Sports Bra Challenge 2013: The Full Recap Of An Amazing Day

On Sunday, April 13th, I took off my shirt in the middle of Union Square and joined 300 other riders at the 3rd Annual Sports Bra Challenge, in a celebration of acceptance and positive body image. A challenge that started in a Soul Cycle classroom a few years ago, when Jenny Gaither couldn’t bring herself to ride in just her sports bra, has grown into a huge charity event to support her SEAK Foundation’s mission to provide programming that improves young women’s self-esteem.

Sports Bra Challenge 2013 1

The event, which took over the North side of Union Square Park, was in full swing by the time I made it there after my workout that morning with Gabby Reece at Exceed. I checked in, snagged a pair of shoes and got ready for my class to start up. I was tired but so excited to be there. Thankfully, Zico Coconut Water was a sponsor, so I grabbed one immediately, knowing it would help my second wind kick in. I saw so many people I knew – bloggers and instructors from other studios (places like Exceed, Body Space Fitness, Uplift, Pilates ProWorks) who had all showed up to support the cause. It was an inspiring group.

I am not a “sports bra only” sort of a person and the first few minutes of sitting there on my bike waiting for our class to start, I was acutely aware that I was not wearing enough clothes for this workout. Thankfully, I had worn my new Moving Comfort Juno bra that is cute and doesn’t move at all, so it didn’t take me that long to get used to it!

Sports Bra Challenge 2013 2Our class session of the Sport’s Bra Challenge was led by Jenny Gaither and Ayana Curtis. They were a powerhouse of a team – both Soul Cycle Rockstars who just radiate the love they have for what they do. This event is Jenny’s baby, and watching her take it all in for those first few moments was amazing.  DJ GB lit the place up right away with a fun, eclectic mix and Anya & Jenny launched into a fun, challenging class. After the first song though, watching Anya and Jenny rock it out on stage, taking in the crowd, I let myself just get totally swept up in the class.  It flew by and at the end, when the whole crowd sang along to Mumford and Sons’ “I Will Wait For You” – I almost cried it was so beautiful. It was truly impossible not to be captivated by the joy and positivity of what was happening that day.

Sports Bra Challenge 2013 3I am so grateful that I got the chance to be part of an event dedicated to empowering everyone by sharing that moment of complete acceptance, of yourself, just as you are. It was a beautiful, joyful day – I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next year!

 

Photos and video by Eric Stafford, Stafford Sports Media

The Sports Bra Challenge 2013

This year was the 3rd annual SEAK Foundation’s Sports Bra Challenge. The session I went to was lead by the amazing Jenny Gaither (SEAK founder) & Ayana Curtis -it was filled with so many awesome people and was just an epic, joyful thing to be a part of…

sports bra4Check out the video of this amazing event held Sunday, April 14, 2013:

 

Video by Eric Stafford from Stafford Sports Media

Kicking Off The Sports Bra Challenge 2013: Soul Cycle Rockstar Jenny Gaither’s Inspiring Mission

On Friday night, I went to the kick-off event for the Sports Bra Challenge 2013, a 45 minute Soul Cycle class led by the awesome Jenny Gaither, a Soul Cycle Rockstar and one of the founders of the S.E.A.K. Foundation. S.E.A.K (which stands for “Strive, Embrace, Achieve, Know”) grew out of a challenge that Jenny issued for herself 3 years ago to be comfortable in class in just her sports bra.  It was a huge leap in self-acceptance for her and she wanted to be able to share that sense of empowerment that she found in that Soul Cycle room with the help of others. That original, seemingly-simple goal, forms the base of what S.E.A.K is all about – “promoting fitness as a platform for women to build the confidence they need to feel empowered and comfortable in their own skin – exactly as they are.” I love S.E.A.K’s mission and jumped at the chance to attend the kickoff again this year!

