I was confident I wouldn't fit in. I would be an overweight, lumbering CrossFitter and weightlifter, wading into a sea of skinny white basics.
But, if I ever wanted to try SoulCycle, now was my opportunity.
I've been a member of an online workout support group-of-sorts for about a year. I join in the online discussions, "like" the other members' photos and videos on Facebook and Instagram, and offer encouragement if someone seems to need it. But, whenever the topic of the monthly meet-up/workout is broached, I fall silent.
These women had become my sisters, my confidantes and my support group, but I was terrified to workout with them. What if I'm the biggest one there? What if I can't keep up? What if, once again, I feel like the fat one out?
But I knew SoulCycle was dark and arranged in lines, so people were predisposed to not see you. The leader of the online group had managed to swing a free class for us, which rounded up the utter annihilation of my excuses.
I stepped through the glass doors, from the harshly lit, hot and humid Houston into the welcoming, cheerful - and somehow also serene - foyer. I was terrified, immediately surrounded by beautiful, fit people. But, they managed to put me at ease with smiles that offered comfort and inclusion.
I signed in, received my shoes, and headed down the white hall - passing the bright yellow Big Ass balloons that indicated a party was afoot - to the co-ed locker room. (Adjacent to the separate men's and women's bathrooms and showers. Phew.)
Amid the beautiful women (no really. Like, stupid beautiful.) in the, again, all-white, locker room, my fresh comfort and confidence began to waver. The Kool-Aid offered to me by the receptionist's smile was wearing off. But, my cup was quickly refilled by both the veterans and the newbies who helped me find my locker and showed me how to operate it.
With my belongings in stow and my feet in borrowed shoes, I clacked, water bottle and towel in hand, back down the hall to the, thankfully sparsely populated, studio. I found my bike, situated my water bottle and climbed to the seat.
The seat was too high, too far back from the handlebars. I tried to get off but the foreign shoe had clipped itself into the pedal, refusing to release me from the cult's grasp. Panicked, I looked around frantically. Again, I was greeted with a smile. "Having trouble?" asked the friendly cyclist pedaling away caddy-corner to me. I managed a nod. "Don't worry; they'll set you right up."
Her hand shot in the air. "It's happening!"
Immediately a friendly face with a yellow SOUL tee was by my side, guiding my foot out of the locked position and showing me how to adjust the bike's three components: the seat height, the handlebar height, and the distance between the two. She helped me up and taught me how to clip in (on purpose).
No. I don't think I belong here. I'm not a SoulCycle kind of girl. I've never been to a spin class. I'm sitting on a pole. And my clipped shoes make me feel like there's no escape.
The class filled up quickly and soon I was surrounded and being greeted by a voice that was trying to be soothing but was clearly meant to yell.
We began, guided by our leader, Catie, calmly saying "left, right, left." According to her, with everyone on the same foot, the energy becomes palpable. Soon, the class became one. Our feet moved in unison left, right, left faster and faster. Did I have no control over my own body? My legs spun of their own accord, matching, spin for spin, those to my right and left. Left, right, left. Before I knew it, I was tapping it back.
Twenty minutes into the class I felt death approach. My mouth was filled with cotton balls, my Dri-Fit tank drenched. I reached for my now half-empty water bottle, and watched it fall from my fingers to the ground in slow motion. Oh no.
Disoriented, I went to grab my towel and it, too, slipped from my grasp. I tried to unclip my shoes to pick up my manna, and I couldn't figure it out. I was trapped on the bike from hell with no water and no towel. I'm going to die here.
With zero regard to my dire situation, Catie persisted. Left, right, left. So, I pressed on. Again, my body matched the tempo of those around me. We pumped together, up and down. Swayed together, left and right. Spun together, faster and faster.
"How's my back row feeling?" Catie demanded.
A voice sounding suspiciously like my own responded, "Woooo!" Was that? Noooo. Was that me? Did I just woo?
I did. I woo-ed. I was - dare I say it - having fun. Mind you, a torturous, killer-cardio-driven kind of fun, but fun nonetheless. My thighs no longer felt like they were on fire. (Truthfully, they didn't quite feel much like anything.) And I finally felt ... home.
That's it. I was home. There was peace here. Comfort. No judgement, no side-eyes. No one was looking at me differently for being big. I didn't even feel big here. I felt new, sure. Not as great at cardio, duh. But I didn't feel big.
In CrossFit, my size is both an asset and a hindrance. During the strength portions, I can lift on par with much more experienced women. But, during the intense workouts, I founder. My knees give, my form suffers and I steadily lose tempo with those around me. In both portions, though, I'm constantly aware of how big I am.
Not so at SoulCycle. At SoulCycle, I almost felt like I was one of them. Not a skinny white basic, but a person who enjoyed community and health. A person who wanted to better herself physically, mentally, emotionally, and, yes, spiritually, in one workout. A person who cares about her body but not its size.
Now that someone has helped me unclip my shoes (again), the endorphins have worn off, and I'm well-hydrated, do I feel like it was the soul-changing, spiritually awakening workout of legend? Not this time. But, I did just sign up for three more classes.