Fall Fitness: Cycling with SoulCycle Instructor Madeleine Starkey

Our ongoing fall fitness series continues with this week’s feature: indoor cycling! We admit we’re a bit biased here, as S.W. Basics’ founder Adina Grigore happens to be a huge cycling fan, with her studio of choice being – you guessed it – SoulCycle. And for good reason, too. For those unfamiliar with cycling or SoulCycle, the gist is this: You work your ass off, rock out to awesome music, and leave feeling totally zen. Yet we know that reducing cycling to simply “it’s awesome” isn’t going to help anyone be less intimidated by it or more motivated to give it a try. To that end, we commissioned Madeleine Starkey, a SoulCycle instructor here in New York City (she teaches at both Brooklyn Heights and Union Square), to discuss everything cycling. Her interview is below – but first, some Certifiably Awesome questions!

S.W. Basics at SoulCycle’s Williamsburg Location

SoulCycle instructor Madeleine Starkey 

What is your favorite food that a nutritionist would approve of?

Wildwood brand’s sprouted baked tofu! It’s the only ready-to-eat, prepared food I consistently have in the house.  It’s full of protein, super flavorful, always hits the spot and tides me over until I can eat a real meal.

What is your favorite “I-really-shouldn’t-be-eating-this” food?
Pain au chocolat!

What is a skincare myth that you have busted on your own?

That you have to wash your face after your work out. I wash my face twice a day no matter how many times I work out: first thing in the morning and right before bed.  After I sweat, I throw some micellar water on a cotton round and swipe it all over my face then followup with a generous spritz of an ayurvedic rosewater toner that moisturizes and balance the pH of my skin to ward off bacterial build up and breakouts.

What percent natural are you? 

I’d say 90% – the only ‘impure’ items in my product line up are my perfume and trusty Aquaphor.  Everything else is paraben- and  preservative-free. Even my makeup!

What is your naked animal? (Oh you don’t know what this is? Allow us to improve your life tremendously. If posing for naked photos, what animal would you choose to hide your girly/manly parts?)

Never having posed for naked photos this question is hard to answer BUT! In any situation, my spirit animal would be feline.

Okay, let’s start with cycling generally: What are some of the health benefits of cycling, and what makes SoulCycle so darn special?

The benefits of cycling… where to begin? First, the cardio workout is killer and helps build and maintain a healthy heart.  Second, because cycling is an inherently low-impact activity, we’re not putting excess strain on our joints (think: happy knees!).  Overall, cycling requires so much participation from so many different parts of the body that we’re able to pretty evenly develop muscle tone throughout it.

What makes SoulCycle the absolute best way to do cycling is that we make it fun! We make it empowering! We move to the rhythm of the music at all times so we have to get in a state of mind that allows us to focus on the beat and not much else.  We get to disconnect from the day-to-day and reconnect to ourselves.

I’m a total newbie to spinning and to SoulCycle. I’m scared. What do I need to know coming into my first class?

What you need to know coming into your first class is that everyone else there – including the instructor – had their first class at one point, too!  They’re there to support you, not judge you.  SoulCycle riders are compassionate and kind and are so excited to share this experience with you.  Your first class is an opportunity to see what Soul is all about so there’s never any pressure for you to “do it right,” whatever that means. You can take it at your own pace!
What are some common mistakes first-time (or beginner) cyclers make, and how can you avoid them?

Usually new riders are shy about adding resistance because they assume more resistance means making an already challenging experience even harder.  Yes, adding resistance might make it harder to pedal but what that translates to is a deeper connection to your own body since you have to ask a little more effort of yourself every time you turn it up.

I always tell new riders to get to know their bike intimately, understand the relationship between the resistance on the bike and the sensation of their pedal strokes.  If you turn it up too much, guess what?  You can always take some resistance off.  The resistance is literally your support system; support yourself!

Any tips for adjusting and settling into your bike?

Heck yes! If you’re ever uncertain about your bike settings, ask someone. Again, people can be shy and reluctant to ask a Soul staff member (front desk, manager, instructor) for help and then end up riding a bike that’s not ideally positioned for them based on their body’s height, wing span, etc.  If you get to your bike and think it looks “about right,” don’t just hop on.  Adjust it properly so you’re confident everything is where it needs to be.

Also, when you start riding at SoulCycle, it’s totally normal for your ‘undercarriage’ to be uncomfortable.  That saddle soreness dissipates as you ride more often and build up the muscles in that area of the body that we don’t really use on a regular basis unless we’re equestrians or cyclists.

What are your top five cycling songs?

This is the hardest question thus far! The answer is constantly evolving, but below are some tried and true bangers:

‘American Oxygen’ by Rihanna
‘One Mic’ by Nas
‘Red Dawn’ by Knife Party
‘Shells’ by RL Grime
‘Infinite Starts’ by the Hood Internet

What are some good post-SoulCycle stretches?

Hip. Openers.  Everyone’s body is different so we develop tension and imbalance in different areas, but what we all have in common is that while we cycle, our hips are constantly moving in parallel.  Balance it out! Increase the lateral mobility in the hips! Think pigeon, my least and most favorite yoga pose.

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