SEAK FoundersWhen I made it to Soul Cycle’s Union Square studio, it was packed with women who were there to support the cause and each other. I checked in, got my cute bright orange NB Sport Bra Challenge tank, and ran into a friend of mine all before making my way downstairs. It was, of course, packed in the women’s locker room and since I had on my workout gear already, I stashed my bag and got ready to head back upstairs.  I then realized that I needed to change into the new tank I still had in my hand. Then, I did something I’ve never done before – In the middle of a studio hallway, I stripped off my old tank, tossed it in the locker and threw on the new one before I headed upstairs to wait for the class to start. When they finally flung the doors open, all the bikes were decked with whistles, glowstick circles and SEAK towels. Thankfully, I was in the back row and made quick work of setting up my bike.

Kickoff of the Sports Bra Challenge

Jenny launched into a ridiculously fun, challenging class that was filled with lots of choreography. We were out of the saddle, doing a million push-ups on the beat and rocking it out. Jenny called out encouragement as people pushed themselves to keep up with her insanely infectious energy. As we rode, she told us all about the beginning of the Sports Bra Challenge and told us if it scares us we definitely need to do it. I struggled to keep up with the choreography but loved every second of the class. Jenny’s joy, passion and commitment is inspiring and on Friday night, every single person in that room left feeling more confident as they walked out. Just like last year, on Friday, Jenny made every single person fall fully in love with the principle of the S.E.A.K… that everyone is special, unique and amazing, exactly as they are.

The Sports Bra Challenge this year will be held on Sunday, April 14th in Union Square.  Even bigger than last year, this year’s celebration will consist of two free kids fitness classes taught by SoulCycle’s Senior Master Instructor, Stacey Griffith, and one led by Exceed Physical Culture, and two, 300-bike SoulCycle classes taught by four of SoulCycle’s rockstar instructors: Stacey Griffith, Melanie Griffith, Ayana Curtis, and of course, the amazing Jenny Gaither.

Sports Bra Challenge 2012 Book your bike here and join in for this amazing day dedicated to women, to empowering one another to feel comfortable with their bodies- exactly as they are!

Photos from SEAK Foundation’s Facebook page

S.E.A.K Foundation & Jenny Gaither’s joyful mission…

On Friday night, I made my way to Soul Cycle Union Square, for only the 3rd time ever, but this time was for the best reason of all…to support the S.E.A.K. Foundation (which stands for “Strive, Embrace, Achieve, Know”), a new initiative founded by Jenny Gaither. Jenny was inspired to try and help others after facing down her own personal insecurities last year.  Her goal was to get to the place where she could accept herself fully and workout in just a sports bra in a class.  After enlisting the support of others, Jenny realized how much bigger she wanted to take the idea of pushing past your comfort zone and letting go of insecurities. I LOVE the idea behind the foundation that “once you let go of the insecurities that hold you back, both physically and mentally, you can achieve anything.” So there I was on Friday night, with almost 60 other riders and supporters, for the kickoff ride of the upcoming “Sports Bra Challenge” – a huge event that will be held in Union Square on May 17th, with the participants of 2 Soul Cycle classes, involving 100 riders each, and a 150 person yoga class (registration starts on 4/16 if you want to participate).

