"SoulCycle was a Total Game Changer': Linda Stark's SOUL Story
April 6, 2016
My first ride was in May 2015. I was terrified, despite the fact that I bike outdoors with my husband frequently. I was drawn into the energy at SOUL from the get-go. It made me want to commit.
I was, and still am, on a mission to rehabilitate myself. I inherited a genetic predisposition to heart disease. I suffered a heart attack a few years ago, then last year I had a stroke as a result of that heart attack because my heart was still not strong enough to fully function. Everyone is always shocked when they discover my medical history because it seems so unlikely. I was left exhausted and debilitated, and desperately wanting to overcome what I had been through. I could not stand the traditional hospital rehab programs; I found them ineffective and depressing. The mood there infuriated me and made me feel like a victim.
I worked with my cardiologist and doctors to create a program I could do on my own that would work for me. It was a somewhat unorthodox approach, but I took it slow and ultimately gained back my strength. When I found SoulCycle, it was the community I had been looking for. The atmosphere, music and energy became something I craved every day.
The instructors at SOUL have made a huge difference in my life. (That's me, above left, with instructor Olivia Amato.) They have inspired me and given me the confidence to push myself much further than I would ever have thought possible. I ride one to two times a day, everyday — 7 days a week, front row, usually at Union Square or 19th Street. I double and do the longer classes whenever I can. I continue to improve, and to learn.
When I started and struggled, I never thought that I would be able to stand up and run out of the saddle, or use 3-pound weights, or do the choreography. I never thought I would be able to match pace or stay on the beat. Last month I had the opportunity to ride on the podium with my favorite instructor, and I think that’s when it really sunk in how far I had come. I realized if she thought I was okay to be up there with her, then I had really accomplished something huge over the course of the past year. My husband now frequently rides with me, and our kids have joined us on occasion as well.
It’s way beyond just the studio time at this point. My SOUL experience has extended to so many other areas (other exercises, nutrition advice, and learning how to allow time for myself). I appreciate every day I have, and hearing “do it because you can” has special meaning to me. Sometimes we just need to let go and leap forward and hope to create and experience something special and honest that makes the spirit thrive.
For me, SOUL has been a real game changer. I am now in the top 20 percent fitness-wise of all women in my age group. Quite a turnaround! Through SoulCycle I have completely changed my body, and I've regained strength and confidence. I never would have thought a year ago that I would not only bounce back, but also achieve beyond where I was before. I feel stronger now than I ever have, and I am so grateful to the instructors at SOUL who are a part of my life for making that happen, and to the teams at my studios who make me smile every time I walk through the door.
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