They say everything happens for a reason. First of all, who are “they”? And second of all, if everything happens for a reason, why isn’t the reason always clear? Sometimes the reason is a flipping mystery but we just say that to make ourselves feel in some way better for the things that don’t go our way. For Ilana, it was a very long uphill battle getting back on the instructor bike. It was loss after loss after loss and we kept saying, “everything happens for a reason”. For almost a year, my girl Ilana has been trying to make her way back to teaching spin after she left the hellish situation we were in at our original studio. And for almost a year, we kept telling her, “everything happens for a reason” not knowing at all what the reason could be when someone as talented and passionate as she is clearly belongs on that podium. It wasn’t until today that I could actually give a reason why Ilana has spent the last ELEVEN months fighting countless battles to finally win her spot back on the instructors bike.
Like most spin studios, the lights were dim, the bikes were set uncomfortably close to one another, and the music blasted setting the tone for the next 45 minutes. Ilana’s voice over the microphone is a sound I’ve gotten accustomed to as we both teach at Kore but it had been far too long since I had heard it in a spin studio. It sounded incredible. It sounded right. She went over bike positions and the resistance knob as “Power” by Little Mix played in the background. I felt a theme and a good one at that. Class began, JayZ rapped, and out of the saddle we went. “Right left, right left” Ilana chanted in a tone that sounded so familiar it felt like home.
The music built, the cheers were loud and the energy contagious. In my mind it was like in a movie. The whole room stood still for a moment, everyone frozen in time as the camera panned around to catch every single person. And then in an instant, the camera zoomed right in on Ilana. “And tap that booty back!” Freeze frame over, beat drop in! Just like that, as if she had never left, SHE WAS BACK!
The whole ride oozed Ilana; power, determination, love and support for the people around her and Jesus Christ those jumps! The upper body series came so quick I was surprised thinking there was no way we were almost through. When that beat dropped and she cued us in to jab it out, a wave of anger took over me. In that moment I felt anger toward all of the people who have pushed her down in the last eleven months. Face after face popped up in my mind and I jabbed harder. She counted us down from 4 and our first boxing set was over. A wave of emotion rushed over me and the anger had lifted. Ilana was not angry. She was happy, free and encouragingly strong. When I used to incorporate boxing into my own upper body routine I would tell my riders on the first set to think of something that makes them angry, something in their life they don’t need and on the second set I would tell them to punch it out and think of all the things in their lives worth fighting for. That’s exactly what I did today but instead I thought of all the people who helped Ilana get back up after being knocked down and I fought for them, jabbing harder than ever before. Many of the faces popping up in my brain also made up the faces of people who helped me get back up when I was down so the emotions were raw.
Upper body was over, my anger gone and my pride for Ilana filling my heart. “Indian Summer” creeped its way into the speakers and I lost all emotional control. I first heard that song in her class a very long time ago. The song has a way of making you emotionally absorb whatever is happening around you. In that moment I felt so incredibly proud and so incredibly inspired. I sobbed on that bike so hard, I couldn’t breathe and I had to sit down for a moment. She finally made it. She finally did it and she was so insanely good at it. Flawless.
I had been at Ilana’s first official class at our old studio. At the time it wasn’t to support her as a friend, it was just to take class. I didn’t know her yet but I knew I liked her class. She was clearly a new instructor with some things to learn but her music was good and she kept me interested. THAT instructor was not the Ilana I saw today.
I shift the direction of this post now and speak directly to you, Ilana. What you did today was incredible. You rode up there in your element, in your glory, right where you belong. The reason you got knocked down so many times is because THIS is where you are meant to be. THIS is your stage and girl, today you owned it. You spoke with intention, clarity and purpose. As usual, you flawlessly used the music and made a ride that was super challenging but kept us wanting to fight for more. You made us want to fight for ourselves, fight for our fellow riders, and fight for you. YOU my girl, DID IT! After tears and self doubt, you persevered and fought for what brings you to life and in return you brought us all to life. THAT is why we spin and THAT is what you were fighting for. In the last eleven months, you may have lost a lot battles, but today you won the war.
My heart is so incredibly full of love and pride for you. You made a promise not just to yourself, but to many of us, that you would make your way back to that podium and today you did only this time you were an even stronger, more confident, badass version of yourself. You once wrote that spin was the spark that lit the fire within you but I don’t think that is true. I think you are your own spark. I think you always were your own spark and the class you were able to create today when matched with the proper environment created the fire you were meant to burn. Watch out Union Square, it’s going down for real.