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What Willie Learned in the Army

Before he joined SoulCycle, instructor WILLIE HOLMES served as a medic in the Army for nearly seven years. In honor of Veterans Day, he shares the lessons he learned while enlisted and how his experience prepared him to lead the pack…

I enlisted in the Army when I was 18 for a few reasons. For starters, I didn't feel like I had many options. I grew up the youngest of six to a single mother in a very rough neighborhood. I  wanted to help my mother quickly without ever feeling like a burden, so the college option was out. 

Where I'm from in Jacksonville, Florida, high school graduation was — and still is — a rarity. No one spoke to me about life post-high school, I didn't aspire to to do much so I was only concerned with finishing. The JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) program was another big reason to join. It was there that I learned discipline and connected to people on a very deep, personal level. 

At the time, we were a country at war and I wanted to help. I didn't want to fight, but I wanted to heal. That's why I chose to become a medic, and I served for nearly seven years. 

I learned so much during my time in the Army. I literally started adulthood while serving, so I grew so much in those seven years. Some of the best lessons I learned:
• To persevere.
• The importance of fitness.
• To swallow a meal at a neck-breaking pace, and my pride.
• I'm stronger, smarter, and more patient that I had known.
• To save a life.
• How to train and lead.

After I left the Army, I discovered SoulCycle. I took my first ride, which was like being on an emotional roller coaster. I was having a horrible day,so  I took my first class to release some stress and make myself so tired that I wouldn't have any choice, but to go to sleep. It was intense, though, and to me, intensity is addictive! I was hooked. 

That first experience was so amazing that I decided I wanted to become an instructor. I was so impressed with the instructor for my class that I wanted to do the same for other people. I'm a motivator — a people person — and I absolutely love fitness and promoting fitness.

Since finding SOUL, my body is better than ever, my mind is sharper, I'm more optimistic and I’m happier. I feel less stressed than I have in my entire life. As an instructor, I'm burning so many calories that I can eat pretty much whatever I want (so that's fun, but I don't. At least not often…)

My Army days prepared and trained me to lead and to motivate, which I now do from the podium. SOUL and the service both make unit cohesion, early mornings and fitness a priority (plus tons of food!) I use cadence and methods of motivation learned from my time serving in my classes. It is such an amazing feeling that I truly enjoy!

The SOUL mantra I live by is, “Hop on and ride it until the wheels fall off!” I like that because life has proven to be short. I've seen a lot of things — especially while serving in the Army. Life is short and unexpected things happen, and I never want to be a person who regrets!

Joining the military was the best decision of my life. I think spending time in the military is great for many people, but it is not for everybody. I love training, leading and serving; SoulCycle has given me the opportunity to do all of that while doing something that I absolutely love. 

Catch classes with Willie at SoulCycle TriBeCaBryant Park and SoHo. Questions or comments? Email! Want to ride? Grab a series HERE and book a bike!


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