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Written by Mikaila Kukurudza  |   Photo by Jenna Marie Wakani

It feels like every other minute another niche fitness studio is popping up. As someone who prefers to go for a run or smash a HIIT workout solo, I was starting to think, “Enough already! Can’t a person get fit without bumping sticky elbows with a neighbor and being yelled at by an instructor with a six-pack?”

But after attending my first SoulCycle class at the grand opening of Toronto’s Yorkville location, my inner skeptic was soon replaced a group fitness convert (one who had just crushed her spin class like an Ariana Grande music video). Seduced by the heart-pounding music and rhythm of the class cycling in time, I suddenly realized there might be something to this whole group fitness thing.

So now I’m the first to admit, no matter how hard you push yourself in your solo training sessions, there are some benefits of sweating with strangers you cannot mimic on your own. Here are four of them:

1. Accountability.

The popularity of fitness trends like SoulCycle usually means full classes and required pre-registration. Although it can sometimes feel like a pain to plan your day around the one available spin bike, this restriction actually means you’ll be more likely to skip happy hour with the girls after work and show up to class. Although some fitness classes are included in gym memberships, boutique studios like SoulCycle with per-class costs (around $30 CAD before taxes) often charge the full amount for no-shows and same-day cancellations. Plus, flaking not only wastes your cash but you’re also stealing the opportunity from someone else.

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2. Community.

Sweating along with total strangers is well worth the moola for this reason alone. Whether you’re the competitive type or more of a team player, you’re guaranteed to catch a buzz off the energy in the room. Part of SoulCycle’s schtick is encouraging everyone to pedal to the beat of the music, so you inevitably work as one sweaty unit. So when the woman next to me stepped up her intensity, I followed suit to stay in time. The team effort definitely made me work harder than my typical cardio sesh, and left me feeling connected to my fellow classmates. As the class came to an end, we even clinked our water bottles and congratulated each other on popping our SoulCycle cherry.

3. No phones.

Fitness studios such as SoulCycle have strict policies about phone-free classrooms. While this news was jarring at first, being sans cell allowed me to focus on my experience—not my Instagram story. And since no one else was snapping either, we were all completely present in the moment. It was a true sense of community (and I didn’t have to worry about being the sweaty mess accidentally photobombing someone else’s selfie). For this 45 minutes in my day, I was forced to completely unplug and take the time for myself. And after all, isn’t that what your workout should be about?

4. Better playlists.

Group classes are part sweat session, part therapy session, and in the case of SoulCycle, part dance party. And since you’re pedaling in time, the workout is only going to be as good as the playlists. Luckily, this one was off the hook—and I didn’t waste a single second having to scroll through my phone looking for my favorite song. It may seem trivial, but have you ever stopped to think how much time you waste in a 60-minute gym session? According to a recent UK survey, about 35 percent of it goes to choosing music (and untangling headphones, and filling water bottles, and straight up procrastinating.) What’s more, another study found that pumping tunes during your workout can actually increase your pain threshold, which will definitely come in handy when you’re out of the saddle during SoulCycle. There’s no question this class is tough, but killer beats motivated me to push past the burn and enjoy the ride.

Did you like this article? Then read about Mikaila’s experience at Orange Theory Fitness!