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My Unforgettable Experience with Soul Cycle

Exactly 2 weeks today!

Those of you who have been following my blog might have noticed my strong love for soul cycle, as it is one of Kelly Ripa's (whom I like to refer to as "my soul sista.") favorite spots to break a sweat in. Moreover, the concept of soul cycle sold me immediately for I'm a person who loves dancing and needs an exercise routine that keeps me motivated. Soul cycle encapsulates all of that while simultaneously helping rejuvenate the mind through positive energy and affirmations. And as such, my dream was always to find time in my schedule to join this workout phenomenon. In NYC, I had such a tight schedule that kept me saying 'maybe next week'. Next week would become 'maybe next month.' You know how that goes. And being that my apartment was not conveniently located near a soul cycle facility, made my burning desire to join even harder to fulfill. 

Fast forward a couple of years later, business has brought us to the west coast for now and last month as the hubby and I were walking to our car from dinner, he said: "Look what's coming nearby...soul cycle! Somebody looks like they're finally going to get to cross something off their bucket list." In fact, the workers and employees were still putting the finishing touches on the doors and hanging up the fitness merchandise. I was ecstatic (and snapped a few photos of the building and even shared it on IG and tweeter) as this location would only be five minutes from our new place.

Days later as we were driving by, we noticed it was officially open. Upon our arrival at home, my hubby was all smiles as he excitedly sat at his computer to schedule my first ever class at soul cycle. At first, he was going to buy me a package and then he said: "hey, maybe you should try it out first before we go ahead and buy you a whole package...just to see how you like it." I was like "sure, that's a good idea! But I know I'll love it, because it's essentially partying on a bike - what's not to like?!" I was both nervous and excited after the hubby scheduled my first class, because even though I've been an athletic person and was into body building in high school pushing about 500 pounds on a leg press and ran track - at the same time, the last physically strenuous exercise routine I did was Zumba, which was almost a year ago. So I really didn't know what to expect and what my stamina was going to be like for those 45-60 minutes of peddling, including lifting 1 pound weights in that class. All I kept thinking is "just don't look like a a champ...this is nothing for ya..." 

Well, the day finally arrived for my first soul cycle class. Aaaah, I was like Julie Andrews singing 'The Hills Are Alive...'  I was able to get myself out of bed and put on a workout outfit to start on a new path that's going to make me feel good! I was beyond stoked. When I got into soul cycle, a class had just let out. It was packed with lots of sweaty folks ranging in all shapes and sizes. I felt a little bit intimidated, as I waited for my turn to be helped. Then I signed my form, was given my shoes and was ushered to my locker room which brought me back to my school years. I donned on my bike shoes and went into the already dimly lit exercise room. One young lady helped me find my bike. I knew from the moment I was neither able to get on the bike nor were my feet able to reach the pedals with no one noticing me struggling to get on this bike, that this maybe wasn't going to be as fun as I imagined. As I flagged one of the staff to help me get on and asked to lower the bike for my height's comfortability, she assured me that 'it was fine because supposedly I needed it for leg resistance.' As she helped clip on one foot into the bike's pedal which took a while, she left and it was a long struggle for me to figure out how to clip the other foot in.

Then the music went on and the instructor started her routine. I attempted to follow along but being that my bike's seat was too high, I was straining to stand up as everyone else was and kept falling back into my bike's seat (which by the way is harder than a helmet, so you can imagine the pain/soreness in areas that I wasn't even aware existed in my nether regions). Anyway, class came to the cool down part which by now was the greatest relief - but as everyone was easily popping off their shoes - click, click, click to do the cool down stretches, I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to unhook those darn shoes off my feet. I had to just take my feet out of the shoes themselves to do the stretches and by the time I did, they were already almost done! I know, pitiful. Stop laughing.

When the torture routine was over, my legs touched the floor, my thighs were like jello. I had a hard time walking to my locker as my knees and legs kept giving out on me. I had to sit in front of my locker for a while (and proudly tweeted about my first day at soul cycle) just to let my legs regain some kind of strength so I could walk out in a dignified manner, instead of like a clown that just got out of a washing machine spin cycle. Over the following days, I was able to walk less and less. I figured since it was a while I've been on a bike, that the burning/extremely tight sensation I was feeling in my leg muscles was to be expected. So the hubby and I went about our business thinking this is going to pass after a couple of days and headed out of town Sunday morning as planned.

