Name: Amanda Blevins
Hometown: West Chester, Pennsylvania
Occupation: Nonprofit Community Engagement
Time Cycling: 8 years
Reason for Cycling: I participate in indoor cycling because it helps me stay healthy physically and mentally. It’s become a source of stress release and a break from reality.
My mom experienced an injury in the fall of 2014, and had been taking barre classes at a boutique spin and barre studio. The classes were going to expire and so she gave them to me knowing I had tried indoor cycling a couple years prior and really enjoyed it. She was right—I had always felt better after exercise and the class gave me the community that my last indoor cycling studio provided, in addition to the challenging workout. When I started taking classes again, I was certainly challenged and could tell I had work to do to improve—but my thoughts became clearer and I felt better.
In the beginning I took cycling classes three to four times per week. I was just taking different instructor’s classes and working really hard to be able to follow the beat of the music.
I now currently teach three classes per week. I’m always working on getting stronger, but for me, I move my body because it feels good. I tend to be a rider that doesn’t watch my monitor or stats—I really love to connect with the music while I ride and move that way. I’m always working to be a better instructor so that people get what they need from my classes. Without the riders, I wouldn’t get to do what I do and it’s really important to me to make sure that I’m at my best so that they get the best class possible.
The months following the news of my divorce were extremely challenging for me. I wasn’t expecting that life change, and so I was surprised, hurt, and lost a lot of confidence in myself. I settled into a depression, and I started experiencing anxiety in ways I hadn’t before and actually had a couple panic attacks. I frequently was unable to focus on my work, which has always been really important to me. And I would do a lot of negative self-talk which exacerbated my other mental health symptoms. It was a vicious cycle.
I was in therapy for years following my divorce and I’m a big advocate of seeking therapy. I feel incredibly grateful for my therapist, as she helped me to get to the bottom of much of the negative-self talk that I was doing to myself. She helped me realize my worth, that things that I was hard on myself for were really just styles and strengths, and through the hurt that came with my divorce.
Medication also changed my life and really showed me that depression and anxiety should be treated in the same way as high blood pressure or cholesterol. I noticed changes in physical depression and anxiety symptoms—lethargy, feeling heavy, and brain fog and my blood pressure reading dropped after being put on medication as it helped me with anxiety.
I realize that my story isn’t the same as anyone else’s, and everyone’s mental health journey is different, but cycling, therapy, and medication really helped me.
Without cycling, I’m unsure if I would have made it to the place I’m at mentally. Most of my closest friends are people who I have met through cycling. When I have a rough day and I don’t feel like teaching or taking a class, I know that those are the days that I most want to go and I’ve never regretted clipping in. Cycling has proven to provide the space I need from reality to clear my mind and to make me better in the other aspects of my life.
I receive messages from riders, instructors, and people starting their fitness journeys who tell me how nervous they are to move because they live in larger bodies and they see my social media posts or videos of me and they feel inspired to do it. It’s extremely humbling because I completely understand where they’re coming from as I was in their exact position. Movement is for everyone, and if a space isn’t welcoming, there are so many other places to go where someone can feel welcomed and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to inspire others others to see that.
Just start. You don’t have to already be in shape to start a journey. You don’t have to look a certain way. No one expects perfection whether you’re a rider or an instructor. You may be telling yourself that you aren’t enough of something to start, but I promise you are and the things that you’re most worried about, others likely don’t care about.
These three tips have made my cycling journey successful:
1. Don’t be afraid to have the instructor set up your bike
2. No one walks into a rhythmic cycling class and nails it the first time
Literally no one. It takes time to learn the cues, the moves, and what it feels like to ride and move to the rhythm. When you first start, be patient with yourself and don’t give up after one, or even a few classes. It’ll come.
3. It never gets easier
You learn the form, you learn how to move, but in doing so, you also get stronger and so you’re capable of more. Cycling is amazing in that you’re always pushing, changing, and growing.
Amanda’s Must-Have Gear
→L. Erickson Ponytail Holders: I have long, thick hair and these are the only ones that hold my hair in place the whole ride. They’re the only ones I use.
→Athleta Ultimate Stash II 7/8 Tight: They stay up the whole ride, come in lots of colors, and are my favorite leggings ever.
→Fabletics Trinity High Impact Sports Bra: It holds me in place and has a higher top than other plus-sized sports bras so everything stays covered on the podium.
→Spotify: My go-to subscription service for music for my classes.
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