Not your average spin instructor

Fitness

Think that you cram a lot into your week? You’re going to want to take it up a gear when you meet Stacey. A VP at Salesforce Mon to Fri, who is mastering her side-hustle at the weekends on a spin bike. Prepare to feel inspired…

Can you describe a typical day in your life balancing a day job while teaching classes…

I have a very fast-paced full time work role. I am Vice President, Brand for the Customer Success Group at Salesforce. I’m really fortunate in that Salesforce values and promotes work/life balance, and I get a ton of encouragement from my colleagues. In that role I focus on how our company can create an excellent customer adoption experience for businesses. So it’s probably no surprise that I take pretty much the same approach to teaching. I want the experience to be amazing. I get to know my riders and their goals because I genuinely want to help them win – whatever that win looks like to them. I want them to come to class and feel safe enough to let go, fly and really push themselves into a new zone. My class is a no-judgment zone and riders are free to own their workouts. That said, having a rider blast past into a new PB makes me feel like a winner. Hearing them sing along to the music and holler out when I ask how they’re doing makes me feel even better.

Photo: @ridewithstacey

Why did you want to work in the fitness industry?

Endorphins feel awesome! And teaching people and helping to coach them feels incredible. I’ve had a long association with teaching. Actually –  I got involved in teaching when I was living in San Francisco in my 20’s and I taught a variety of formats – boot camp, step, and high-impact. But I stopped teaching due to a couple of knee and ankle injuries and a new role that involved consistent international travel. Although I participated in various group fitness classes, I didn’t really have the time and space to teach until about five years ago. I got certified for Zumba, cover taught, and then sprained my ankle again. As part of my recovery, my trainer at the time suggested I take spin classes to keep my cardio up since I couldn’t put a lot of weight on my ankle. Despite really not liking it at first, I liked the fact that I was getting fitter, and I found teachers with great music, which really inspired me. About two years later, I received great mentorship from my teachers and the confidence to train and certify for indoor cycling. I realised that there were plenty of people just like me quietly sitting in the back in the classes I attended. I had a great opportunity to show people that they could really engage with their classes in a different way.

I’m 49, and a size 12 but neither of those numbers define my ability to teach. My love of music, my willingness to work with riders of all shapes, sizes, and abilities in every stage of life and my insistence on creating a safe space where everyone can feel great  – that’s what defines my teaching and gives my riders an opportunity to get sweaty and have fun.

I love working at Heartcore. It’s honestly a place where anyone can come in and get a great class. It’s incredibly inclusive and it has a terrific ethos. It’s a full body and soul outlook that really inspires me to create workouts that transport riders to another level. I know how corny that sounds but it’s truly a safe space when I teach for everyone. And as I say at the start of every class: it’s a completely no judgement zone.

How does teaching classes make you feel?

My riders sweat. They push. They do glow but only because they’re getting those endorphins up and rocking out to music that drives them. They aren’t there to show that they’re working out to their followers – they’re getting the work DONE. That’s what’s important to me. Their experience is what’s important to me. And I put a ton of time and energy into creating classes that people can really tap into while they’re tapping back. I believe that Ride can create a next level workout for your body and soul – but you’ve got to focus on the workout and not on the image of working out. The real thing, the experience, beats the Insta filter every day. And honestly, the group energy we create during our classes is truly next-level. I love every single rider. And yes, I tell them that!

What is the most satisfying part of your job?

Having people come up and tell me that my music made them stick with the class and got them through, or that 45 minutes felt like 5 minutes long and it was over too soon. Honestly? It’s no fun if the music doesn’t make you want to move. I’m incredibly music-driven when I approach each class; I spend hours on playlists to get a specific level of movement that’s organic. It means that no matter how you feel coming into class you will absolutely feel 100% better at the end of class. I teach weekends and I welcome the hangover rider. I always say that nothing cures a hangover like an epic “RidewithStacey” ride session.

Photo: @RideWithStacy

What are some of your biggest frustrations with the industry?

