The Difference Between Soul Cycle And Orangetheory (From A Trendy Fitness Addict)


Like many other unmotivated anti-gym rats, I have found myself a victim to the temptation of all that is over-priced, trendy, and guaranteed to whip your butt into shape. In the midst of raging endorphin’s and promises of a six-pack by summer, I’ve uncovered a comical contrast in two of the year’s hottest fitness trends: “Soul Cycle” and “Orangetheory,” and I’ve (barely) lived to tell the tale.

Walking into the pristine, white, Soul Cycle studio, I have to admit I knew I was in for an experience. There were complimentary ear plugs by the sign-in sheet, which was a first. One of my biggest pet-peeves is the music not being loud enough, so I was excited that this was clearly not going to be your mother’s spin class.

All of the instructors are ripped, which certainly doesn’t hurt. If you are going to be taking my $30 for 45 minutes, you better be a walking representation of the results.

As the class started, the “team atmosphere” that Soul Cycle sells came to fruition. People were cheering and grunting before we were five minutes in. Then all of a sudden you are dancing- yes DANCING- on the bike. Rhythmically I am challenged (I tried Zumba once and have never quite recovered) so I desperately tried to catch up, flinging my entire upper body up and down, forward and back. The instructor is literally OFF the bike, on the floor, breaking it down. All I could think is that I wished I was half as cool (and coordinated) as her.

The class progressed into a strenuous ride/light-show/inspirational speech. The minutes flew by so quickly that I didn’t even get angry that there wasn’t a clock on the wall. The “arms” portion happened, during which I cursed the gods on how it is possible to struggle lifting one pound weights…but then comes the real magic.

You are exhausted, on the verge of vomiting, dripping, but feeling accomplished and in great company. The (what has to be “anthropologie” scented volcano) candles are blown out, and the spiritual part of the class commences. The once aggressive, dancing-machine of an instructor is now calm, pacing, and speaking in a strong but soothing tone. “Be so strong that those around you CAN’T HELP but be stronger, whatever opposition you face remember what you’ve gained in this room, leave the negativity BEHIND.” Boom. Take my $30 forever, Soul Cycle. I’m sold. I walk out of the class strutting like Beyonce, covered in sweat, ready to kick the world’s ass.

As mentioned, as addictive as Soul Cycle may be, your bank account may suffer. My local Soul Cycle studio is in the heart of DC’s GW campus. For all that aren’t still on Daddy’s AMEX, another alternative may be necessary. Although, I’d seriously contemplate rearranging my lifestyle to be a ripped, fit, soul cycle goddess until the end of time- if it were a realistic option.

Friends near and far seemed to be hooked on “Orangetheory,” a bootcamp-style class with all the benefits of a personal trainer for a fraction of the price! The first class is free- but because of this they book up quickly. My co-worker and I reserved our spot, and after a two week wait our session had arrived!

I will start off with saying, everyone there is SO nice. Weirdly nice. It’s not some weird cult where people are unfriendly and standoffish. It is not intimidating, and the classes are full of different shapes and sizes. Orangetheory is very much your own personal workout, and relies on heart rate monitors and interval workouts to get in different “zones” and burn calories fast! Some people may walk, some may sprint, it’s all at your own skill level, while still in a team-like environment. I like that aspect.

After my personal tour and meet and greet with the trainer, I strapped on my heart rate monitor, and immediately could see my name (along with everyone else’s) on the big TV screen. It did feel eerily reminiscent of my first high-pressure sales job, but everyone is too focused on themselves to really stare at the other names on the screen. Your name changes colors throughout the workout, which corresponds with your heart rate zone. This lets you know if you are on the right track. You even get a bar graph synopsis via email after the class so you can track your progress over time.

I was feeling fairly optimistic going into the workout, confident that I would leave on the same blissful high note at Soul Cycle. I had no idea what the next 60 minutes had in store.

Half the class starts on either treadmills or rowing machines, the other half starts on the floor doing exercises you’ve pinned on pinterest, but never actually intended on doing. Every class is different, but during mine we switched back and forth three times. For my fellow cardio queens, the intense treadmill intervals were manageable, but then jumping off and completing the floor exercises were not only exhausting, but really REALLY difficult! I would never do a “pop-jack” (a sort of extended burpee) on my own, so mission accomplished. Did I hate every second of it? Absolutely. Every time we went back on the treadmill I stared at the floor exercise group, cringing at what grueling routine was next to come.

The outcome: they couldn’t have been nicer, but unexpectedly KICKED MY ASS. I didn’t walk out feeling like Beyonce. I walked out with the expression on my face similar to Taylor Swift when Kanye jumped on stage during her acceptance speech.

I was so sore, I couldn’t walk normally for three days. While it isn’t a therapeutic transformation, it is reasonably priced ($14/class with 8 class/month membership). I have confidence that after a few months of Orangetheory push-up/burpee torture, I will in fact have way more of a bikini bod than I would ever have if left to my own devices.

While yes, fitness fads seem to be the “next hip thing,” I think they are here to stay. It may not be a cheap hobby, but neither is hitting up happy hour or dinner with your gal pals 3-4 times a week. I’ve found that these activities are fun, social, and much more productive that a boring solo gym-sesh. If the outcome is a sassy attitude and a toned physique, I’ll take it!