It’s dark, save for a few unflattering spotlights. Top 40 hits are thumping out of the surround-sound speakers. And everyone perched on a bike has the air of, “Yeah, I’ve done this before.” Except for you, that is.
The Hulu show “Casual” captured this all-too-familiar scene as the main character, Valerie, drops in to her first spin class.
Sandwiched between two unbearably toned gym rats, Valerie peers around as the chipper instructor asks if there are any first-timers in the room. She raises a reluctant hand and is greeted with an awkward exchange as the instructor asks and then struggles to hear her name over the blaring music.
After thanking Valerie for joining the class on its “journey,” the instructor reminds us why it’s so easy to make fun of indoor cycling.
“Now close your eyes. Set an intention. Why are you here? To forget about something at home? To prove to that guy that he made a mistake? . . . Or maybe just to sweat,” the instructor says. “Whatever your reason, know that we are all working together to achieve it. Okay? Let’s find the beat!”
Anyone who has ever stepped foot in a SoulCycle, Flywheel, Zengo Cycle or almost any indoor cycling class can relate to this scene and Valerie’s struggle to “find the beat.” It’s no wonder spin studios are inspiring parodies on Hulu, Netflix and Comedy Central.
The popular workout has in many ways become a proxy for yuppiedom. A recent “Saturday Night Live” skit on the hipster-ization of Brooklyn made sure to include comedian Jay Pharoah taking selfies in spin class as a sign of neighborhood locals succumbing to gentrification. But it is ultimately the culture and addictive nature of spin classes that TV shows love to lampoon.
While no show has gone as far as to use the name of any studio, it’s pretty clear in some cases that the wildly popular SoulCycle is the intended target. In one episode of Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” the eponymous main character attends class at Spirit Cycle, while Abbi in Comedy Central’s “Broad City” works at Soulstice.
Soulcycle, with nearly 50 locations nationwide, is known for its dimly lighted studios, cultlike following and instructors prone to the kind of spiritual encouragement you’d receive in yoga. Netflix hit all of those themes when Kimmy visits Spirit Cycle with her wealthy boss, Jacqueline.
They take a class offered by Tristafé, a spin guru who tells Kimmy she can alleviate her stress by finding her “mind beach,” the stress-free zone that can only be found on a spin bike. Needless to say, Kimmy becomes obsessed with the class, steals the front-row bike occupied by Jacqueline, who later drinks the sweat from Kimmy’s ponytail to literally taste her power. Uh, okay.
The folks at SoulCycle say they get a kick out of the thinly veiled jabs at the company.
“Parodies help elevate brand awareness, and they simply make us laugh,” said Gabby Etrog Cohen, director of marketing at SoulCycle. “On a case-by-case basis, we’ve even rented out space to shows.”
There was a time when Hollywood couldn’t stop poking fun at yoga classes — remember Kristen Wiig’s turn as Prana, the snide yoga instructor in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall?” Before yoga, aerobics classes — the bastions of awkward choreographed moves and unforgiving spandex — were regularly lampooned on such shows as “Martin” and “In Living Color” (yes, I’m dating myself).
In a way, you haven’t really made it as a workout craze until someone takes a few playful jabs.
“We certainly can find the humor in the parodies, especially because it’s programming that sheds light on the growing popularity of indoor cycling,” said Zengo Cycle’s founder Marc Caputo.
@danidougpost on Twitter
Also at washingtonpost.com Read past MisFits columns at washingtonpost.com/wellness . There, you can subscribe to the Lean & Fit newsletter to get health news e-mailed to you every Wednesday.