The Spins: My Favorite Instructor

by Rachel on May 11, 2010

Goooood afternoon!

Well I’ve been hard at work this morning on the first of the spinning podcasts. It’s a little time-consuming but I’m sure I’ll streamline the process as I do it more. But today I wanted to talk a little bit about one aspect of spinning…my favorite instructor, Ken.

When I started spinning at Crunch in NYC I eventually came upon Ken’s class…and was hooked from day one. He is the best instructor I’ve ever had for anything ever. Really, his amazing personality is the reason why his classes are always, always full. (I mean, I woulda cut a bitch who went after my bike in one of his classes. On Thursday and Friday nights, I’d try to leave work relatively early and haul ass downtown so I could make it to his class. I’d check my Blackberry from my bike, hoping I wasn’t missing something important but loving his class too much to care!) He’s just one of the most memorable people I’ve ever met. He looks like a hardass (and he is…literally) but he’s got an awesome sense of humor. And underneath all his jokes, he’s kind and compassionate and you can tell how much he truly loves being there.

I love how he talks. He always reminded me a little bit of RuPaul out of drag…just that really beautiful, sexy, raspy but velvety voice. And he’s gorgeous — he was a model until a few years ago and he still has that body. (I did some Googling and found his Picasa album which is how I got these pictures.) His laugh is so great, but that body! Smooth skin, chiseled muscles, just…total perfection.

He was the first and only teacher I’ve ever had do to a rhythm-based spin class. He always said that it wasn’t meant to be like a real bike ride; it was more like an aerobics class which happened to use a stationary bike. Basing your class on the rhythm of the music is amazing…and unconventional, as no one else does it. Everyone else makes it feel like a “real” bike ride. I do my class like Ken does, but I can’t even come close to doing it like he does. He has amazing rhythm and attention to beats per minute. He sets the pace at the beginning of each song, chanting, “My hands, your feet” as he moves his hands to the beat of the song. And the entire class just gets it. Like…45 people all with their legs moving in perfect sync. It’s amazing. It was like a huge choreographed dance party…on a bike.

He also pays major attention to your alignment. (He actually taught a strength and alignment class at Crunch as well.) He talked us through our bodies during the warm-up and constantly reminded us to keep our shoulders dropped, our elbows soft, and our abs pulled in. It’s a message I hear in my mind all the time when I’m spinning and now when I’m teaching. He used to say, “Don’t let your body get desperate,” one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard. Your form is always more important than your intensity or speed.

His music was always so good…a great combo of pop, old stuff like Tina Turner, Latin, and some Gospel. (I loved when he took us to the black Baptist church at the end of our workouts.) He changed the playlist every three weeks, so just when we were getting used to it, he’d mix it up. The fourth week was a “best of,” with old favorites from past playlists. And you knew he spent so much time on each one. He knew the music and just sensed it; sometimes I miss cues when I’m teaching but he just knew when we were about to jump and led us so well so we all were on cue every time. It was so cool.

Learning to work out using the music truly changed how I do cardio. That’s why I post a new playlist every week…I love the way a great song totally sets the pace and really the mood of my workout. And it’s all from Kenny.

If he ever called you out for doing something well, it was like the best compliment in the world, especially if he said, “Look at my rhythm girl…watch her legs.” If you were setting the rhythm for the class…OMG. Best.

He’s unreal. His form is impeccable when he’s on his bike. He makes it look so easy. He used to get us in third position and then have us take all the bounce out of it — one of his signature moves that was so, so killer. I remember doing it to “SexyBack” and he’d just be grinning at us with his gorgeous white teeth saying, “Are you feeling anything? Your thighs should be sizzling right now! Sizzling like bacon!” and we’d all be crying out in pain but just laughing because he’s so charming.

His class is the number one thing I miss about New York. I didn’t get a chance to pop into Crunch on my visit last fall but I figured next time I was there for a visit I’d definitely make it a point. I’m dying to know what sort of awesome playlists he’s been churning out in the past year!

So yesterday I was working on a new playlist and desperately trying to find a song he used to do that I think is called “Mmm Papi.” The problem is that Britney Spears released a song called “Mmm Papi”  — worst song ever, BTW — and so I cannot find the song I’m looking for ANYWHERE. It’s a girl singing and it’s got kind of a Latin house-beat feel (if that makes sense). It’s a really great song and I’m dying to find it! Anyway, I’ve searched before, but I was hoping that by now maybe Ken would have put his playlists online or something so I Googled him and found out…he’s retiring!