Instructors need to be young, thin and pretty or they aren’t good

One of my permanent frustrations with the industry is that there’s a very size-based approach to fitness. Let’s be realistic, I’m nearing 50, and I’m a size 12. I’m not going to look like a size 6 in her early 20s. Nor do I want to! I’ve lived through injuries that totally made exercising impossible for long periods of time, and to be honest, life gets in the way for everyone sometimes. And I really feel that there is a bigger demographic out there than 20 something riders that clubs and studios could tap into if they could demonstrate that they understand that not everyone looks the same way. But when all the instructors look the same, it’s hard to imagine. At least one club in London won’t let me teach as long as my size is double digits. To them, it’s more important for their instructors to be skinny than to have the ability to coach students properly.

The Cool Kids Up Front Syndrome

I’m definitely not a fan of the “only the cool kids sit up front” format popularised by SoulCycle and copied in some studios; I know the aim is to make them look exclusive and clubby but when you’re learning, it helps to be able to actually see the instructor. I want everyone to feel like they have the right to ride their own ride and sit where they want. It’s a no-judgement zone in my class. I give people ranges to aim for, and I’ll show up at your bike and cheer you on every single time you come to class. At Heartcore, bikes are available on a first come first served basis, and I think that’s a good way to do it if you don’t have a bookable placement system. I love indoor cycling because you can learn at your own pace and you own your own ride, so I take loads of time with new students who show up early so they can get set up properly and understand what’s coming. My second pet peeve is the new students who show up right at the start of class, which means we have no time to give them the support they need to enjoy it.

The Wandering Instructor Who Doesn’t Ride

I also don’t really like classes where the instructor wanders around or stands at the front, off the bike, acting like they’re a club DJ or rockstar. Especially for new riders, it’s important to see what to do by someone who is in control of their form enough to demonstrate.

Only Paying Attention To Regulars

I really believe that if you are made to feel like you don’t belong at any class, you just won’t be comfortable enough to enjoy the ride or to get into it – and you won’t come back. It’s my job to engage riders, to show them how to do it right, to encourage them to succeed, to give them a place where they can feel amazing, even if it’s only for 45 minutes. Let’s face it – we all need 45 minutes to ourselves where the phone/work/kids/life isn’t running our lives. This gives you that opportunity to take a much-needed break from day-to-day life.

iPhones In Class

The “pout and pose” selfies/snapchats during class thing is crazy. You shouldn’t even be able to think about your phone when you’re on the bike? I’m always asking riders to think about taking it to the next level so that they can get to a new place, and that involves taking the mental baggage and all the other “day-to-day” draws that pull you back and whispers “I can’t”. That phone just gets in the way; it distracts you, breaks your concentration and stops you from pushing through the tough parts to “hell yes I can.” And worse, it distracts other riders!

Has anyone ever made you try to change who you are to fit a certain mould?

I have worked with one high end club that’s made it quite clear through the instructor grapevine that despite great feedback from members, my body isn’t acceptable enough for a permanent role on their timetable. It wasn’t the first time that I have dealt with that kind of attitude though it is the only club in London that’s been that overt about it. I haven’t just experienced this as an instructor. I was ignored during group fitness classes too when I was larger. I’ve been told not to sit in the front row. At one memorable dance class, I had the teacher actually say to me “You need to eat less and look better if you want to be up in the front.” I didn’t go back.

When I was starting out as a Ride/Cycle teacher a little over 3 years ago, one woman who attended the same class as me heard about my plans to get certified and teach. She told me flat out: “I hate to sound negative, but you’re going to have to lose weight to teach. No one wants to take classes from a fat teacher.”

