Eve Bondareva. What does it take to climb a mountain? Or bike up one in your head? Today, The Uprising Pod makes a pilgrimage to Flywheel to meet Eve Bondareva a renowned spinning instructor to gets lessons on what it takes to get docile saddle Hugger up and out of their seats, legs pumping furiously smashing goals and finish lines their never thought possible. Find out the secret to fighting apathy, the simple rules that contribute to the inspiration and motivation that moves people into action. For more ideas on Uprising and movements, cultural movements and movement marketing, follow Uprising!!! on Facebook. We’ll continue to publish brand-new columns on a regular basis. Hey, do us a favor and please give Uprising!!! a review on iTunes. Scott Goodson is the author of best-selling book ‘Uprising: how to build a brand and change the world by sparking cultural movements,’ available on Amazon.com. Scott has helped create and build some of the world’s most iconic brands. He is founder of StrawberryFrog the world’s first movement marketing agency.
Uprising Interview transcript
Nicola: How do you motivate people to climb a mountain? Hi, I’m Nicola Conneally, and welcome to the Uprising Podcast with Scott Goodson. Today, The Uprising Pod makes a pilgrimage to Flywheel to meet Eve Bondareva, a renowned spinning instructor, to get lessons on what it takes to get docile saddle huggers up and out of their seats, legs pumping, furiously smashing goals and finish lines they never thought possible. We’ve counted no less than twenty-five phrases that Eve uses to motivate her class of forty people—in complete darkness, music pounding—to come together towards one goal.
Scott: Welcome to Uprising. This podcast, we’re focused on movements, and movements tend to inspire people to be part of something bigger than themselves and they get people all passionate and, when they become passionate, they want to overcome obstacles—they want to change the world. But one of the biggest challenges that I think movements have to overcome is motivation. How do you get people to join a movement? How do you inspire them to be part of your idea? How do you get them to do anything? It’s really difficult. Most people are super apathetic; they just like to sit on their bums and watch television or play with their iPhones. So today I thought it would be a really cool idea to invite Eve Bondareva, who is a fitness professional working over the last twenty years to motivate and inspire people to obviously become fit, but become more than they thought they could— with emphasis on motivation. I don’t know how many people who are listening to this have ever experienced a spinning class, but I had the pleasure of being a part of Eve’s spinning class and she’s got an uncanny ability to get people to do things they just never thought they could do. So, Eve, welcome to the show.
Eve: Thank you, hi. I’m very excited.
Scott: I’m glad you’re here. I know you were saying you just finished a class.
Eve: Yeah, actually three.
Scott: Three classes? Amazing.
Scott: And do you ever get tired yourself, or this something that just doesn’t happen?
Eve: Definitely, I think for me the exertion that I experience is not so much physical, it’s more mental. Because as we get into talking about this, a lot of times indoor cycling is such an animal, that when you get into the groove and you have the room of people in an enclosed space and the way its designed, with the way the bikes are situated, the way I’m situated and positioned in the room, and then you play music, and all those elements—I become sort-of-kind-of this spiritual drive to take people through this journey, so a lot of times it’s not so much my physical exertion, it’s my mental coaching and getting people to these places where—like you said—they didn’t think they could ever get and it can be very mentally, emotionally draining. So yes, I do get tired, but it’s more mentally than physically.
Scott: So you meet this person, let’s say Person X. They walk in; they have no faith in themselves… You get them on the bike, and what goes through your mind? How are you going to get them to a place they don’t even know exists?
Eve: Well, I think the first step is breaking the ice, and Flywheel is really great about the inclusivity factor when it comes to our writers, our guests, our pulsers, people that do barre with us. We try to really, definitely make their experience the most positive ever. We know who they are before they come in. When people sign up to take a class, we know that it’s their first time. So right away, that person is highlighted; they’re on the top of our roster. We make sure when they come in and they say their name, we make sure from the second they come in to our studio, that experience is a very positive one. So they’re never feeling like they’re not fitting in, or that they’ve never done indoor cycling before. So it really, really starts from the first impression. When they’re in the room, I’ll introduce myself. I’ll help them set up on their bike so they have the best experience ever, I’ll make sure and explain the technology and really give them this comfort, that there’s no right or wrong way—this is an exploration, this is a journey, and I’ll take them through it. They just have to trust me, focus with me, and I’ll guide them through. And throughout the class, I’ll make eye contact, I’ll call out their name, I might even come up to them through tough moments in their ride, to make sure that they’re present, they’re understanding, and if they need that little extra attention and acknowledgement that they’re doing great. You know what I mean? It’s really kind of an ongoing process throughout their ride and throughout their first experience.
Scott: In your experience, what moves people? I mean, how difficult is it to get someone to try something?
