Kat's Road to romney
Everyone has a story, even the fiercest & fittest of our instructors at Romney. Our favorite stories are the ones that are journeys—journeys tracing one's struggles, awakenings and ultimate redirection. We at Mind Body MVMT are thrilled to share these stories that we hope will motivate our readers to pursue happiness and live mindful lives rooted in health and wellness. So today we are thrilled to share RIDE Instructor Kat's journey, which has taken her geographically, mentally & physically through a whirlwind of life, ultimately grounded by the power of cycling. Her story is honest, powerful and inspiring, and we hope it impacts your day as much as it has ours!
Penned by: Kat sullivan
My road to Romney began 4 years ago. At that time, I was living in Los Angeles and had been grinding away for a few years as a mid-level associate at a top-tier law firm, where I represented major corporations and entertainment clients in insurance disputes. I was working huge cases and making an absurd amount of money, especially considering that I had graduated from a third-tier law school (Loyola New Orleans). The sense of pride and accomplishment I felt from “winning” the career game was extremely gratifying.
But the overwhelming stress of litigation and the unyielding workload that came with it made me feel like I could barely keep my head above water. Add a dysfunctional relationship based on alcohol abuse to the equation, and it becomes easy to see how my body and mind were in a state of complete disrepair. By March 2013, I broke up with my boyfriend and thereby ended the toxic relationship — but in so doing, I also eliminated the only support system I knew in Los Angeles. I felt liberated — but also completely alone and lost, without any friends in a city I barely knew.
Up until that point, my stress relief came from bottles of wine & whiskey and junk food. On a good day, I would half-heartedly go to the L.A. Fitness near my house and trot on the elliptical for 30 minutes, or maybe do a yoga class, but that was a rare occurrence. I hated working out, and I felt so embarrassed doing so in an environment where I was surrounded by the “L.A. types” who were all skinnier and fitter than I was. Unhealthy, unhappy, sedentary, overweight, and newly single, I knew something had to change, but I didn’t know how — or where — to make the leap.
"Unhealthy, unhappy, sedentary, overweight, and newly single, I knew something had to change, but I didn’t know how — or where — to make the leap."
In April 2013, fate connected me with a colleague from my firm’s New York office. She was working on a case with me and came out to Los Angeles for an arbitration hearing. At our Friday evening happy hour, I asked her what she planned to do that weekend, and she replied, “Tomorrow morning I’m going to try the SoulCycle in Santa Monica.” I asked her what that was and promptly began to ridicule her: “So, you’re paying almost a dollar per minute to ride a bike that goes nowhere in a dark sweaty room? Sounds stupid, miserable, and like a complete waste of money.” She replied, “But the music is awesome and the energy is different from inside of a gym. Plus, there are candles!” I rolled my eyes in disbelief, but she kept at it: “Why don’t you come with me and try it?” I told her there was no way I would pay that much money for a workout when my gym had stationary bikes and spin classes. But after she told me that first-time riders can try a class for $10 and that her equally unhealthy and sedentary friend would be joining for the class as well, I agreed to meet them and ride the next morning.
I checked in at the studio’s front desk, and one of the staff helped me set up my bike and clip in. I was in the middle of the second row of bikes, and as the class began, I instantly vibed with the mashup of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Stairway to Heaven” blasting over the speakers as all of the riders lifted out of their saddles and began pedaling to the beat of the song. I followed suit, but within 1 or 2 minutes, I began to lose the rhythm in my cadence. I felt short of breath but kept trying to catch the rhythm again. The loud music, the dimly lit room, and the lack of any clocks on the walls keep me fully engaged in the present moment, and I just kept pedaling and trying to catch the beat. I heard the instructor’s words echoing over the music: “Just do what you can, when you can.” So I did.
By the third song in, I felt like I was going to die. I just wanted to give up, get off the bike, and leave. But two things stopped me. The first was peer pressure: I’d be giving up and leaving in front of 50 other people, including my colleague and her similarly unfit friend, whom I spotted across the room trying as hard as she could. The second was inspiration: I was situated right behind a front-row rider who was a young heavy-set woman like myself — in fact, bigger than I was — and she was absolutely killing it, hitting every single beat. Then my eyes began to wander across the rest of the front row, and I noticed something as they all pedaled in unison. Every single rider in that front row was different. The girl directly in front of me was heavy set, the guy to her left was chiseled and muscular, the guy to his left was skinny and lean. To her right, there was a thin girl, a muscular girl, and a chubby guy. I then realized something profound: that I, too, was capable of perfecting my ride if I stuck to it and put in 100% effort . . . and that my height, weight, and body fat percentage had nothing to do with it. Tears began to roll down my face as I put in every ounce of effort I had. I felt a catharsis as something new and hopeful was born inside of me. The release that I received during that 45-minute class was something I had been unable to obtain from anywhere else.
"I felt a catharsis as something new and hopeful was born inside of me. The release that I received during that 45-minute class was something I had been unable to obtain from anywhere else."
After that first class, I was addicted. The following weekend, I found myself back in the same class, and the instructor shouted me out during the third song. During the same moment when I wanted to die the week before, her encouragement and passion inspired me to keep going. Soon, I was going to her classes twice per week and began trying other instructors as well. Before long, I was riding every single day and riding back-to-back classes a few times per week. The classes and instructors were changing me not only physically, but also mentally to the point where I gained a sense of confidence and body positivity that I had never before experienced.
Over the course of the next year, my body and mind changed profoundly for the better. I went through a lot during that year beyond the usual stresses of work, including losing my stepfather to complications from pneumonia and dealing with my mother’s worsening Alzheimer’s disease. Riding kept me grounded and sane. When my mom moved in with my brother, who is based in Hong Kong, I followed her out there to help take care of her.
Within a few months of moving to Hong Kong, I began training to become an instructor at XYZ, Hong Kong’s premier indoor cycling studio. It felt amazing to get paid to do something that I truly loved. But the most rewarding part of the job was seeing the same cathartic changes that I had gone through a year and a half earlier happening to the riders that I was instructing. The connections I formed and the resulting transformations I witnessed made me realize my classes were impacting people in a much more profound way than simply improving physical health. The real shift was happening at a deeper level, where we begin to truly believe that we are worthy and capable of a change.
After a few years in Hong Kong, I moved back to the USA in April 2017 due to Hong Kong’s unsustainable cost of living. New Orleans is where I chose to replant my roots, as the city never quite left my blood when I initially moved away from it in 2010. Thanks to an act of fate, I connected with Romney Studios and am excited to continue my passion for teaching and motivational coaching in the Romney RIDE program. I will also be delving back into law practice in New Orleans.
I barely recognize myself when I look back at how I was living my life in 2013, before I found my outlet on the bike. Now, 4 years later, with the mental and spiritual strength I have gained through riding, teaching, and now joining the Romney Studios community, I feel fully equipped to maintain the balance I need for longevity in my professional career as a lawyer.