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Super-Fit 50-Somethings: “I was told people wouldn’t find a girl with hips and thighs teaching spin aspirational”

On the road to becoming a spin teacher in her 40s, Stacey encountered some harsh criticism that she didn't have what it would take. Now in her 50s, she has a cult-like following for her classes at Boom Cycle.

“Once you get a little older, your booty doesn't want to come out of the saddle quite as fast,” says the much-loved Boom Cycle instructor, Stacey Torman, who is now in her 50s.

While Stacey has long loved keeping active and moving her body, she doesn’t really think of herself as a super-fit 50-something or of her story as a “fitness journey.”

“I'm not actually an athletic person, to be honest. And I’m sort of on the stockier side, build-wise, so I don't have that rock-hard body that people are looking for. And I never have,” she reveals.

While we think Stacey is a super-fit 50-something, she’s more focused on the teaching part of fitness, using exercise as a springboard to engage with people and create a space for people to be themselves, to move and feel good.

“What I really find interesting in teaching fitness is the ability to move your body, preferably to music – and to engage not just in a mental way with people, but also a physical way,” she says. “I want to help people direct that physical energy and feel amazing. That, to me, is everything.”

In her 20s, Stacey got her certifications and taught Step, boot camp and also took dance classes. When her job meant she had to travel a lot for work in her 30s, she stopped teaching but kept up taking dance classes wherever she was. When Stacey turned 40, she really wanted to get back into instructing again and started teaching Zumba; however, an ankle injury meant she changed course and found spin but the road to teaching spin wasn’t easy.

“It’s really hard to be a teacher when you don't have the right body type because people won't even let you try it. I had to really push against that ‘perfect body’ stereotype of a spin teacher,” she reveals.

“Zumba is very forgiving, everyone comes, everyone enjoys themselves. Everybody just gets up and dances and sweats and has a good time. Zumba is all about the joy of movement to music. I loved that it didn't matter what you look like, it didn't matter where you came from, you just move. And you don't have to move as well as the person next to you.”

When Stacey injured her ankle, she couldn't teach Zumba anymore. But like everybody else, she feels better when she works out. Determined to keep active, as part of her physical therapy, her PT put her on a bike and sent her to a spin class.

“I remember thinking, ‘This is terrible. This is the worst exercise in the world. I'm miserable. This fight goes nowhere. There's just nothing. I don't understand,’” she says.

“Then, I took a few classes with a woman came who'd been trained in the US, at a studio called Flywheel, and did rhythm cycling in a way that made it interesting and brought that sort of dancey vibe into it. She really focused on the music and so I started talking to her. I also met another teacher at the same place who encouraged me to get into teaching spin. Spin usually revolves around moving really fast, and once you get a little older, your booty just doesn't want to come out of the saddle quite as fast. So, part of why it became so important for me to teach spin, was to help other people realise that you don't have to do spin like a 20-year-old. You can do it like a 40-year-old. You can do it like a 45-year-old. You can do it like a 50-year-old – and so on.”

However, Stacey hit a bit of roadblock when she started auditioning for spin instructor spots.

“It’s important to me that people know that they can still incorporate fitness in their lives, even if they're not ‘perfect’”

“I got a lot of feedback that people are aspirational, and they would not find it aspirational to see a girl with hips and thighs teaching spin and that was tough,” she reveals.

“The first time I had feedback that becoming an instructor wasn’t going to happen for me, I went on a very unsustainable diet, lost weight and people would say, ‘Wow, you must feel so much better?’ And I would look at them and say, ‘No, I feel exactly the same, but I look better now, and that’s the goal, right?”’

Now having been a spin teacher since 2014 and a firm favourite as a mornings and weekend instructor at Boom Cycle in Hammersmith, becoming a spin teacher is a battle Stacey never gave up on.

“One of the hardest things for me to learn was that my style of teaching was not going to appeal to everybody. My choice of music was not going to appeal to everybody. And that’s ok. I have always had a goal – to focus on teaching for people who think spin ‘can’t’ be for them ‘because’ they’re ‘not’ something. I’ve focused my training on how to properly teach people who are older or who have maybe come back from an injury. I’ve also worked really closely with a lot of women who were pregnant and post-natal. We all have something. It’s important to me that people know that they can still incorporate fitness in their lives, even if they're not ‘perfect’. I think so many people put so much pressure on themselves. Thinking that if they go into a studio, they have to do everything right or it's a waste of time. However, just showing up is the perfection,” Stacey explains.

“I have people in my classes who are all ages, and everyone has something ‘broken’, whether that’s inside or outside, whether they admit it or not – and there's something really special about being in a dark room, with music playing, where people can drop their masks, drop their filters, and they can just be themselves. It’s just them in their fight, in the music, doing what they need to; whether that's just sitting in one place without a phone for 45 minutes; whether it's pushing themselves as hard as possible; or getting rid of tension – that 45 minutes is a gift for themselves. I am really protective of that time for my students and encourage them to let themselves just move. And I tell people all the time, ‘This is your story. You get to write it whichever way you want, and that includes this class, right now.’”

