still spinning, my body stuck down but still moving somewhere between the seat and handle bars, my ankle breaking, and my thigh muscles tearing.
Despite outing myself as an unexperienced outsider, no one came to my rescue. If it wasn’t clear before, I knew now that Soul Cycle is for the rich and capable who lack any sort of “soul.” Realizing I couldn’t put down the weight I needed on my left ankle to unclip my other shoe, I took it off and hobbled my way out on one foot, desperately grabbing onto these women’s bikes and sweaty backs like the crazy poor person they saw me as when I showed up in Nike leggings rather than a Soul-branded tank top.
When the class ended I was holding an ice pack to my ankle, waiting to be carried to my mom’s minivan and taken to urgent care. I was diagnosed with a sprained ankle and thoroughly embarrassed that I made such a scene over a little swollen tissue. If I really wanted to find my Soul, I would have powered through. Lucky for me, my shame had no limits.
Advil and icy hot were no help in moving my thighs, which I assumed were in so much pain from just fifteen minutes of my sad attempt at cycling. But cycling soreness wouldn’t leave me on the toilet at 4 AM trying to convince my parents “no, you guys just go back to bed and I’ll sleep here on the toilet.” It also doesn’t turn your pee the color of iced tea.
After some serious WebMD research, Soul Cycle sent me to the hospital for a diagnosis of an actually broken ankle and rhabdomyolisis, the breakdown of muscle tissue from trauma, which then puts bad protein into the blood at kidney-threatening levels.
Thanks to my cycling journey, my blood protein levels were at 100,000 U/L (the normal level is around 100 U/L). When a doctor came to see me, he let me know that this is something earthquake victims get from being crushed by buildings, and that the last time he had seen someone with levels as high as mine, they had fallen from a third story window.
In addition to the free class pass handed to me on the way out of the studio in what I think was an attempt to avoid a lawsuit, I was also the recipient of 8 nights in a hospital bed, a little portable “toilet” that was really just a pink bowl on some legs, and a combo of constant IV fluids and daily blood tests at 5 AM.
After a few days I could look back on this and laugh. The lessons I learned are many. I am no Lena Dunham, a brisk walk is enough exercise for me, and “stop complaining, some people don’t have legs” is a pretty solid mantra to get through anything. Most importantly though, I will never go back to find my Soul, I left it on that bike along with my left shoe and dignity (PSA: If your legs hurt more than just your average workout soreness, get that shit checked out).