My very first Soul Cycle class was with Jenny Gather and her joy is infectious. I have been meaning to make it to another one of her classes for ages.  This seemed like the perfect time to make that happen, when the price of a class would be going to support such a good cause.  When I walked into Soul Cycle and checked in, I was handed a kick-ass Under Armor “SEAK Foundation” tank, a bottle of water and shoes. YAY! Although I am not one to wear the shirt of the thing I am doing, I immediately knew that night would be different. My bike was in the very back row, but I was really grateful for that.  I was one of the lone non-Soulers and am always such a hot mess when it comes to their brand of “dancing on the bike”. The other thing about the back row in the Union Square studio is that it is actually raised up, so you can actually SEE the instructor from back there – so I got to watch the whole event unfold in front of me. It was awesome. The joy in that room was seriously magical. Everyone filed in and almost all decked out in their grey tanks, got their bike set up and were just completely open to whatever was about to happen. The two bikes next to me were occupied by Soul Cycle instructors (easy to spot since one of them was Danny). It was fun get to feel their energy  as they supported Jenny, whom they obviously love. Instead of the normal single bike on the stage, there were two instructor bikes. The class started off with Jenny and Melanie Griffith. Melanie is one of the 4 instructors who will be teaching at the SBC and she is amazing. Melanie, who has overcome a cancer diagnosis and is beloved by the Soul community (for very good reason… such a kick-ass, in-charge energy on that bike), took the reigns to begin the class. The mood of the class was set – you can overcome anything, with joy, acceptance and love. Every rider in that room roared as she talked and only got louder as the class went on. It was such an outpouring of joyful, love from every single person who believed in the mission of the night, that REALLY anything is possible if you believe in yourself. In the course of an hour, five instructors took the bike… and all where completely in the moment, filled with joy, love and a magical energy. As they would rotate off the bike, they would bound around the room, dancing with the riders and each other. It was amazing. Jenny was on fire but really, it was watching every single person fall in love with the mission of acceptance that was awe inspiring.  She started something really special and on Friday, every single person was fully in love with the principle of the night… everyone is special, unique and amazing.

The ultimate magic of that event, though, was that everyone walked out of that room empowered and filled with love – it doesn’t get better than that. We should all hope to let someone feel that….

(Top image detail from the SEAK Foundation Website , center image from SEAK Foundation’s Facebook page, bottom image just a little internet goodness that sums it all up perfectly…)

I finally tried a Soul Cycle class…

In New York these days, there are really two camps when it comes to spin: those who love Soul Cycle and those who love Flywheel. Both camps are adamant that they are the better studio. I have been going to Flywheel since they opened and have been staunchly in the latter group – Flywheel all the way! But it would be a lie to say that even with all of my Flywheel love, that I wasn’t just a little bit curious about Soul Cycle.

I worked part-time a few years ago for someone who was flat-out obsessed with Soul Cycle. Part of my job was to make sure that every Monday, when the classes are opened to be booked, that I was online to snap up bikes in her favorite classes, since the bikes were always booked in a matter of minutes.  Oh, the drama if she didn’t get into those classes!  I never managed to go because really, the classes are so expensive that I could never afford to go try one out for myself. Plus, on top of the $35 price of the class, you have to rent shoes for an extra $3 (unless you have your own) and for some reason that just incensed me.  Yes, I know now that the clip in shoes really do make for a better spinning workout, but before I had actually tried them, it just seemed so ridiculously elitist to require them for a spin class.

On Tuesday though, I was lucky enough to score an invite to a Fitness Magazine function celebrating their two recent cover girls – Biggest Loser’s Olivia and Hannah, the sisters who rocked it out last season. The event was a free Soul Cycle class led by instructor Jenny Gaither.  The ladies, by the way, look amazing in person too. The class was held in the Tribeca studio and Holy Moly is it a beautiful space – huge and open and airy. I am not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. As I went up to the front desk, I found my name on the list and checked in. I was all ready with my three-dollar fee for my shoes (such a small price to pay for such a treat) but was told there wasn’t a charge for them and oh, here is your free SmartWater for the class too. Sweet! Off I was to change and drop off my stuff before heading into the class.  The bikes are a little different so it took a little bit of fiddling with it to figure out the settings.  And although a very friendly Soul Cycler came over to see if I needed help, I pretty much got it figured out all by myself without too much hassle.

The class itself was ridiculously fun and challenging. There were lots of things that I just had never done before that made me feel a little inept and uncoordinated – like all of the “to the beat” push-up variations, but it was fun nonetheless.  Jenny Gaither was awesome – full of positive, loving, enthusiastic energy that really, you would have to be in a coma not to be affected by. I immediately got why they have a cult-like following. It felt a little like being inducted into one, but by the end I felt like maybe a little mystic positive energy wasn’t such a bad thing to find in a sweat drenched class full of hard-core New Yorkers…