“The reason I teach at BoomCycle is really simple – we have the most diverse group of instructors at any London studio I’m aware of. Our instructors range from age 21 to 50-plus. We all have the latitude to focus on the music that drives us to engage the best way possible with our riders (for me, that tends to be pop princesses and of course, 80s rides!) – it’s not all EDM and bambambam beats, which can be intimidating, particularly for new riders. We are different colours, different shapes and different sizes. We are LGBTQA+ and hetero (but I think it’s safe to say everyone at Boom is an ally). We come from different backgrounds, different parts of the UK and all over the world, for that matter. And I particularly love that we do charity rides regularly. We’re all trying to give back in a way that’s really authentic to us. Working with these glorious people has given me more confidence and joy than at any other studio in London – as a rider and as a teacher.”

Want to join Stacey for a spin class? Well, it's never too late to set yourself a goal and smash it. Head over to Boom Cycle Hammersmith to find her on the class schedule.

Stacey’s Golden Rules for Moving Your Body and Feeling Good

1. Embrace the Chance to Connect with Yourself

“I think for a lot of women, particularly in their 30s and 40s, their lives are really busy and are very family and career focused. At this stage, the self-care, the inner work, finding the things that matter might not be so easy at this time because you’re so focused on finding things that work for other people. You're bringing up your kids, you're building a career, you’re juggling everything. You're trying to make everything work and you're trying to make it look like there's no strain or pressure on you while you do. You have to show everybody that everything’s ok. And I think honestly, in your 50s, you get the chance to really embrace whatever it is that you want for you.

You start letting go of expectations around your engagement with other people, and you start embracing your expectations around your engagement with yourself. There’s a song that Kelly Clarkson sings, it's called Broken and Beautiful, and I really love that concept. It's a beautiful song and it basically says, don't try to change me, don't try to fix me, just love me the way I am. And I think that's what 50s are all about. At 50, our bodies don’t work the way they did in our 20s and that's absolutely fine. Learning how to stay active and keeping movement in your life, that brings you joy, that brings you happiness and with the right workout, and the right coaching, together we can get you to where you want to be.”

2. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

“It’s like everything in life, and everything I say that applies to spin class, also applies to life. Don't be afraid to ask for help, if you don't know how to set up your bike, if you're not sure if it's set-up right, get help. Ask the teacher – we are there in that room for you because we love doing it. I always have five minutes to set somebody's bike up. If you want to hear a certain song, if that song is going to inspire you, ask the teacher to play it. I don’t know a single teacher who has been asked to put a song in their playlist that won't do it.”

3. Learn to Switch Off

“One of the reasons that I love Boom Cycle so much – and I love it so much – is that we have a meditation track that plays right before the end of class, before the last hurrah. And I always pick songs that have a message because I think we have the opportunity. The science shows that your brain is most plastic when you get about 35 minutes into a workout, you're able to process things then in a very different way. People are so busy, we're juggling everything, we multitask, and we move from thing to thing, and it's hard to get out of that. But when you're on the bike for a meditation track and your body is moving to one beat and you're not really doing a whole lot of choreography, you have a chance to really connect with that song and those lyrics, and that's the time that I usually say to the class do the work that you need to do for you now. Think about whatever you need to process now, because this is the opportunity to make new connections because you’re out of the everyday and you’re able to disconnect from everything else. Take this time to connect with yourself and just be.”

4. You do You and Let Them do Them.

“I have this one guy that comes to my classes who is amazing, and he's in his very early 50s. When he first came to class, he said, ‘Look, I'm pretty sure 30 minutes is my max and I'm pretty sure I can't do it after that. So, can I just leave after 30 minutes?’ And I was like, ‘Um, no, that's not how this works. But I'll tell you what. Any time you’re really exhausted in class, you sit down, find a good resistance level, just pedal through, take some deep breaths, listen to the music and then when you're ready to play again, you come and play again.’ I think people think that if they come to a class, they're going to have to do things a certain way. And that's just not how it works. Well, it's certainly not how it works in my class. It might be how people feel in other classes, but I'm really clear to everybody this room is the one place in London where there is no judgment. You do you, you be yourself, that's all I'm asking you to bring to the table. Everything else is you writing your story.”

5. Remember, You Are Strong AF

“I’ve started the menopause and I will point out that it’s one of the hardest things in life is to teach when you’ve got a hot flash coming on. I think to myself, ‘My GOD, I have this inferno coming on, but I’ve still got to make this class work for everyone’. And that is your reminder that you really can do anything at 50-plus, you are strong AF, you’ve been through a lot and you’re still here, still strong, and still winning.”