Eve: It can be challenging. I mean, there’s definitely the culture behind indoor cycling, and it has its own following. But a lot of times, you will get people that are very hesitant. And I feel like it’s really a challenge for some people to get into that groove, or to maybe even just surrender themselves to the experience. We all have hang ups; we all have weird things that we think we can’t do, or “this is too hard”, “it’s out of my comfort zone”, “it’s challenging”, “it’s too loud”, “there’s too many people”, there’s all these elements that I feel like a lot of times will come up for people that are not used to it. So for those who are in it and they get it, they love it, they understand it, it’s the second the lights go down and the beat drops—it’s a complete surrender to the music, to me—the trust they put in me as their leader, as someone who’s going to guide them through this experience. It’s definitely less of a challenge with them; it’s more of a challenge with people who can’t let go or are struggling to believe in themselves, that they are capable of these things.
Scott: And when you find someone who doesn’t believe in themselves, how do you get them to kind of take that first step?
Eve: Well, I try throughout the class to bring in uniformity and the experience as a group. A lot of times, I’ll drop into things about how being stronger and experimenting here and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is really a freeing experiment, and it could be applied outside. This could be real life stuff. Whatever you’re going through, you could work it out here, and you could actually feel better about something. You can come in with an issue or a problem, and by the time the class is over, the sweat, the energy, the endorphins can bring you to a place you can actually find resolution. You could walk away, approaching something stronger and better with a totally new perspective. It’s happened to me so many times and to anyone who has been in this industry, specifically. We change people’s lives and it’s the most amazing thing to witness, you know, depending on what their goals are, what they’re going through in life—if they give it a chance and really, really surrender and trust the process, it can be a truly amazing and magical experience.
Scott: When did you start your career as an indoor cycling leader and what did you have to learn to motivate people to get on a bike, on a stationary bike, and push themselves beyond what they think is possible?
Eve: So I’ve been with Flywheel for going on six years now. Prior to that, I was strictly a personal trainer, and I’ve taught group fitness classes, I’ve worked for Equinox before. I used to have my own business on the side, so I’ve always had the passion for people and coaching improvement and getting them a better version of themselves, a stronger, a more-fit, and people’s lives were truly affected by that in appositive way and I’ve seen great things. When it came to indoor cycling, it was a bit of struggle for me, because when I got on the bike for the first time for my audition, I realized that it was a much more vulnerable place for me as a leader. When you’re a personal trainer, or you teach class, you don’t so much rely on this kind of honest flow of energy. You can listen, you can talk, you don’t necessarily have to work with music. Here, everything has to feel like you’re having a connection, right? The music flows, the things I say and when I say it, what is the purpose of me saying it. I want to make sure I don’t talk too much so people do get to zone out. I make sure I talk exactly where they need me to pull them back up and suck them back into what we’re doing so they don’t get lost. So it’s definitely a challenge, and it was a very, very different experience: meeting a group of people in a dark room with a little spotlight on me with music blasting through the speakers versus one-on-one coaching or any other kind of improvement training.
Scott: For years, doctors have been telling us that stress makes you sick. It increases the risk of the common cold to heart disease, and those sorts of things. Stress is the enemy, the bad guy. But in your spinning class, I’ve witnessed something different. I’ve witness how you’re able to take stress and turn it into something that motivates people and just pushes them. Have you thought about that when you lead your classes?
Eve: Oh, absolutely. I think if you talk about stress as a motivator for riders to turn it around. That’s why I feel like a lot of people get so addicted it—it is such an incredible stress release. I’ll have riders—and I’m very close to the community of riders that I have in Scarsdale, where I teach most of my classes—and I know very detailed things about my riders. I know when somebody’s nephew died of, let’s say, an overdose, or I know when somebody has experienced a tremendous loss. I’ve had a rider who lost both of her parents within the spread of a week. I’ve had people not being able to get a job for months and they keep coming back to Flywheel and it’s the only place that they feel they can get through and successfully get through the day. You know, I’ll have moms who have three little children and it’s so stressful and you feel like you don’t catch a break and you come in and this is their happy place and that’s what gets them through. So as far as the stress factor, and the ability to relieve people from that, is why I feel like the fitness industry is so successful and that’s why it’s so huge and there’re all these different boutique studios, because people actually understand now in our day and age that this is the only way to get through the way the world is today. You know what I mean? It’s kind of a very powerful, powerful tool. And all you really need is an hour of your day. Think about it: you don’t need a huge amount of time to de-stress, to relieve yourself of these toxins that, yeah, they can cause cancer. These kinds of stressful situations—whatever they might be for each person—they bring you down. They make you unhealthier. They make you make poor choices when it comes to food. You might be grumpier. You might be a terrible parent, a terrible spouse, an impossible person, and it’s all because of this toxicity in our bodies, that if we don’t let it out and replace it with something positive, ends up really kind of damaging from the inside and corrupting our lives.
