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Soul Transformation: Jo Ruffin

efore she started teaching at SoulCycle, instructor JO RUFFIN was overweight and struggled with insecurity. Now leading the pack in Roslyn, Scarsdale and Woodbury, she opens up about how she shed 55 pounds while transforming her strength and confidence along the way…

When I was 17, my mom was diagnosed with kidney failure. We learned that macrobiotics can help heal people from illnesses and diseases, so she changed her diet — and my brother and I did the same to support her. When I was 21, I became vegan because I’ve always been a huge animal lover and it didn’t make sense to me to continue to eat fish (the last meat I needed to give up) or wear or use animal products. Then I started exercising, and that's really what started my transformation.

The summer after my first year of college, I decided I was over being insecure, not loving myself and not feeling worthy. I was overweight and just wasn’t happy with who I was. My first roommate, Jane, was extremely athletic and I actually owe her a huge THANK YOU for inspiring me without even knowing it!

That summer, in 2007, I asked my mom for a gym membership. Every day I would get up at 7:30 AM and was on the elliptical for an hour, then I would do about 20 minutes of weights. I had never worked out before in my life, EVER, so I made up my own routine from watching others and reading magazines. I lost 20 pounds that summer and over the course of three years, I went from 192 to 135, over 55 pounds!

I was proud of myself and was receiving “attention” I thought I wanted. But deep down I still carried deeply-rooted insecurity and never felt like I was thin enough. It took me a few years but I eventually realized, through my faith, that self worth does not come from how much you weigh or what you look like. That is not where my validation lies. I know now, that my beauty does not come from what’s on the outside but what I possess on the inside. And that beauty, that strength on the inside is what matters most. I want people to love me for that, not for what I look like on the outside. I believe that’s why I was so drawn to SoulCycle, because yes, it is a cardiovascular workout, but it is so much more.

My first class was with Emma Zaks, back in December 2012 at Union Square. I had been an avid indoor cyclist for four years in California and was obsessed with it, but when I moved to New York City, I was missing the community I had built in class back at home. Even though I had started teaching indoor cycling in the city, I wanted to try out SoulCycle.

I remember I called the studio that morning and the woman I talked to was SO excited for me! I knew this was going to be something special, just from that first interaction on the phone. I remember clipping in — the room was dark, there were candles lit and the music was loud! Emma’s energy was out of this world and I was hooked just like that. I knew I wanted to be an instructor for SoulCycle. This was where I wanted to be. People were excited to be here. I saw community and that was exactly what I was searching for.

SoulCycle became a place for me to let go, walk into a dark room, close my eyes and leave whatever was happening outside of the room, outside of that room. That is one of the things I love most about Soul: you can walk into that room and completely let go. However, I believe it’s a choice and I try to relate that to my riders. I’ve laughed, cried, smiled, danced, and loved all on that bike. So I have a secret: While many know me as being extremely outgoing and personable, there have been many times where I have gone by myself because I needed that time of reflection and inward alone time.

It’s about tapping into what is within. This is why I have chosen SoulCycle. I aspire to inspire each one of my riders and help them understand that they are beautiful because of what they possess on the inside. The light and love they share with others, that’s what makes them attractive. I have never felt more secure about who I am because while my looks can fade, my heart will remain the same.

Jo (in 2007) and now

It’s been seven years since I’ve been at my heaviest and I feel amazing now. It’s incredible to think that losing weight actually stirred up my passion for fitness and health and led me to this career. Those years of being overweight and unhealthy were some of my most difficult ones, but look where it has brought me! Look at the people I now I have in my life! If I hadn’t gone through it, there’s no way I would be here.

One of my favorite quotes is, “If you want rainbows, you gotta have rain.” It was not easy to shed that weight, but it was well worth it! The best part is that now I have the amazing opportunity to help others not only meet their fitness goals but inspire them to love who they are on the inside as well.

Catch classes with Jo at SOUL Roslyn, SOUL Scarsdale and SOUL Woodbury! Questions or comments? Email!

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