Monday morning, I woke up with thighs, knees, and ankles super swollen to the  point that my thighs and knees were all the same size, like a tree trunk but more so on my right side. Walking on my legs was excruciating, I was no longer able to squat or even sit on the commode. That morning when I went to the bathroom, my urine was the color of coca cola, which I didn't give much thought - I didn't even mention it to my hubby. But that night when we returned to the hotel room from dinner, I went to the bathroom and now it was super dark...chocolate like. Now I freaked out, called the hubby to look asking if that was normal. He said "hmmm, that's not good..." and went to his computer while I was taking my shower. He came back to me with panicked eyes and said I have what's called Rhabdomyolysis and ran out to get me baking soda (which is equivalent to sodium bicarbonate that helps clean out the system...*) to put in my water as it was by now already past 11pm, and I was not about to go to an emergency room in the town we were in. So little by little with the constant consumption of water mixed with the baking soda and/or cranberry juice my urine was clearing up, but the legs, thighs and ankles were still very swollen and very difficult to walk on. 

Tuesday we arrived back home in L.A. I continued my abnormal intake of water and cranberry juice thinking I was flushing out my system because my urine was looking clear again. But by Thursday morning around 2am, my left arm down to my finger tips was all tingly and started to go numb for a good while. That moved us to go to urgent care where they ran a urine and blood test. And even though at home my urine was looking clear, when they did my urine test at urgent care they said that 'I still had blood in the urine.' The next day, they called me with the blood test result confirming that I had Rhabdo - urging me to PLEASE GO to the emergency room because my kidney and liver enzyme levels were off the chart high, which can cause kidney failure and liver damage. Being that I've never been hospitalized in my life, I have a healthy fear of hospitals and being self-employed, I know the astronomical cost of stepping foot in a hospital, which made me/us super anxious and totally spiked my blood pressure to an all time high.  Sure enough, I was brought into ICU.  Now imagine my panic being the germaphobe that I am...if you read my process here, than you have an idea of my level of anxiety being cooped up in ICU, where I think one guy coughed up a lung and bloody gauze was strewn on the ground, which was just some of the unmentionables I saw on my way to the bathroom.

Needless to say, I lost the battle about leaving the hospital on the same day due to their concerns with my enzyme levels being so high. Let's put it this way, normal enzyme levels range from 0 -145 according to the doctors - mine was at 51,000! They hooked me to non-stop sodium IV fluids for 2 1/2 days (about 20 bags or so) to flush out my system. Yes, I lived in the bathroom pretty much the whole time. I have never been poked and prodded so much in my life and still got black and blue marks all over my arms to prove it. My levels went down, but are still higher than normal, so my cure isn't complete yet even after two weeks later. I still have a few more blood tests and follow-ups to do in the next week. Swelling has gone down tremendously, but not completely. I'm still advised to keep an eye on the condition of my thighs as I could end up with what's called compartment syndrome. My thighs and knees are still very weak and have caused me to be laid up a lot more than I would like. Imagine, if I had never sought out professional help thinking drinking water with baking soda in it was sufficient and that I was fine... I probably wouldn't be here writing this today. So, if you end up with Rhabdo, you MUST immediately go get professional assistance.

This certainly has been by far the most unforgettable experience in my life.  Now, I get anxiety just passing by a soul cycle location. I feel it is my duty to share my story solely for the purpose of educating, with the hope to possibly save someone else's life/legs. I'm so chagrined about the experience because honestly, soul cycle is the most fun exercise I've ever done and really wanted it to be a lifetime exercise routine for me. If you haven't been physically active for a long time, I would suggest building up your strength and stamina before taking a soul cycle class or it could possibly take away your soul forever. Learn from my experience.

If you have experienced a similar situation, please share in the comment box below how long it took to recuperate and when you were you able to start exercising again. Because this is the first time I've ever heard of this Rhabdo thing.