Scott: Do you think it’s a very important step for you to have that close proximity to your community in order for you to be able to motivate them and to take them to this place that they don’t think is possible to go? From the way you talk about it: you’re very close, you know them personally, you know their life challenges, you know the obstacles they’ve overcome. Do you think by becoming close to them—obviously you build trust, but do you think you’re able to, as a result of that, motivate them beyond where they’re able to go. Is that an important part of it?
Eve: Yes and no. So there’s two sides—that’s a very good question. So there’s two sides to that. I feel sometimes it could be helpful. Like, I had a rider who was going through a very difficult time and a loss, and I knew she loves Coldplay, and I knew this would move her, so I played a song that moves me and she cried, she cried the entire time. She was in the first row in the studio, and I looked over at her and she was crying. And she came up to me—I’ve seen her months after—and she said, “That was probably a moment I was holding onto tears and I didn’t want to break down, but that was the moment I felt it was my body’s needing, it was dark, and it was this song, and I’m just going to let it all out, and I felt better. I felt like I could move through whatever I was going through.” So that’s an example of somebody who I know I’m close with, and knew what she was going through. At the same time, yeah, I could have somebody who I’ve never connected with on a personal level. They always sit in the back row; they don’t really want to talk to me. They just come in, they get on their bike, and they do their thing. And I’ve spoken to one girl afterwards that was taking my class for two years, and really always kept to herself. And after a while, I was like, “How is it going?” Like, it’d been two years; I have to check in with this person. And she told me, “Y’know, this is my sanctuary, this is my safe place. I feel like this is the only place I feel nobody’s going to bother me. Nobody’s going to come and make small conversation with me. I come in, I get what I need, I get out of my head, and I move on with my day. But you motivate me, you inspire me to— I’m in the best shape of my life.” So that’s an example of somebody who comes in, and they don’t want the conversation, they don’t want the sense of community. They come in because maybe they want to come out of their own community and this is kind of a place where nobody knows them, and they value that and it’s their sanctuary. So it works both ways, really.
Scott: We are with Eve Bondareva on the Uprising Podcast, and we’re talking today about inspiration and motivation, how you get people to do things they don’t think they’re able to do or beyond what they’re capable of, and it’s really fascinating to hear your experiences, Eve. I have a question: in your experience—you’ve obviously been doing this for a long time—what do you think is possible with human beings? Can you get people to do pretty much anything, do you think, or are there any limitations?
Eve: I think—I don’t like limitations. I feel like if things are safe and they’re making sense and there’s a sort of knowledge behind what you’re asking people to do, I think anything’s possible. I do believe that limitations of the human body can be present, obviously. You know, there’s health issues and things like that, so when I do structure my rides for my classes, there’s a great amount of consideration. It’s what I’m planning to do, what am I asking, what is the execution, and is it safe and is there a value in it. So, I think yes; anything is possible, but it has to be a very, very well-thought-out and educated way to push people to get them to do things they can’t imagine themselves doing, and I’ve seen it done. But it has to be done in a way that does make sense and is tailored to the fact that we are humans, and our legs are only capable of going a certain speed. You know, our body mechanics are different. I don’t expect everybody to be able to do everything that their neighbor is able to do, but I’m always asking for my riders and for people in my class, whether it’s barre or wheel—it’s not right or wrong, it’s not what your neighbor is doing. It’s what you need to get out of this, and this is what I want you to feel. So I’ll go after a feeling of, let’s say, exertion, a feeling of your legs burning, your lungs burning, your thighs burning, your core burning. Whatever that might be is an experience that I describe. And people are able to connect to that, and that—to me—is making something impossible possible. But I do believe there is a nothing a person, a human body can’t do, especially if the mind is cooperating.
Scott: So you have forty, fifty people, it’s a dark room, they’re sitting on stationary bikes. You’re controlling the music, and the music has different messages, and then you speak to that community of people and you say things that get them to focus on trying to overcome what they have in front of them. You know, “I can’t do this, I can’t get beyond 200 points,” or whatever. But yet, they go beyond 200 points. It’d be really interesting to hear what kind of phrases you use to get people to get to this better place.
Eve: Well it’s all very different. I’ll coach them into something. And I’ll say “you have fifteen seconds”, or “you have thirty seconds”, and it will be in a moment where something musically very dramatic and very exciting happens, right? And then I’ll ask them to either sit or stand, and I’ll ask them to close their eyes. And I’ll say, “If you only have thirty seconds, such a short time, give yourself this opportunity to see how strong you are. “ Things of that nature, I see it through my riders, it really gets them. Because it makes it very individual.
