When master instructor and motivator Stacey Griffith came to town to sign her book and christen SoulCycle’s new Bellevue studio, columnist Nicole Brodeur went to see what all the fuss is about.
Oh, I didn’t belong here.
I was wearing a cotton T-shirt and bike shorts under exercise pants that once belonged to my dad (oh, stop; they’re practically new). All around me, young, shiny women in sleek tank tops and black leggings chatted away. The air smelled of grapefruit.
This star instructor could have been the end of me, or the beginning of something great.
“Should I be scared?” I asked her.
“No, be excited,” she said. “You are about to get the motivation and energy you’ve been looking for. The spark, the fire, the strength to lift yourself up.”
That’s a pretty tall order. But Griffith, 49, has made a career out of spinning self-doubt out of people. She was SoulCycle’s second instructor — and with her help, the boutique fitness chain has exploded.
Griffith flew out from New York last weekend not only to christen this studio — one of the newest in the 77-studio SoulCycle chain — but to visit her 98-year-old grandmother, Stella, who lives in Spanaway.
If I left now, I thought, I could probably get to Stella’s before the class started and just hang out with her instead.
Wasn’t happening. I was soon clipped onto a bike in a dark room with Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” blasting through the speakers. The guy in front of me immediately started pedaling like he was being chased.
While two other instructors rode at the front of the room, Griffith paced back and forth in front of them like a caged animal. She danced, she yelled, she ran around and filled the hot, sweaty room with platitudes. I don’t know if it was the heat or the music or if I was just hallucinating, but I was into it.
You will get in the best shape of your life for the rest of your life!
Sit up and open your heart!
I get the detractors, the people who say SoulCycle is a cult for the cash and celebrity crowd. And that’s true; it isn’t cheap. You can start with three classes for $60, but then it’s about $30 per class, plus $3 for shoes and $2 for water, not to mention the branded clothing, including a $54 tank top. It adds up.
But there’s a joy to the place, and it’s instructors like Griffith who seem to embody that. People are drawn to her because she deals in possibility. She got sober in 2005 and credits spinning with everything good in her life.
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“It’s not a cult,” she told me. “It’s a culture.”
You sure? Because Katrina Prokopy, 46, flew in from Calgary just for this class.
“I worship Stacey,” she told me. “She’s amazing. Beyond the workout, I feel like her class is a platform to inspire you to set out to do whatever you want in your life.”
I turned to her husband, Ross, who gave me a shrug. He wasn’t doing the class.
“I just came to get the T-shirt,” he said.
After class, Griffith stood behind a table to sign books, but it was clear that it would be part signing, part selfies and part confessional. People leaned in and confessed things.
“Seattleites have a vibration,” Griffith said later. “There is some magical frequency. There’s such an energy here.”
“Two Turns From Zero” is a memoir, but also a self-help book that chronicles Griffith’s journey from California skategirl (a native of Cupertino, she used to skateboard in the lobby of the Apple headquarters, where a friend’s mother was a security guard) to drug addict and alcoholic, to “SoulCycle senior master instructor.” She has become a guru in her own right, with celebrity students and a spot on Oprah Winfrey’s “The Life You Want” tour a few years ago.
“In general, I am trying to make sure that everyone is on the road to finding your best self,” Griffith said.
I was just happy to survive the 45-minute class in a small room with 61 other people pedaling like mad.
When I approached her, after class and a shower, Griffith looked happier than I was.
“You were scared and you killed it!” she said.
So, what just happened in there? I asked.
“You describe it,” she said.
Well, it was exhilarating. It was a release. I felt like I had sweated something out of my psyche. I felt lighter and brighter.
Griffith nodded along eagerly.
“It gives you hope,” she said. “I get happier every day. I could tell you what I do, but it’s just … the euphoria in the room.”
She was at her lowest in 2003. Meth. Cocaine. Ecstasy.
“If I hadn’t had that bike,” she said of spinning, “I don’t know if I would have survived.”
She gets the SoulCycle haters and shrugs them off with a Roald Dahl quote: “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
As I headed out with my bag of sweat-soaked clothes, Griffith tucked in one last bit of advice: “Turn your thumbs out,” she said.
“It opens your heart.”
I’ll get to that, I told her. As soon as it slowed down.