Students Spending Steep to Sweat

CUA students after their spin cycling classes. Courtesy of Natalie Hurst
CUA students after a spin cycle class at SoulCycle in West End. Courtesy of Natalie Hurst

By Natalie Hurst 

On Sunday evening, after a long holiday weekend filled with overbearing relatives, traffic jams, and one slice of apple pie too many, ambitious Washington residents flocked to Flywheel studio in Dupont Circle. By 4:50 p.m., the sixty-three-person spin studio reaches mass capacity. Eight minutes later, the lights dim and the background music grows louder. At 5 o’clock exactly, instructor Christine McDonough, 26, snaps her shoes into the pedals of her black and blue bike, located on a boxed podium in the center of the crescent-shaped room. After reminding riders of the studio’s motto to “never coast,” McDonough blasts Katy Perry’s California Girls and instructs riders to turn up the resistance on their bikes.

Forty-five minutes, eleven songs, and twenty miles later, sweat drips from the forehead of every rider in the room. After stretching, unclipping their shoes, and high-fiving McDonough, riders leave the Flywheel studio feeling ready to conquer the week ahead. 

The fitness fad of the new millennium has hit urban cities with full force and Washington, D.C. is no exception. Promising workouts that are innovative, energizing, and body-changing, it is no wonder that students at The Catholic University of America are ditching the campus gym and venturing into the city to get their sweat on.

The most popular fitness studios attended by Catholic students in Washington include SoulCycle, FlyWheel, and Sculpt DC. SoulCycle and FlyWheel’s are best known for their high-intensity, 45-minute cycling classes. Both studios also offer cycling sessions for sixty or ninety minutes. Besides cycling, FlyWheel also offers a barre class. Flybarre is a total body, high-intensity class that promises to help participants tone their bodies.

Sculpt DC is another fitness studio in Washington. Like FlyWheel and SoulCycle, Sculpt also offers cycling classes. However, Sculpt is better known for its wide range of yoga programs. Sculpt has classes to accommodate all levels of yogis from basic to advanced. Sculpt also offers heated yoga classes, as well as a class called Sculpt 360 which combines cardio, strength training and yoga together.

The costs of these fitness classes do not come cheap. One, 45-minute cycling class at FlyWheel costs $28. A single ride at SoulCycle costs $30-$34 depending upon whether or not riders have their own spin shoes. Unlike SoulCycle and FlyWheel, Sculpt DC does not offer a single class purchasing option. Instead, participants must buy a package of classes. The fee for five classes of yoga at Sculpt DC costs $90 or a package for five cycling classes costs $110.   

In order to help fund her passion for fitness classes, Caitie Whitford, a junior at the university, has recently picked up a part-time job at Urban Outfitters in Georgetown.

“I got really into Sculpt last year. The first class I went to was so hard I almost blacked out. It was an incredible workout,” Whitford said.

After suffering from an ankle injury in the summer, Whitford tried SoulCycle in search of a different type of workout that would not inflict as much stress on her ankle. Whitford believes the $34 cost is well worth the physical and mental health benefits she gets from taking a SoulCycle class.

“I feel like I’m more inclined to spend money on working out because it’s an inspiring environment which makes me want to better myself,” Whitford said.

Jacqueline Drexel, 20, is another SoulCycle fanatic. Drexel went to her first class SoulCycle during the fall of her sophomore year of college. Drexel disliked the environment of the campus gym, which she described as being too loud, bright, and crowded. Drexel likes that the SoulCycle studio room is dark. She likes that she is unable to see the faces of the others in the class.

“No one is looking at you or judging you so I’m truly focused on the workout rather than the distracting lights of a treadmill or elliptical monitor,” Drexel said.

This year, Drexel has increased her attendance at SoulCycle considerably. Drexel attends at least one class per week, calling them her “special treat.” In this semester alone, Drexel has attended more than 15 classes at SoulCycle. Since August, Drexel has spent more than 500 dollars on spin classes – not including transportation to get there. Like Whitford, Jacqueline works a second job at a restaurant in Georgetown in order to help fund her spin craving.

“To me its worth it. I don’t care if I have to work a few extra hours. It’s something I love to do. It’s a stress reliever, it’s fulfilling, and I leave every class feeling motivated to for the school work week ahead,” Drexel said.

Drexel’s father does not understand his daughter’s excessive spending and calls it an “absolute waste.” Instead of spending money on cycling classes, Drexel believes that his daughter should be saving more of her money for next semester when she will be studying abroad in London.

“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous, but it does make her happy,” Drexel’s father said. “At the end of the day that’s all that matters.”

In an attempt to keep up with the competitive city classes, Catholic’s student gym, most commonly referred to as the Kane, has added more classes to their weekly schedule.

“As a student run fitness center, we work hard to provide fitness classes and trainers to the students of CUA to help them exercise at a free cost right here on campus,” student worker Riley Hawblitzel said.

In addition to free personal and group training, the Kane also offers cycling, yoga, zumba, as well as several high-intensity circuit classes. All of the Kane’s instructors are certified in the classes that they teach. This is a requirement of the gym established to ensure that students receive the maximum benefit from the classes they take.

While they might not have a separate spin or heated yoga studio, Hawblitzel believes that that the Kane’s classes that are challenging and comparable to those offered downtown.

Devon McElwaine, a junior at university, considers cycling and yoga to be her favorite workouts. As a freshman and sophomore, McElwaine attended classes at the Kane regularly. This year, McElwaine has started attending FlyWheel and Sculpt classes because her class schedule conflicted with the fitness classes offered at the Kane.

“I like to workout in the morning and all of the classes I wanted to take were scheduled at night this semester,” McElwaine said. “The city classes might cost more, but my performance definitely increased by taking them.”

Amy Werbitsky, a current senior at Catholic, has worked out ands attended classes at the Kane since her freshman year.

“I’ve pretty much given all the classes a try,” Werbitsky said. “I always did the campus classes because they were convenient and free.”

This year, Werbitsky attended her first cycling class at FlyWheel to see how it compared with classes at the Kane and was impressed by the workout she received.

“The difference was crazy,” Werbitsky said. “Don’t get me wrong, I always leave the Kane sweaty, but when I left my first FlyWheel class, I was sore in muscles I didn’t even know existed.”

Despite the Kane’s attempt to compete with the Washington D.C.’s fitness studios, Catholic students do not seem willing to give up taking classes in the city, at least any time soon. Jon Paul Weiss, 20, a SoulCycle regular, captures the general attitude of Catholic University students.

“The reason I travel downtown and spend $30 on a class is because in the end, I feel like I’m getting a great workout and I’m getting my money’s worth,” Weiss said.

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