Monday, October 16, 2017

Q&A With a Cycle Pro

Getting to know Earl Benjamin of SoulCycle Bellevue.

You may have heard the buzz that SoulCycle has come to Seattle, landing itself over on the eastside at a brand-new, bright and bustling Bellevue studio. We thought it would be fun to chat with an instructor to hear what it takes to lead the masses at this energetic hub of sweat, music and high-powered pedaling.

Here’s what we learned from Earl Benjamin, a friendly guy with a warm smile, who hails from the Virgin Islands and now calls the PNW home.

Instructor Earl Benjamin, photo courtesy SoulCycle/Duo Public Relations

Instructor Earl Benjamin, photo courtesy SoulCycle/Duo Public Relations

Q: What are three words you’d use to describe the SoulCycle workout experience?
A: Strength, Joy and SOUL. SoulCycle is a full-body and mind workout designed to make fitness joyful. By combining physical strength, mental health and spiritual wellbeing, riders push themselves to new levels — and they have fun while doing it! We call it a “dance party on a bike.” The class consists of choreography and the use of hand weights to simultaneously tone the upper body and core.

Q: How long have you been with SoulCycle?
A: I completed the SoulCycle training program last year and I have been a part of the community for a while. After my first class I knew I had to be involved in a larger way. I became an instructor last year, stepping away from my career as a journalist and transitioned full-time into fitness. It is a dream job connecting with people, and providing them an inspirational and spiritual workout.

Q: Where were you before that, and can you describe the path that brought you to this new role?
A: I was working as Content Producer for Nation’s Restaurant News before making the leap into full-time fitness with SoulCycle. I took my first class in 2013, while doing a similar role at the Associated Press. I remember walking out of my first SoulCycle class wondering why I hadn’t discovered it sooner! It was a life-changing moment for me, and I became a regular rider. At the same time, I was struggling to keep my passion alive at my current job. I never really felt like I fit in with the corporate environment, but I was on a path that I felt was natural and made sense financially, even though I was never fulfilled.

I had a rough 2016, and it caused me to really sit down and re-evaluate the type of life I wanted to lead and who I wanted to be. My plan from about 10 years old was to be a journalist so it scared me that maybe I’d have to change that entire “life plan.” I honestly would have never pictured myself leading on a podium at SoulCycle. The fear of failure kept me from even trying until last year when I decided my need for a change was greater than any fear. It was the scariest and most rewarding risk of my life. I had to audition twice before being accepted into the training program and now I believe people when they say, “A lot can change in a year!” My whole life turned upside down in under 12 months, and I am thankfully not who I was last year. I feel braver, stronger and more confident than any other stage in my life.

Photo courtesy SoulCycle/Duo Public Relations

Photo courtesy SoulCycle/Duo Public Relations

Q: What is the training process like for a SoulCycle instructor?
A: SoulCycle holds auditions all around the country and if accepted, potential new instructors participate in an intensive training program. It is truly transformational and we come out of it stronger – mentally, physically and spiritually – and ready to help others do the same.

Q: How many hours a week are you typically on your bike?
A: I currently teach 8-10 classes a week in addition to riding in my fellow instructors’ classes, so I’d say about 10 hours sounds right. The job goes far beyond the bike, and I’m always thinking about new ways to engage the class along with hunting for new music and making sure I stay active with other workouts.

Q: What’s your favorite part about your job? The toughest? The funniest?
A: That’s tough. I am doing my dream job and there are more than a few aspects that I look forward to every day. I get to share inspiration with people daily and build a community with like-minded individuals. If I had to choose one thing though, it would be that moment right after class where I get to connect with riders. I always leave inspired by their stories and how their lives were also changed by SOUL. It’s my fuel.

The toughest part is digging deep on the days where I feel like I don’t have the motivation or my body is sore. It takes a lot of mental work to push through those moments, but those are usually the times I have some of the best classes and even surprise myself.

The funniest part of the job is the amount of laundry I now have. It’s crazy that a human can sweat this much. Its laughable, really!

Q: What do you love best about SoulCycle? What do you think makes the concept so special?
A: SoulCycle is community. The exercise program focuses on rhythm and the energy of the pack, which creates a strong bond between riders. We ride with an intention and a deeper purpose – focusing on goals other than just getting through a class. What’s amazing is how riders have shared stories of how SoulCycle has helped them overcome personal tragedies, difficult relationships, illnesses and so much more.

Photo by Morgan Ione Yeager, courtesy SoulCycle/Duo Public Relations

Photo by Morgan Ione Yeager, courtesy SoulCycle/Duo Public Relations

Q: How do you dig deep to lead an invigorating, inspiring class on days you’re feeling sick, tired or just off?
A: I touched on this a bit earlier, but there are few things that help me dig deep. The main thing I do is pray. I am a big believer in God, and my faith helps keep me grounded. I also play a gratitude game where I shift my focus from how I’m feeling to what I’m grateful for. It could be small or big, but it usually quickly reminds me that I am beyond blessed. I also love to read. One of my favorite books is The Alchemist so I’ll re-read similar books that inspire me and provide a fresh perspective. Lastly, MUSIC!!! I get pumped up listening to positive Reggae and Hip Hip songs.

Q: What artists would play on your dream workout playlist?
A: Ooooooohh. I’m crazy about a wide range of artists, but I would want some J. Cole, Sia, Kanye, Big Sean and Florence to be in there! My playlists vary a lot based on what musical mood I am in. I spend a lot of time making sure that I include different genres in the hopes that each person leaves with a meaningful experience.

Q: What are your favorite things to do when not on a bike?
A: I’m obsessed with photography. I love capturing everyday, simple, but beautiful moments. My happy place is also found reading and doing creative writing, hanging with friends and going to the movies. And I love, love, love to eat!

About Corinne Whiting

Corinne, an east coast native who relocated here from the other Washington in 2011, was bit by the travel bug early on. She lived in Strasbourg, France (during her junior year at Georgetown University) and in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she got a masters degree in Cultural Studies. She feels very grateful to have explored incredible spots on our globe ranging from Bolivia and Egypt to Turkey and China, but there are passport pages yet to fill (and travel tales yet to be written!). After serving as associate editor at Where magazine in D.C. for five years, Corinne has embarked on a new adventure here in the PNW as a freelance writer and photographer, contributing to publications like National Geographic Traveler, the Alaska Airlines in-flight magazine, Amtrak's OnTrak, 1889 Washington, 1859 Oregon, Visit Seattle and so on. She loves exploring this incredible corner of the country while debunking the rain myths, upping her coffee quotient, hearing heaps of live music and finding her Zen near the water as often as possible.
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