When Dr. Stewart Beazell isn’t practicing psychology, you will find her at New Trail Cycling Studio in Reston, Va., taking classes or coaching on Saturday mornings. I’m excited that Stewart took the time to sit down with me for an interview because cycling has been a passion of mine since I was a little girl. I hope this interview inspires other young girls to take up the sport of cycling, especially considering that many reports show that the percentage of kids learning to ride bikes in the U.S. has dramatically dropped in recent years! (see stats below)
House Ride with Stewart, Saturdays @ 9:30 a.m.
Q: When did you first take up the sport of cycling, and why?
A: Both of my parents cycled together for years. They did bike races and things like that when I was growing up. We learned how to ride bikes early on and went on bike tours as a family to places like the Grand Canyon and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It was a family event, and always fun! With indoor cycling, my mom took classes at our local gym from a friend decked out in full outdoor gear. The classes were long, like an hour and a half, because the teacher was an outdoor cyclist. I would go to the classes with my mom and I liked them. Then when I was in college, I took a group fitness class that was indoor cycling, and that’s when I fell in love with it! I liked the incorporation of current music, and you could get your friends to come to classes with you. I continued indoor cycling ever since. It’s an activity easy to find everywhere — there has always been a gym or a boutique studio that offers cycling classes near where I live. It’s a stress reliever for me. I love indoor and outdoor cycling equally, but for different reasons.
Q: Why did you become a cycling instructor?
A: I realized that as much as I loved taking other people’s classes, there were benefits to teaching, like not having to pay for classes. Being a grad student at the time, I thought, free membership, great, let’s do it! Why don’t I teach and see how it goes? I wasn’t excited about being in front of the room. I’m not a performer in that way — in front of a group of people, and I was kind of intimidated. At the same time, what pushed me to do it was encouragement from instructors who I was a regular in their classes. They would say to me; you should do it, you’d be great, you’re in here all the time. I said OK, I’ll try! You have to be certified to coach, and I was investing in the certifications, not sure where it was all going to lead me. I taught at local gyms for about a year before I started teaching at New Trail. I thought OK, this is what I want, to be at a place that focuses just on indoor cycling, and there’s a sense of genuine community. In the big box gyms, people don’t really know each other. But at New Trail, it feels more like home. I found out about Liz Kamp, the founder of New Trail Cycling, the summer before she opened the studio. I emailed her out of the blue and said, I like what your studio sounds like it’s going to be — creating a community rather than focusings on the instructors. I would like to teach there and be part of it! We’re Schwinn certified instructors at New Trail, and our style follows more of an authentic outdoor style of riding a bike.
I’m always riding even when I’m not teaching because I enjoy it so much. I love taking classes from other instructors because that’s how I learn. I look up to Liz. She’s a great instructor and a great example of a woman entrepreneur — how to start your own business, how to promote it, and how to be a great boss. She’s also a great owner; so cool and open to client feedback. She wants the studio to be a place where everyone feels welcome.
Q: What role does New Trail play in clients’ lives?|
A: For many people who come to New Trail, a positive aspect they can gain beyond a sense of community is learning how to work with their numbers. We have consoles, and we can help our clients look at their stats from when they first started and how their stats have changed over time. Whether it’s looking at average power (watts) for each class or how many miles someone averages per class. Those are ways clients can use the numbers to see their progress. Within that, we can look at those numbers and apply them to individuals in their upcoming classes. For instance, this is where your number is now, and if you increase the resistance and maintain your speed (RPM), this is how your power number will change. And, we tell them to pay attention to how they feel when change happens. Does it feel harder? If yes, where? In your legs? Breathing? Providing them with more of a mind-body connection. There are days when maybe your body doesn’t feel so great, and you know you won’t get the numbers you want. But, you can have the mentality of you know what, I’m going to take this class as it comes and do my best. I may not get my top numbers today, but I’m here, and I’m working at the capacity I can manage at this time. This helps clients have more bodily awareness. We purposely don’t put individual’s names or bike numbers up on a monitor for everyone in the class to see. That way, no matter what reason someone is coming to class, they can get out of it what they want and not feel like they are competing with others. New riders won’t be at the same level as those who have been coming to classes for a while. Our goal isn’t to get everyone to be at the same level; it’s to help people to reach their individual goals. People come to class for different reasons — some to relax and make time for themselves, some for their health, and some for race training. Pinning them against each other on a display board can be demotivating.
Q: What are the top three benefits of indoor cycling, and why?
A: It depends on the individual. General benefits are decreased fatigue and increased stamina over time. I would say the top three benefits are:
- You have a dedicated amount of time that you are on a bike, and you can work toward better health.
- You can track your fitness levels and see what changes occur and how your body feels different over time.
- It can help you manage mood, stress, and anxiety by allowing yourself time and space to focus on your mental health, get out of your head, tune into the music, and have some fun.
Q: Are there any areas in which people should be cautious?
A: Yes. Clients need to know the importance of rest and recovery. I didn’t learn that until about five years ago in grad school. It’s not sustainable to cycle daily long-term. It’s good to cross-train in whatever ways that means to you. If you cycle and lift weights, cycle and practice yoga — maybe all three if you choose, but not back-to-back. Give yourself time to recover in between. If you constantly go, your body will suffer, your progress will suffer, and if you get injured, that will ultimately prevent you from doing those things you enjoy. Finding balance and paying attention to how your body feels are very important.
Q: What is your greatest reward as a cycling coach?
A: The stories I hear from clients about how their lives changed for the better in terms of feeling stronger, more confident and being part of clients’ experience of feeling a sense of belonging and growth.
Q: Where do you see indoor cycling as part of your future?
A: I have casually thought about how I can marry my professional life and my life as a fitness instructor. I’ve wondered, is there a way I can do both in one space? A studio in which you can engage in therapy as a mindful aspect, space where you can take indoor cycling as a physical aspect, and maybe other classes like yoga. A wellness hub where you can go and instead of buying packages for each one of those things, figuring out a way where you can do each of them a few times a week in the same space. I think it would be cool to incorporate all of them — make them more integrated because they are each important and beneficial. I’m copywriting my idea now! 😉
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with my blog readers?
A: We need to figure out ways for girls and women alike to engage in fitness and be more supportive of one another. There’s a lot of competition in fitness created by our culture. We should focus on connecting and lifting each other up in all areas of life. Support is so important — like a mentorship with a woman entrepreneur like Liz. There are many resources that you can find and make connections with other women. Women who have been in their careers for 20 plus years love to share their wisdom and have you pick their brains. Don’t be afraid to ask other women for their advice!
- On average, boys cycle nearly 6 times as much as girls (138 miles/year versus 24 miles/year). National Children’s Bureau, November 2009
- People who are confident biking as adults are more likely to have biked frequently when they were younger than those people who didn’t. Dill, J., and McNeil, N., Testing a Typology to Better Understand Bicycling Behavior and Potential, 2012
- The number of women cycling decreased by 13% between 2000 and 2010. The American Bicyclist Study, https://www.bicycle-guider.com/
- In the U.S., 24% of all bicycle trips are made by women and 76% are made by men. National Household Travel Survey, 2009
- 87% of U.S. competitive cyclists are male, and 12% are female. USA Cycling, Active Member Demographics, 2009