In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study noting that four out of five black women were considered “overweight.” That very same year I found myself becoming a statistic. Just a year after having my son, for the first time in my life I too was now considered overweight.
Growing up in Atlanta, I spent most of my days riding my bike. Throughout high school, I ran track and played tennis. Back then I thought I would one day I’d play against Serena Williams. Of course, she had no idea who I was, but I was coming for her and that crown.
Fast forward to my 31st birthday…To celebrate I had booked a babysitter and me and my girls were going out for a night on the town. After two hours of trying on everything in my closet, I realized I had nothing to wear. That night I was surrounded by my two amazingly fit friends wearing the cutest outfits as I paraded around in my oversized mom jeans. I was miserable. This was my wake-up call. I didn’t want to be the overweight friend wearing baggy clothes and feeling self-conscience anymore. I knew I had to get my health under control.
The next day I woke up with a new sense of purpose. I rented a bike for me and my son. We were off for our very first bike ride in Central Park. Five minutes into the park I thought I was going to die. Bikers were zipping past us as if it was the tour de France. I got off that bike and walked it right back to the rental store. Outdoor biking was no longer my friend.
I came home shaking but I was still determined. After a friend told me about the benefits of indoor cycling, I decided to give it a try.
I found a studio close to where I worked and immediately signed up. My first class was great. It was a nice low-impact, high-intensity workout and I could burn up to 600 calories in just 45 minutes. This was a win/win. I knew this workout was what I needed to reclaim my health. Yet when I looked around the class it was hard not to notice it was a predominantly white space.
Where were the other three-out-of-four black women who were overweight like me?
Over time, I became frustrated being the only person of color in many of the classes. I was being forced to exercise in a space where everyone had the same body type, which was opposite of mine. I set out to find safe havens that embraced people of color where we could enjoy the benefits of indoor cycling. Sadly all I found where local gyms that lacked the customer service and amenities as boutique studios.
Things had to change! It was time for a revolution in fitness. Black women needed to reclaim their health in safe spaces. I decided to create one. And Harlem Cycle was born.
There are now several cycling studios popping up throughout the country. There is Cycled in Maryland, and Vibe Ride in Atlanta, both owned and operated by black women. These boutique studios are changing the narrative of what indoor cycling classes should be and starting a revolution in health and wellness for black women across the United States.
Because of indoor cycling, in a few years, when the CDC publishes its next report, I won’t be a part of their statistic!