Anna Alessi is not your stereotypical spin instructor. Sure, she motivates participants in her class at Cycle of Heart to work their bodies, but she's much more interested in encouraging them to use the stationary bikes to work out their problems and realize their bodies' potential. Rather than being another SoulCycle clone, Cycle of Heart is a place for riders to get in touch with their inner spirit.
Alessi understands the struggles of body image. As a child, she struggled with her weight. For the past 18 years, she has worked hard to come to a place of acceptance and self-love for her body--not just what it looks like but what work it can accomplish. It wasn't until another girl (her daughter), came into her life that she knew that she had to take a bold step and go for her unrealized dream of creating a space of wellness and acceptance.
"Six years ago, I had my daughter, and everything changed. How am I going to tell her that she can accomplish anything and to follow her dreams if I'm playing it safe and not realizing mine?"
Less than a year ago, at a family gathering, Alessi announced that she was opening Cycle of Heart. At the time, it was only a dream. It quickly became a reality. The studio opened at the end of October and has already built a loyal following.
That following may be building, in part, because of the different methodologies that Alessi uses. Instead of competing against your neighbor, Cycle of Heart's classes are held in a darkened room, lit by Himalayan pink salt lamps. There are no metrics: no total calories burned or distance ridden. There's also no mirrors. Alessi encourages riders to close their eyes and to channel their focus inward.
"We believe that without the mirrors and metrics, you push yourself harder. In our room, the class is about loving yourself, a feeling of accomplishment, and working hard for you, in whatever capacity that looks like," Alessi says.
One of the things that set Cycle of Heart apart is its focus on non-fitness related engagement. A "random acts of kindness" station encourages riders to lift others. When we visited, cards were available to write and send to servicemembers overseas. A donation box for Hillcrest Hope sat beside boxes of cycling shoes. A glass bowl of rose quartz sits on a counter, ready and waiting for those that need reminders of hope and healing. Alessi gives out handfuls of it to riders with the intent of them spreading the love even further.
Donation rides are another way that Cycle of Heart is giving back. Just over a month after their opening, Cycle of Heart was able to fill two Thanksgiving rides in partnership with Serenity on the Square. The 60-minute classes featured a 45-minute ride and 15 minutes of guided gratitude meditation. All proceeds from the rides were donated to the Wilkerson Food Pantry in Liberty. The pantry feeds more than 300 families in the Liberty area each year.
The success of the Thanksgiving ride was thrilling for Alessi.
"It was so encouraging that after just five weeks of being open, we were able to involve 30 people in riding for such an amazing cause. The Wilkerson Food Pantry is such a great organization. I can't wait to drop their check off," she says.
Alessi plans to host many more of the charity rides and offers members the option to do a birthday donation ride.
"For birthday rides, the birthday person can invite 14 of their friends to ride. They each donate $40, and the proceeds are given to a charity of the birthday person's choice. We can incorporate some of their favorite songs in the ride, and make it a fun experience for everyone," she says.
Alessi has been amazed at the outpouring of love and support that she's seen so far.
"Someone stopped by on Small Business Saturday with a gift basket for us. The reception has just been amazing," she says.
That love from the community is reflected in each ride at Cycle of Heart.