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What It's Like to Be a SoulCycle Instructor: "I Do Everything 120%"

In our 9–5 series, we ask our favourite boss babes what a day in the office entails. On the eve of SoulCycle's Canadian debut, we spoke with Pascale Yensen, a Toronto-based spin instructor, about her daily grind

Pascale Yensen tells us what it's like to be a soulcycle instructor

(Courtesy of SoulCycle)

Age: 27

Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts in contemporary dance choreography from Concordia University

Length of time as a SoulCycle instructor: Two and a half months. I finished the training program in December, taught a bit in New York City—which was craziness—and now here I am.

What drew you to SoulCycle compared to other exercise programs?
When you experience it, you understand why it’s a step up. I do everything 120 percent and I decided that if I wanted to do this, SoulCycle was a company that I could move up with. You don’t just get certified and then you’re done. You’re constantly being challenged to advance your training or your class. Plus, you get to develop as an instructor, a motivational speaker and as a human. There’s no limit.

Did your background in dance also factor into your decision to join?
One hundred percent. It’s such a crazy thing though, even with my background, the first class I did was rough. But after a while, it gets into your body. Everybody feels music and moves, so the same thing happens on a bike, it’s just that your dance floor happens to be moving with you.

Did you decide you wanted to be an instructor after going to a SoulCycle class?
I had seen an ad looking for a “rockstar spinning instructor” at another studio. I thought that was something I could do and began teaching there. All the while, I kept hearing about SoulCycle, and I finally went and took a class in New York City. It was an hour-long session and it was packed. Half way through the class, I was dying and then the instructor shouted, “4-3-2-1 get up!” and the bass dropped. I wanted to cry and laugh all at the same time. I did a bunch of classes after that and decided this was something I needed to do.

So how exactly do you become an instructor?
You apply with a cover letter then they invite you for an audition. I auditioned in Toronto, but they also hold auditions in New York City and do audition tours. For ours, we did a group class and then we each went up and taught a few songs. It’s fast, but they know what they’re looking for, and if you’ve got it, you’ve got it.

How did you stand out at your audition?
I was very nervous and they called me to go first at the audition. I tend to just say what I’m thinking when I’m nervous, but it seemed to go over pretty well. I didn’t want to go up and say things I didn’t mean. I was just me up there.

I know you’re just starting, but how many classes will you teach per day?
At the moment, I think the most I’m going to do is two per day, but it can go up to three or four. Some people in NYC teach five a day.

That’s a lot. How will you keep up your energy through that?
The music. Yes, I have to fuel and sleep and hydrate, but there’s a certain point where if you’re not into it, then you’re not into it. That’s why choosing my own music for the classes is so important to me.

Music seems to be a big driving force for you. What are your top picks for:

A pump-up song to listen to on your way to class?
Bitch” by Meredith Brooks—it’s my karaoke song, too.

A song to get you through that mid-class wall?
Doo Wop” by Lauryn Hill. It’s just a throwback that helps you to keep pushing.

A cool down song?
Million Reasons” by Lady Gaga.

Song for your walk home?
Something old-school like “Drops of Jupiter” by Train.

If you’ve had a really terrible day, how do you turn it around and be a positive person for your class?
This room is so different than the crazy hustle and bustle of outside. When I come to SoulCycle, I know that I’m going into a room full of positive people who want to have a 45-minute dance party. I can put everything outside and say, “Sometimes it gets a bit crazy out there, how about we come in here and have a good time.”

How do you fuel up before a class?
I make sure I’ve had a lot of water—I like to fill my water bottle up at least five times in a day—and a good amount of carbs. If I have an early class, I make sure I have a big dinner. I eat a lot of snacks throughout the day like hard-boiled eggs, nuts and dried fruit, which helps right before a class.

What kind of planning goes into a class?
Training sets a good foundation for what the classes entail, and then we put our own flair on it. Each city has its own flavour as well. I go over my choreography in my head many times, but the music also tells me what to do. You don’t have to choreograph much, it’s there in the music.

What it's like to be a soulcycle instructor: A photo from a SoulCycle class

(Photo: Courtesy SoulCycle)

As an instructor, what is going through your mind during a class?
I overthink everything in life and there are only two times when I’m not: when I’m improv dancing, and when I’m on the bike. It’s just happening. I’m thinking about the music, the person over there that has a smile on her face, the person in the corner that needs to adjust their hips. It’s crazy that I get to be 100 percent in the moment.

Do you ever feel self-conscious about teaching a class or leading those motivational segments?
I used to. Then I realized that these were not people who were out to judge me. They’re just here to ride and have a good time. Now, I feel so lucky that I get to do this in front of people. It’s fun, exhilarating and just the greatest time.

There’s an entire segment of the class with one- to five-pound weights. Do those small weights actually do anything?
Yes. Oh yes. Because we’re doing repetitive motions over and over, it starts to build up a burn. I’d say that the most muscle I’ve gained since becoming an instructor is in my shoulders, arms and back from the weights.

Have you encountered any challenges so far as a woman in the fitness industry?
In the fitness industry as a whole, there are definitely challenges because it’s so focused on image. From my experience at SoulCycle though, not in the slightest. It’s such an open and accepting community that there’s no pressure about what you look like.

What is the best part of your average work day?
Seeing people smile on a bike.

What is the worst part?
Having to go to sleep and turn my brain off.

Who is someone in this field that inspires you and why?
Misty Copeland. She was told her whole career that her bust was too big, her calves were too large and she didn’t have the right body for ballet. Now she’s the first African-American principal ballet dancer for the American Ballet Theatre.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to be on the bike at the front of the class?
Let your freak flag fly. Don’t try and be another instructor. Think about what you would want to bring to a class. If you were up on that bike, what would you say? What would you want to tell that room full of people? And then go with that.

After getting so hyped during a class, how do you unwind?
Food. I love to cook. Give me my kitchen, some jazz and a glass of red wine and I’m a happy camper.

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