P.S. Sorry for the heavy post today in lieu of my usual light Friday grateful moments. Unfortunately, life sometimes isn't always glamorous. If you're still with me, I thank you for reading. Please, share, tweet, regram the story because it can even happen to those that are really fit as well.

*I'm not endorsing any particular treatment. Each individual should carefully seek professional help.

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  1. Thank you for posting your story. I'm sitting in my hospital room having experienced almost the exact same thing after one soil cycle class on Monday-it's now Saturday -I went into the ER thurs afternoon and was admitted to the hospital. I'm having IVs round the clock and hoping to go home tomorrow.

    1. Hi!

      I'm sorry to hear about your situation, but glad that my story has helped you. My heart aches for anyone who goes through this horrifying experience as it totally demobilized me for a long while. Still trying to recoup psychologically from it, which I know will take time. You will recoup, you just need to continue drinking a lot of fluids. Follow the direction of your doctors.

      However, as you get back into a routine of exercise you'll feel pulls in areas you never felt before as I've been realizing lately trying to do some mild walking and exercise. Make sure to listen to your body when you do feel those pains and give it rest until your body heals. It's a life changer though.

      You're one of many that's written me about this thus far. I'd suggest you write to soul cycle about your experience as it seems that it's affecting more and more people. Wishing you a speedy recovery. Thanks for reaching out to me. Best Wishes.


    2. Hi! How has your recovery been coming along? Can you please email me to let me know? Thanks

  2. Hi Rebecca,

    I stumbled upon your post from my hospital bed on a Saturday. My class was this past Sunday night and I went to the ER and was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday. My whole experience was very similar to yours and I nearly needed emergency surgery on my thighs for compartment syndrome. Reading this is helping me get through it all. It's reassuring to know I'm not the only one and I wish there was a better way to make people more aware of the risks of SoulCyle.

    1. I'm truly sorry to hear about your plight. I'm glad that you're getting the needed help under the care of professionals to mend you back to good health. Unfortunately, not too many people will take these growing unfortunate incidents seriously until it happens to one of Soul Cycle's advocates - a soul that matters to them, like a celebrity. It's still an experience that gives me a heavy heart and I battle with every day as I've come to realize that I no longer can enjoy a brisk walk or even a minimal 5 minute workout without experiencing extreme tightness and muscle pain in my thighs and legs due to permanent muscle damage. Not to mention, I'm still paying a hefty hospital bill in the thousands for a one $25 class. I truly sympathize with what you're going through right now, believe me. Thank you for letting me know that I'm not the only one. Sending you well wishes for a quick and smooth healthy recovery.

    2. Hi everyone,

      I too suffered from severe rhabdomyolysis after one soul cycle class. And I am also paying for thousands of dollars worth of medical bills. With so many people getting this from soul cycle it seems like negligence without them warning people about the risk of getting rhabdo. I was curious if anyone has considered taking legal action? Would love to hear back from you ladies.

  3. Hi Rebecca! How is your recovery coming along? Has anyone contacted you about your question of taking legal action? Please email me when you get a chance. Thank you. In the meantime, may every day find you feeling better.

  4. Hi Everyone! Similar to above, I too have found myself in the hospital for Rhabdo after my first Soul Cycle class. Going on day 4.5. Just curious if anyone has followed up with legal action question? I think there are grounds for a case here as this was never brought up as a potential side effect and all they did when I said I was new was shove a form in my face to sign. I'd love to hear from you ladies! Hope you have all fully recovered by now!

  5. Hi Rebecca, I just wanted to say thank you for posting this--it made me go to the ER last Sunday where I too was diagnosed with Rhabdo following my first Soul Cycle class. I am also interested in legal action--had I known about Rhabdo I would have turned around and walked right out. I hope you are fully recovered by now!

