An indoor cycling instructor shares how one eager student became more than just a regular.

By By Emily Turner as told to Alyssa Sparacino
Updated: February 10, 2017
Rachell Stierly

I'm a big "work-life balance" kind of girl, so I don't usually socialize with people who take my SoulCycle class. But when TJ (my now-fiancé) asked me if I wanted to grab a drink with his coworkers, I thought, "What the hell! Why not?"

How we even got to that point is an interesting story: In the winter of 2013, TJ and his roommate were looking for something new to try. They were both athletes who played lacrosse in college, and they would run outside. But they hadn't tried the whole group fitness thing. TJ's female coworkers encouraged him to try SoulCycle, saying, "It's a great workout, and it's not a bad social scene either." So he dragged his roommate to SoulCycle. He later told me that they looked on the website before signing up and chose my class because they thought my picture was cute-ha. (So now I always tell new instructors, "Make sure you like your photo because you never know who's going to look at it.")

TJ must have really liked that first class because he would come in every couple of weeks for the next few months. He wasn't necessarily my most regular rider, but I definitely knew his name and face. (And no, he wasn't a "front row center" guy. To this day he won't sit near the instructor's bike.) Occasionally, he would stop by after class to say thanks, but one day he struck up a convo. Things like, "I'm thinking about going to yoga. Where do you go? What kind of yoga do you do?" That's when I started thinking, "Okay, this bro definitely doesn't want to go to yoga. I think he might be trying to flirt with me."

Turns out, my suspicions were right; he couldn't care less about yoga at that time. (In fact, I'm certain he took his first-ever yoga class with me, after a year of dating.) He was really just trying to find out what I liked and if I was one of these fitness instructors who only drinks green juice and does yoga and acupuncture. I started to think, "This guy is kind of cute. It would be kind of fun if he asked me out, but let's just see where this goes." A short time later, he approached me to inquire about setting up a group ride with some of his coworkers. I gave him the whole spiel about private rides, but I also offered up my email saying that I could help him find a class of mine that I thought a large group like his would be able to easily sign up for before it sells out-if he wanted to take a more laid-back approach.

After some lighthearted chitchat over email, his crew ended up booking a bunch of bikes in my 5:30 p.m. class. TJ mentioned that they were going to a bar down the street afterward and invited me to join. I was hesitant at first (you know, the whole work-life balance thing), but I thought "Why not?!" I went-dragging one of my girlfriends along for support. And I'm so glad that I did!

It didn't take long for us to start chatting at the bar. He confessed that he had been thinking about asking me out for a while, but didn't want to overstep. He wasn't sure how I would feel about him crossing the line from rider to something more. Let's just say, when we talked at the bar that night, it was on a Thursday, our first date was the following Sunday and we haven't really looked back since. That was three years ago any now we're getting hitched!

To skip ahead a few steps, TJ and I dated for roughly two and a half years before he asked me to marry him. The proposal was out of a movie scene: After a long day at SoulCycle training new instructors, we were set to meet for dinner at a lovely NYC restaurant near Gramercy Park-BTW, it was fancy, and he told me to make sure I didn't wear sweatpants, ha! But when I met him, TJ said the reservation was pushed back so we had some time to kill. He somehow managed to make me believe the doorman at a nearby hotel would let us walk through Gramercy Park (which is usually only accessible to residents with a key), so we took a stroll around the gorgeous flowers and greenery. I should have known something was up there (and perhaps I did subconsciously), but the next thing I knew, I turned around and TJ was there on one knee asking me to marry him. To top it off, a photographer friend of mine was there to capture it.

It's fair to say that both of us felt something from the beginning-the idea from very early on that whoa, something is different with this one. But I think the reason we ended up where we are is partly due to how we met in the first place. I remember dating other guys in NYC, which is hard enough as it is, trying to explain to them that, no, I wasn't just a cycling instructor at the gym-that SoulCycle was different and this was my career. I never had to do that with TJ. He knew me as an instructor first and understands how much I love my job.

I feel the most like myself when I teach. I feel the most confident. I feel strong-and I think that translated beautifully into my relationship because I was the best version of myself and he found me in that element.



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