Scott: Absolutely, yeah.
Eve: There’s an understand of, there’s thirty seconds, you can do anything for thirty seconds. Trust, I believe, I have faith in you that you can push yourself where you didn’t think was possible. And I may not even say “didn’t think was possible”, because I have contradictory feelings about using “didn’t” or “don’t” kind of language. I always try to say a “yes” kind of language: “yes, you can”. Words of encouragement. But sometimes, I will feel out what my riders are doing. I feel their energy, I see their legs, I see their head; I know if somebody’s not with me. I know if somebody’s really kind of lost or maybe struggling. You know, it could be something personal, or maybe they’re not feeling well. So I will kind of go organically with what my crowd needs to encourage them.
Scott: What theories have you developed when it comes to motivating large groups of people?
Eve: Well, being honest, and being very organic in what I say.
Scott: And you’re very good at being clear, as well. You’re very good at setting goals and then inspiring people to smash those goals.
Eve: Thank you. I do, I think it’s just honesty. It’s just being honest and being transparent and bringing good energy, making people feel good and accomplished while I’m asking them to do things. It’s very surprising, how I will meet people and they just say to me, “I don’t do this out of the saddle, I don’t do tap backs, I don’t do this.” And then you’ll get the whole group flowing, and the next thing I know I look over and so-and-so is out of the saddle, tapping it back, big smile on their face. So it’s definitely something that happens within the studio. It could be a very magical experience, and sometimes I’ll walk away from that and I’ll even, as an instructor, will have moments of, “Wow that was pretty incredible, what those people just did.” But I have to honestly just feel it out, I try to choose music that speaks and has very good messages and is motivating, inspiring. I’ll find moments in the ride, I’ll play a slower song, and I’ll let people just listen to the lyrics and feel something. You’ll play Bruce Springsteen, and everybody will go to a place, somewhere. Or you’ll play Coldplay and they’ll be like, wow, that was the most beautiful lyric, the most beautiful music. I just left my body and I was in this outer space type of experience.
Scott: How important is music in getting people motivated?
Eve: Oh, it’s the biggest. It is the huge, huge factor. It’s what keeps people coming back for more. It keeps people motivated. Even if you take a class and you’re not connecting with the instructor or whatever else is not happening right now in that moment, I think music is great. If you can sing along to a song or you can be like, wow, that’s a great beat, what is that song? I’m really enjoying this right now. It can be very, very vital. So music is so, so important. Good music, diversity in music. So make sure there’s something for every person in the room, you know?
Scott: So people who listen to this podcast, they’re people who are leading movements and they’re building organizations that have a community. For those people listening who wish to lead movements, what advice would you offer them?
Eve: For people that are looking for motivation in their life?
Scott: Yeah. Not necessarily—obviously we want them all to come to your wonderful class, but it’s more in terms of people who are listening to this. They may be leading their own organizations across the country, they may be businesses, they may be—all sorts of organizations that do different things. As leaders of those organizations, that want to motivate fifty people, one hundred people, ten thousand people, what advice would you have for them when it comes to motivating humans?
Eve: My biggest, biggest advice would have to be being completely transparent, leading by example. For me, when I ask my riders to do something, I will be doing it with them. If I ask them to work harder, I make sure that I’m there physically and mentally guiding them through that. So transparency, honesty, and sensibility and genuinely—very good leadership, I feel like, comes from connection. And we learn by example. That for me, I think, is what’s worked great for me in my career, and I feel like those are things that anybody who’s leading or motivating a group of people, whether its selling something or trying to create something, it’s the biggest thing. It’s positivity, genuine honesty and transparency. Those are things that I value, in anything I do.
Scott: Well, Eve, your insights and your experience have been really interesting to listen to. I have, myself, been a part of your class for the last couple years and I’ve seen it first hand, how you were able to motivate all of these people to come into this room, and it’s really quite remarkable, I have to say. And that’s why I wanted to have you on, because I think people who lead movements need to be aspiring to listen to the advice that you’re giving, because you are able to get people to do things that is really quite remarkable.
Eve: Thank you, Scott.
Scott: So I appreciate you have the time to join us today.
Eve: This has been great. Thank you so much for letting me speak my mind. Ha ha.
Scott: No, it’s super interesting. Eve Bondareva, a stationary bike instructor, physical fitness instructor, who has done many things, She currently does a wonderful job at Flywheel. Thank you so much for spending time with us today.
Eve: Thank you. This has been amazing. Thank you, Scott. I’ll see you on the bike.
Scott: Yeah. Ha ha. Okay, take care.