During a recent ride, Soul instructor Lori Abeles gave a shout-out to the new riders in the room: "You never know what's going to happen when you walk in here for your first class." That's certainly true for JAIME GLEICHER. Who could have guessed that 365 days after her first ride (and 377 classes later!), Jaime would have new friends, new mentors, a new body, new confidence and a new outlook on life? We certainly couldn't have predicted what Jaime would bring Soul. In just one year, she has become a valued member of our community -- befriending riders, staffers, instructors, building riders up and bringing people together. We literally cannot imagine SoulCycle without her. Below, Jaime has written an honest and beautiful reflection of her Soul journey and what a difference a year makes.
A couple of weeks ago, I was walking through Central Park with Lori Abeles, the SoulCycle instructor that I have done ¾ of my rides with, a woman who I love and admire and who has become one of my closest friends. The conversation turned, as it usually does, to riding, and she asked me if I had any song requests for that night.
“My Body,” I stated, referring to the Young the Giant song that was played in classes at the beginning of my Soul journey. The lyrics are: “My body tells me no, but I wont quit, because I want more, I want more.” It was a song that I initially found difficult to ride to - I couldn’t sprint as fast as everyone else, it seemed - but the lyrics got me through. To emphasize how much I wanted her to play it, I stated to Lori, “I love My Body.” It was a simple song request. Nothing more. But Lori stopped dead in her tracks and looked me square in the eye, she was the most serious I have ever seen her. And then a wave of elation came over her. I was confused.
“Did you hear what you just said? You said ‘I Love My Body.’ You have never said those words in your entire life!”
“I was talking about the song.”
“I don’t care. Those are words you have never said before. And you just said them.”
I did say those words. But I wasn’t going to lie and tell her that I meant them. I didn’t know if I did. After years of an eating disorder, would I ever fully love my body? My recovery has been about progress rather than perfection. I still had moments of insecurity, but they were fewer and farther between and I did find myself, over the course of the year, looking in the mirror and liking what I saw. Over the course of the year I also noticed another thing: my body was not just my reflection in the mirror, it wasn’t just fat or thin, it was what I used to ride my bike. It was my strength, the vehicle to doing the thing I loved most. So I told Lori the truth:
“I love my body when I ride.”
Lori and Jaime!
The above conversation encapsulates my year-long journey on the bike at SoulCycle: what it has done for me mentally, the physical results, the relationships that I have formed with my beloved instructors, the trust that has been built, the friendships that I have formed within the Soul community. Lori took a moment that anyone else would have merely overlooked but instead saw my greatest growth in it. That simple sentence uttered in the park, and Lori’s recognition of its meaning, defines my SoulCycle experience. As Lori says to the pack, “What you feel is a million more times important than what you see.” Whereas the physical results of SoulCycle speak for themselves, what Soul has done for my inner self in just 365 days has been nothing short of miraculous.
My philosophy has always been is that life is too short and precious to not learn from those who inspire you the most. Lori Abeles’ infectious love of life and abundant kindness, Laurie Cole’s confidence and positivity, Janet Fitzgerald’s spirituality and resilience: the three women I ride with most, perfectly exemplify the woman I aspire to be. Over a green tea with Janet, I told her bits and pieces of my life story as she shared her own. It was amazing to me that this woman who pushed me farther that I ever thought possible physically could also challenge me mentally. And then I got it: Janet’s intensity on the bike translates directly to her intensity off the bike. Janet lives what she preaches in class and inspired me to do the same. “The universe is listening, she told me. Put it out there, and you will get it back. We are all in control of our own lives- we are in control of everything.” Janet’s wisdom resonated with me. I wanted, like her, to be in control of the one thing I never felt in control of. This year, I took control of my body.
Jaime and Janet!
After my two hundredth ride back in the spring, Laurie Cole saved a bike for me in the front row. I shook my head and told her I wasn’t a good enough rider. She disagreed and pointed to the bike. I got on it. I rode.Midway through the ride she came up to me and pushed her microphone aside. “You know what the next step in your practice is?” She asked. I thought she was going to tell me that I needed to work on my form, that I wasn’t going fast enough. “You need to wear smaller clothes.” She was referring to my baggy, oversized shirts. I was still hiding, and she let me know it. The next day, I bought new clothes.
