Yes, I know – SoulActivate has been around for months and I’m just now getting to the review. Honestly, I was intimidated. I’ve been a regular SoulCycle rider for a few years now, but this class was something completely different. I’m not ashamed to admit that it took me over a month to get the courage to sign up for this class. Not unlike when I signed up for my first SoulCycle class years ago.
The upside to my delayed review? I’ve had the time to take multiple SoulActivate classes and get some insight on what to expect, so I can pass it on to you. Without further adieu, here’s my experience and why you should consider adding it to your weekly routine.
I was nervous when I went to my first SoulActivate class. I had NO idea of what to expect. There had been some buzz about an intense new class on the horizon, but the teaser video they released before the launch was just that – a tease.
Let me tell you, this was a well-kept secret among the instructors and staff, which, of course, made me even more intrigued.
It just so happened that the L.A. Marathon was the same day as my first SoulActivate class and the end of the route was on my way to the studio. Seeing how much these runners have accomplished, so close to the end of the race, and the energy of the crowd cheering them on, turned out to be the perfect way to pump me up for class.
By the way, this class is no joke. If you’re the kind of person that wears makeup to workout, SoulActivate is not for you. No one looks camera-ready during a SoulActivate class – you’ll make funny faces, sweat everywhere, possibly drool, and definitely let it all hang out. Believe it or not, this is actually a good thing. SoulActivate doesn’t give you the time to worry about how you look or if your stomach is rolling over your Lululemons. It forces you to be completely present – all while pushing you to your limit.
What makes this class so different?
While the beginning and end of SoulActivate resemble a signature class, the middle bit is something else entirely. Think extra arm work, heavier weights, and pushing as fast as you can against as much resistance as your body will allow. But don’t worry, there’s a break in between intervals – one that seems shorter and shorter as the class goes on and your body starts to fatigue.
What kind of intervals? I’m so glad you asked.
For the first set of intervals, you’re pushing to exhaustion for 20 seconds, then resting for a minute. While it’s strenuous and definitely gets your heart beating, it seems doable. That’s when you start thinking, “I’ve totally got this, I must be superhuman.” Your confidence won’t last long. After a recovery ride to bring your heart rate back down, it’s back to work. Only this time, the break between 20-second pushes is only 10 seconds. That’s right, ten seconds. Remember earlier when I said drooling was a possibility? This is when it happens.
Oh, and did I mention this class is 60 minutes instead of the usual 45? So, yeah, you’re going to be exhausted after.
Why did they structure the class this way?
While a traditional SoulCycle class is already an awesome workout, the company wanted to create a class that would challenge their riders’ bodies in a whole new way. In a signature SoulCycle class, your heart rate remains high for most of the 45 minutes. Although there are some fluctuations, in general, your heart rate stays in the same zone. SoulActivate changes that. While the class starts and ends in the signature Soul style, you’re doing high-intensity intervals in between. So instead of maintaining an elevated heart rate for the entire class, you’re alternating between pushing to failure and resting. These alternations create heart rate variations that have been shown to be more effective at reducing body fat than steady-state exercise.1
Of the three SoulActivate classes I’ve been to thus far, the number of intervals we did during each push has slightly varied. I’m not sure whether this is Soul experimenting with the format or just making sure riders who regularly take SoulActivate classes don’t get complacent. Either way, it’s been hard every time.
Although there were a few brave souls taking this as their first ever SoulCycle class, I’d recommend taking a few signature classes before committing to a SoulActivate – you’ll get a lot more out of it if you’re already familiar with the equipment. Also, don’t expect this class to completely replace your other SoulCycle classes – it’s meant to supplement them. If you begin to take SoulActivate classes regularly (even just once a week), you will definitely notice an increase in your performance when you take the signature classes.
If you’re used to (or prefer) cycling classes that are more focused on metrics (like Flywheel or CycleBar), SoulActivate will be more your jam. However, despite having a more athletic focus than the signature class, it still has everything that draws me to Soul in the first place.