By Amy Shlinger
Alyssa Pannozzi can still remember the indoor cycling class that got her hooked. It was the summer of 2013, and she was living in San Diego, California, for grad school. "My sister was out there working on tour for a singer as her summer gig, and she dragged me to a spin class in LA,” says the now 34-year-old Massachusetts native. It was the first indoor cycling class Pannozzi had been to since college, where she used to take classes from time to time. “I thought, OK, this is actually kind of fun,” Pannozzi remembers. So, the next day, she took another class with a new instructor, who began the class with a rap song. "I thought to myself, 'I don't know what this is, but it's the best thing ever,'" says Pannozzi. She was sold as she headed back down to San Diego to find a spin studio there.
Pannozzi was going through a bit of a tough time mentally at this time. She was in the middle of a breakup, not motivated at work, and feeling extremely unhappy overall. “Indoor cycling kind of became my outlet,” she says. “I connected with a studio and ended up going to class five or six times a week.” She began in the back row, and as she became more comfortable and confident, she moved up in the class. “Spin helped me get through my mental and personal struggles,” she says. “I started to realize that I cared a lot about it and thought maybe it was something I could be really good at.”
In December of 2014, Pannozzi decided to move back home to Boston to be closer to family. She was initially living with her parents and immediately found an indoor cycling studio to go to as a way to get out of the house and do something she loved. She found Rev’d and quickly connected with the owners, who eventually approached Pannozzi about teaching at the studio. By September of 2015, Pannozzi was a full-time indoor cycling instructor.
"I love helping people and watching them get better, week by week," says Pannozzi. "Connecting with different riders from all different backgrounds is exciting, and I feel like they help me just as much as I help them."
Indoor cycling helped to get Pannozzi out of the darkest place she’s been in her life. If you happen to be going through something similar, here’s why leaning into spin and fitness can help.
1. You don’t have to look or feel a certain way to ride
There's a misconception that you need to look, or be, or feel a certain way to try an indoor cycling class. "A lot of people are afraid to try it because of what they think it is or isn't," says Pannozzi. "But it's not true, and it's a stigma that we're trying hard to squash all around. Anyone can do it, and it's one of those types of classes that you get better at it the more that you do it."
2. You can hold your happiness in different places
This is a quote that Pannozzi turned to a lot when she was really struggling. “I would wake up and look at the quote and think, ‘I’m able to be happy, I just have to get there,’ and I would take little steps every day to make myself happier,” she remembers. “I started to be honest with myself about things that made me happy and things that triggered me and had to actively choose not to put myself in situations that didn’t bring me joy or serve me.” What truly made her happy? Exercise and indoor cycling became her number one source of happiness.
3. Everyone working out or in exercise class is looking and going in a similar direction, but for all different reasons
If you’re going to a gym, or you’re going to an indoor cycling studio to take class, everyone who shows up is similarly minded, at least about exercise, and that can be helpful when you're in a rut or a bad place. "You have control over how you feel, but you also have people around you who feel a similar way," says Pannozzi. "Everyone has had a different day, but they all show up to the same class and are all there in the same room, working hard both for themselves as well as the other riders around them, and that's a really cool thing.
4. Figure out what your priorities are and how fitness fits in
Sitting down and creating a priority list can be so important, and the list won't look the same for everyone. "Figure out what's most important to you and get some things written at the top of the list," says Pannozzi. "Where does working out fall? It's OK if fitness isn't at the top, and you'd rather spend time with your friends on the weekend instead of working out. If that's your priority, then you won't have other expectations and let yourself down. But figure out where fitness fits into your life because you can't expect it to fit in if you don't make time to fit it in."