SoulCycle's New HIIT Class is Murder, in the best way


Right after our first set of intervals, as I gasped for air amid encouragement from instructor Laura Crago, I thought well, gym cycling classes are toast. After more than a year in a development by a team of master instructors, SoulCycle launched its new SoulActivate class on Tuesday, February 27. And it is a bitch (but in that I DID IT AND NOW I CAN DO ANYTHING kind of way).

Less about the sweaty playfulness and clubby choreography that put SoulCycle on the map, the hour-long, HIIT-style Activate class is the answer to critics who say Soul rides aren't scientifically optimal training for the cardiac system—a number of competing gyms and cycling studios have long focused on "smarter" programming that centers on increasing heart rate and strength training. Now, with an aggressive studio expansion and a following of veteran riders who could complete the traditional SoulCycle class in their sleep, the company is upping its game with the addition of this endurance-building class in studios throughout the Bay Area, New York, and Los Angeles.

The class begins as usual, with a warm-up song and a series of climbs and sprints with the brand's signature tap-back and push-up movements. At about minute 20, though, things took a more serious turn.

An extended weight-training session gave our legs a break but worked our arms using multiple, heavier weights than Soul's traditional rides. And then our instructor sprang it on us that we were in for some gnarly HIIT.

"This is how Olympic athletes train!" Crago shouted, pumping us up. "Pushing your heart rate as hard as you can, followed by real rest, is proven to make you a stronger rider, make you faster, make you better."

At what would have been halfway through a standard SoulCycle ride, we began a series of six intervals, turning up the resistance on our bikes until it felt like pedaling in quicksand. We spun as hard as we could for 20 seconds, then took a one-minute rest, our legs completely still, our chests heaving. After each run, Crago marked the number of sprints we'd completed on a whiteboard behind her; after the first, my legs felt thoroughly worked, my lungs like they were going to explode; after the sixth and final run, I felt like someone really should be handing me a medal.

After a brief reprieve sprinting on a lighter load, we rolled into a second set of intervals. I think I laughed as Crago announced what was coming—I'd barely finished that last set alive. (At this point in the class, a normal 45-minute ride would be over and I would be halfway down the street grabbing protein waffles at Project Juice.) But she wasn't joking, and we instead embarked on a series of eight sprints, 20 seconds each with just 10 seconds off. I honestly don't know how I made it through, but once we moved onto our final sprint song, I was high on my own oxygen and would do whatever she asked.

It's important to note that this class is definitely not for noobs: SoulCycle recommends riders take at least 10 standard classes before signing up for Activate. For experienced riders who already incorporate SoulCycle into a weekly fitness regime, the brand advises taking the new class about two times per week. For myself, I think once a week, as a way to really test and push my cardio system, is plenty ambitious.

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SoulCycle taking over the Bay, Meditative HIIT and Dare to Bare San Francisco


Get ready to sweat.

Dare to Bare

On Sunday, May 20, Movemeant Foundation is hosting its annual Dare to Bare fundraiser at Marina Green, benefiting the organization's body-positive programs in public schools and scholarships for underprivileged girls. Break out your sports bra and sunblock to participate in an outdoor SoulCycle class, with gear provided by Sweaty Betty. // Dare To Bare, May 20 at Marina Green Triangle. (Fort Mason),

Care for a MNT?

SoMa's barre and Pilates studio for the fit Pinterest set (their HQ is across the street), Mint Studios has expanded its space and offerings and has now been reborn as MNTSTUDIO. As Hamptons-feeling as any SF studio can be, the new MNT offers all of the same classes but with upgraded amenities and a new kids' play space for parents who want a workout but don't want to pay for a babysitter. // 766 Brannan St. (SoMa), 

New in FiDi

Love Barry's Bootcamp but can't deal with the trek to the Marina or SoMa? Barry's just opened a 5,800-square-foot studio on Bush Street, less than two blocks from the Montgomery BART stop, with the largest locker rooms of any Barry's in the city and new 50-minute 'power breakfast' and 'power lunch' classes. An upgraded Fuel Bar and loungey lobby make this the most luxe Barry's in the Bay. // 333 Bush St. (FiDi),

A Mind/Body Sweat Fest

One 60-minute session on workout days is usually all we can fit into a good work/life balance, which means a daily struggle of whether or not to prioritize strength training, cardio, yoga or meditation. North Beach's new ZenFit studio combines all three practices into one 55-minute session of HIIT and yoga intervals, finishing with a 10-minute guided meditation—the ultimate mind/body solution for modern multitaskers. // 1020 Kearny St. (North Beach),

Attn: South Bayers

Those living or working in the South Bay can now clip into Cincinnati-based CycleBar's first Bay Area location, in Westgate in San Jose. Different from other cycling imports, rental shoes are complimentary, unlimited monthly memberships are offered, and all drop-ins and members are given a consultation on best classes for their personal goals. Monitors on each bike track how far you've come. // 5293 A Prospect Road. (San Jose),

Pilates, Meet Yoga

Pilates ProWorks, known for its proprietary hard-core fitformer Pilates classes, is adding a yoga-inspired Tone and Flow class to its repertoire at studios throughout the Bay Area. A blend of yoga and mat Pilates, the class is meant to complement a reformer practice with more focused core-strengthening techniques and flexibility work. // Multiple locations,

Cycling Around

Indoor cycling's gold standard and still-growing empire, SoulCycle, is getting real about a Bay Area takeover. Three new studios are opening this month in San Mateo (May 18), Berkeley (May 21) and Los Gatos (May 23). All will be staffed by a combination of fan-favorite instructors and local newbies who will push you to your sweatiest edge as you pedal like crazy to the sound of your new favorite jams. // Multiple locations,