For each of her indoor cycling classes, instructor Shayla Cornick puts together a new playlist, usually with hip-hop, pop or electronic dance music. She called one playlist “guilty pleasures” and included “all the songs that you hate to love,” she says, like Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” For a class that fell on Friday the 13th, she went with Michael Jackson’s Thriller songs and had his videos playing on a TV screen. “I did a karaoke ride once where we had the words up and we were riding and singing, passing the microphone around,” she says.
Cornick, 37, owns a pair of boutique studios called Cycled!—one in downtown Silver Spring, the other in Takoma Park, D.C.—and teaches up to a dozen classes a week. She says a class she took at SoulCycle in New York City in 2012 got her hooked on indoor cycling. A couple of years later, she told a friend that she was planning to open her own studio. “Wait, you have all these degrees and you’ve done all these amazing things and you want to open a gym?” he said.
Cornick—who lives in Silver Spring and has undergraduate degrees in math and engineering and a doctorate in education—was working in educational research for Discovery Communications at the time. She grew tired of trekking to cycling studios that were far away, she says, so she found a small ground-level space in a Silver Spring apartment building near her office, got certified in indoor cycling, and launched her business in 2015 with money from her 401(k) and other savings. She saw the studio as a different way to help people grow. Instead of helping teachers use technology in their classrooms, as she’d done at a D.C. charter school, or providing schools with useful data from her research at Discovery, she’d be teaching people to better understand their bodies and live active, healthier lives. She ran Cycled! while working full-time at Discovery until early last year, about a month after she opened her second studio.
Cornick says most of her classes are filled with people in their late 20s to early 40s, though she once had a teenager who was training for a triathlon and came in with her mother. A 50-year-old woman, who started coming to Cycled! while going through a divorce, sometimes takes two classes a day. “For her, it’s like a stress reliever, it’s her happy place,” Cornick says. “People come for different reasons. That’s one of the things I really love about my job.”
Since riders sit or stand while pedaling, indoor cycling is a low-impact workout, Cornick says, and her classes usually include arm strengthening moves and “dancing,” which happens on the bike and may just involve leaning to one side. The bikes are equipped with Bluetooth technology, and riders get an email after class with stats that include their heart rate and average revolutions per minute.
One of the first things Cornick tells cycling newcomers at her studio is that the bike seat can cause soreness. “If your body’s not used to being on seats of that size for an extended period of time, it will hurt anybody. People are always like, oh, I need more cushion or less cushion. No, it’s everybody, it does not discriminate—does not matter the size, the shape, the anything.” Riders adjust to the seat over time, she says.
Cornick, who sings while she teaches, hasn’t forgotten what it was like when she first started cycling and her body ached. “I remember being in class and everybody else going really fast and knowing what to do, and I’m like, wait, what? How do I do that?” she says. Now she tells riders in her classes, “You have one goal, and that’s to keep pedaling. Well, two—to not throw your water bottle at me.”