One week ago, I was setting up my bike in LC’s class when she came up to me and told me to stop. “You’re going to ride the teacher’s bike today.” I laughed. She had to be joking with me. Being asked to ride Laurie Cole’s instructor bike was something I never imagined I could do. I hid in the back of her class for months until I was able to keep up with the rhythm and the other riders, most of which had been riding for years. I aspired to be able to ride half as beautifully as they did. I got some tough love from LC on this journey, but she assured me that her coaching and critiques were for one reason only: “sometimes you gotta back down to get to where you should be… which is right back up!” The physical and mental challenges she provided me with have indeed strengthened me inside and out: and riding her instructor bike was the ultimate test of both. I admired the people who were lucky enough to be able to and now she was generously giving me the chance. LC smiled, told me that she was completely serious. “Life throws unexpected opportunities at you, as scary as they may seem.” She said, “Take this opportunity…and its perfect- you’re wearing a tight shirt!”
Laurie and Jaime!
When I first arrived at SoulCycle on July 17th, 2011, my only goal was to finish the class. I had no expectations. I didn’t expect to love it. I certainly did not expect to do 377 rides in 365 days. In that time, my Soul instructors have gotten to know me as well as those who have known me my entire life. I can’t hide on the bike- physically or mentally. I show them my truest self. They know my fears, my insecurities, my challenges. And because of this, they push me to be my best. They have pushed me to change. Janet has said, “I have never seen a more drastic human transformation than what happens on that bike.” I am proof.
I rode on the anniversary of my father’s death. I rode on my first day of graduate school. I rode on my birthday. I rode while my mother, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, was hospitalized many times this year. I have laughed on the bike. I have cried on the bike. There are not many constants in life, but SoulCycle is mine. I can always count on the bike, on Lori, on Janet, on Laurie, on the other brilliant instructors I ride with, on the community, my beloved pack. Riding at SoulCycle has given me an opportunity to mold myself into who I want to be. Those 45 or 60 minutes are MINE. Multiplied by more than 365 and I’ve done a lot of thinking, pushing, reflecting and soul-searching on that bike. As Lori Abeles states, “If you don’t climb the mountain, you’ll miss the badass view at the top.” I’m so glad that I’ve climbed all those hills, because I do feel as if I am on top of the world. The view, as she promised, is stellar.
I always thought that there was a magical end-all-be all to changing one’s body. Losing weight, for me, was always the answer. If I was that much thinner…I’d be that much better, that much happier. But SoulCycle has never been about my body. SoulCycle didn’t give me a different body: it gave me MY body. All my life, a different body was what I thought I wanted. Now, I just want the best body mine can be: strong, healthy, nourished.
Lori has played Mumford and Sons’ “Awake My Soul” in class and my favorite lyric has become a saying that I live by: “Where you invest your love, you invest your life.” As Laurie Cole says, “SoulCycle is the only investment in which you get back 100% and more. Guaranteed.” As Janet says, “There is nothing more attractive than someone who loves what they are doing- and is good at it.” Indeed, for me, my investment in SoulCycle and in my health, have reaped benefits beyond comprehension: health, serenity, friendship, trust, confidence. My SoulCycle journey is best described as a love story. I have fallen in love with the bike, with that incredible room in which the pack’s energy just circulates and intensifies with every ride, with the soul community, with the kindness of all of my instructors, but, most importantly, with who I am- especially when I ride.
Lori has said that "In this room we don't compete, we support each other. We're stronger together than we are alone. Take strength from the pack." To the Pack, SoulCycle Staff, Instructors, Community, Friends, Family, Julie and Elizabeth, you have changed my life. And I know I’m only one of many, but from the bottom of my heart: Thank you for my best year and for my best me.
Here's to one year Jaime -- and many more to come! Questions or comments? Email email@example.com!