That did absolutely hurt. I was a size 16 – 18 at the time, which is the national average size, as we all know. I did lose weight, but I’m still a size 12. Not thin by any stretch of the imagination and I’m built for strength, not skinny. I have cellulite, naturally chunky thighs (they’ve slimmed down after riding 6 classes a week, for sure) and a perfect butt (from Ride). A so-so stomach and so-so arms. It is what it is – and I can hit 800 watts if I go strong. That’s more than some guys can do. My heart rate is low 60s (it was 72 before I started teaching). There’s definitely a fitness equation here. And I am way fitter now than I ever used to be. And finally, I care more about being strong than skinny, and that’s my choice.

I don’t really look like someone who’s almost 50, which is lovely – but I have to be honest, if I were living on chicken and broccoli and a size below double digits, I wouldn’t look as good.

Here’s the ultimate point: at the end of the day, you don’t need to look like me to get something out of the class.

Whether or not your instructor is thin or not doesn’t matter and it doesn’t change YOUR results. How your instructor makes you feel and makes you able to push past your own comfort zone is what changes your body. And I want everyone to love their body for what it is, not hate it for what it isn’t. There is just so much love in the world that making yourself miserable seems really counterproductive to me. Bringing that love into our workouts? My job. Bringing yourself to the class? Your job. If you can get there, we can make magic happen.

Which classes / instructors are you loving in London now?

Sarah Reid and Sarah White at Heartcore. Sarah R for her epic sweat sessions and Sarah W for her incredible music. They’re the ones I choose when I have a chance to take rather than teach.

Katie Carroll and Kelly Wooton at HouseRide (only at Soho House clubs)  – true professionals in every way, and their classes are amazing. Definitely terrific. Katie was also part of the founding team creating our method at Heartcore and continues to be a huge inspiration.

Kari McCreath at Equinox – one of my first spin mentors, Kari encouraged me to consider teaching indoor cycling when an injury sidelined me from teaching dance.

What tracks are on your spin playlist?

Oh SUCH a good question. I spend so much time on DJ sites (favourites: Shahar Varshal, Happy Cat Disco, DJ Schmolli, MDN8, satis5ed, and others to find epic mashups – think Rihanna v The Proclaimers, or Dua Lipa v Madonna. My Divas rides (Taylor, Bey, Rihanna, Britney, Katy etc) are always popular as are my 80s rides.

I constantly Shazam everything. I have some great tracks that I got when I was last in Paris and Amsterdam thanks to my shameless Uber Shazaming. I just ask the driver to put on whatever THEY like to listen to and get stuck in. I saw Hamilton a few weeks ago and some of the Hamilton Mixtape tracks have also slipped in – they have an incredible beat and very soulful lyrics. I always include a meditation track where you can keep your eyes closed and just get lost in the music. If you want to know how powerful a track can be – I’ve actually had some riders beat their PB in the middle of the meditation track?! I’ve had riders cry too. That’s an incredibly special experience – it really helps them clean out their heart and their soul so to speak. (I know because I’ve cried in class too).

In general, I’m a HUGE fan of tribal house and drum music – so almost every class has a climb and tapback track with a heavy beat that you can really move with and get lost in, like Ricky L or KDA. I also love Safri Duo for drum tracks that totally suck you in! For speed and flat roads, Sigala, Calvin Harris and David Guetta.

How do you find balance in your life?

Ahhhh balance. I swear the concept was put into place just to mess with people?! There’s always going to be something that is pulling more of your mental energy than other areas, and managing the stress that comes along with trying to keep every ball in the air – work, home, life, etc – is something that everyone deals with in their own way and usually by finding their own space to work through things. For me, that’s a dark room with candles, music and every bike filled with people working with the beats.

Honestly, I feel the most balanced when I’m just dealing with things as they come. I definitely find that teaching helps me keep balanced in general – it adds so much to my life. The feeling I get when someone has a breakthrough in class is overwhelmingly amazing. And honestly, the endorphins that regular exercise brings keep me from going crazy at work and in life. I think as Elle Woods said in Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t!”

Life mantra?

Enjoy the ride. One of my favourite sayings is:

Q: “What if I fail?”

A: “Oh darling, but what if you fly?”

Follow Stacey on Instagram and book a class with her at Heartcore

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