  6. Same thing happened to me after just one soul cycle class. My CK levels reached a 150,000! It was truly a very serious experience. Like some of the other commenters, I also experienced very weak legs for the weeks following my rhabdo. It has been over 6 weeks now, and luckily everything seems back to normal. I do think soul could do more to make people aware of the risks, especially for those who have been inactive for awhile. I consider myself fairly athletic, but had taken a long hiatus from working out previous to my first soul class. I had a similar "Rocky" mindset as you going into the class. The experience you describe after the class, as far the legs almost collapsing on you as your walking out, was spot on to my experience. Glad to see I am not the only one. I felt quite pathetic being out of commission for over 10 days from 45 minute spin class, but I feel better now seeing that my experience was not unique. Please keep me posted if anyone decides to take legal action.

  7. There should be a PSA poster of this in every gym in America. I am on my second week of recovery after 90,000+ levels of CK brought on from stupidit...uh ill advised exercise exuberance. The work out was inside in AC and is summarized by 100 reps each in random order of squats, crunches, push ups and pull ups. I am 49 year old father/husband with an athletic background but relatively sedentary last 5 years.
    I can only do 15 or so pull ups on a good day so figured I should do the next 80-90 as negative repetitions (chin over bar and count a slow 4 while lowering yourself down). Finished the workout but could not unbend my arms for 3 days. Swelling started on second day and read about rhabdo same day. Third morning swelling started in abdomen and I went to the ER. It took 3 days of IV to bring my CK levels down to a level that would register on the tests-56,000. Each of the remaining 3 days saw the values cut in half from the previous day until I was discharged at 4,000.
    First night home in bed I lost 5lbs of water through the skin and the same the second night. Swelling completely gone by end of first week out.
    Currently I am going for nightly (8pm in FL in June temps are in 80's) walks of 1 mile. I have stopped goofing with bad food and am committed to veggies/fruits/hydration/smaller amounts of meat.
    Arms are still very weak but otherwise I feel really good..just waiting for follow up blood tests.
    I'm over trying to prove anything and moderation/health/fitness are the new watch words.

    Looking forward to a better/cleaner/trimmer me that will be around a long time for my wife and kids.

  8. Thanks for sharing your story. I too am a victim of Soul Cycle as I lay here in a hospital in Houston with Rhabdo. I'm 29, thin male with little fitness experience but was convinced by friends to try out this fun new spin on spin classes. I attended a Soul Cycle class last Thursday, admitted to the hospital on Sunday and will be released Friday following heavy IV flow. My CK levels peaked at 256,000. Very fortunate to have my roommates aunt who is nurse demand I go to the ER. I agree with the other poster - these places need to be very clear of the dangers of overdoing it.

    1. Hey Trey! Did Soul Cycle NY offices contact you? I also ended up in the ER with rhabdo after my first Soul Cycle class in Houston. I got out of the hospital this past Friday and had an email from them that day. I have no idea how they got my information. Just wondering what to expect from their phone call. Thanks!

  9. Thanks to your post, I decided to go to the ER this past Thursday and was in fact diagnosed with rhabdo. I took my first Houston Soul Cycle class on Monday. Due to nauseating pain I googled "Recovery after Soul Cycle", and your blog came up. Thank goodness it did! Soul Cycle NY offices have asked if they can call and talk to me. I have no idea how they got my information, but I am curious if any of you have talked to me so I know what to expect.

  10. Hi - my wife did a SoulCycle class in Houston on Tuesday and she is now in the hospital with severe rhabdo. Her CPK levels are in the 125,000 range and her thighs are swollen and hard. We are concerned about compartment syndrome. Needless to say, it's been a horrible experience for my wife and our family. We are praying she makes a full recovery.

  11. Thank you for sharing your story for other victims to see. I am currently in the ER having been diagnosed with rhabdo with a ck count of 61K. I knew someone who got rhabdo from weightlifting, but never imagined that it could happen to me. I was super athletic back in high school so I thought I was exempt from the possibility and wow was I wrong. I work out, but it's cyclical and mostly just jogging. I hadn't been to the gym in over a month before soulcycle. Amazing how the company doesn't mention anything related to dangerously overworking your muscles.

    Your post came up immediately when I googled soul cycle rhabdo and reinforced the feeling that I needed help. Can't thank you enough, and may we all recover and spread the word.