This. Is. Heartbreaking.

Seriously…this man is so gifted. That’s the only word for him. In Linchpin, Seth Godin talks about artists and how art is so much more than just our traditional idea of it. Ken Moody is an artist. He just brings such passion to his work and gives his students so much more than they expect, more than is required. He doesn’t just show up; he brings himself to every single class. You can tell he loves to teach. There was love in every single class. I’m so bummed that I’ll never get the chance to spin with him again and that the other New Yorkers who love him won’t either. (I always thought of him as “my” instructor but I think he was pretty legendary.) I think he has about a month left. I searched the NYC Crunch schedules and didn’t see him on any classes, but I know he taught at Equinox too, so seriously, if you live in the city and have access to his class…take it! He’s incredible. I briefly considered flying to NYC to take his class one more time before he retires. I just want to like thank him for everything!

Not to get all “Chicken Soup for the Soul”…but I’m totally mourning his retirement right now.

But even if you’ll never take his class, I don’t know…sometimes it’s good to think about people who inspire you. I know that thinking about him yesterday afternoon made me really think about spinning and that’s part of the reason I am so excited to do this new project.

Ken had such a big influence on me and how I think about exercise, but the more I think about it, the more I realize, he was my spinning instructor, but he’s truly one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had. The more I research him now, the more I realize that his role as a model was way more than just a model. In the 1980s, the kind of provocative things he was doing in terms of race and sexuality are just further evidence that he’s just…beyond. He’s a great example of the kind of artist I want to be.

So even if you don’t teach group exercise, I know you have a gift. Linchpin reminds us that we’re all artists. So today, maybe think about your Ken — that person who brings their gift to you and gives you something because they love to do it — and then think how you can bring art to your work or your classes or your sorority or even your friends every day. Ken didn’t just show up; he brought himself. And you don’t have to have the body of a god and the world’s most perfect ass to be able to do that. We can all bring that.

And uhhh…if anyone knows the name of the non-Britney “Mmm Papi” song, that would be much appreciated.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 hbobier @ Basil Vodka May 11, 2010 at 1:11 pm

This post makes me wish I still had a gym membership. Granted I’m sure our Minnesota instructors can’t hold a candle to your beloved Ken, but I do miss the motivation that can only come from a great instructor and an active group.

As much as I do enjoy just doing my own thing running outside and lifting solo, this post reminds me of how much I used to love group aerobics.


2 Elisabeth May 11, 2010 at 2:16 pm

He is definitely beautiful. I wish that I had taken one of his classes (not just because he’s beautiful, but you know…that helps). My spin instructor is a late 40’s white dude who wears a sweat band and basketball shorts. It’s sad.

When you were describing his passion and art, it reminded me immediately of Master Bam (The Bam’s Kung Fu) who owns the martial arts school where I take combat fitness classes. Some people have such a gift for teaching, and a true love for doing so. One of my best friends is beautiful like Ken (resembles Ken, actually), and he started off as my trainer and running coach. I don’t know how people become such a part of their own passion…I’m still searching for mine. Or maybe I just don’t have the TIME to perfect mine.


3 Lele May 11, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I’ve always been scared of spin class cause it just seems so INTENSE… but I have heard that it really is all about having the right instructor. I have to say, I’d have a hard time not giggling in class once I saw those pictures of him! Hahaha.


4 Meredith @ An Epic Change May 11, 2010 at 4:00 pm

The spin instructor truly makes the class. And rhythm-based classes are so much better because they seem to fly by and it is easier to pace yourself with music. My best guy friend is a spin instructor, so I am definitely sharing this with him!


5 Bridget@PavementandPlants May 11, 2010 at 4:16 pm

This is why I cannot open your blog at work. haha

I’ve Zumba-ed to a song called “Papi Chulo” but I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for.


6 Rachel May 11, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Haha sorry for Kenny’s ass…

Papi Chulo isn’t it either! :( I found that on YouTube a few times…no such luck!!


7 Eunice May 12, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Damn! That is a gorgeous man.

I also like spinning classes that are based on the music instead of simulating a long ass bike ride. The instructor whose class I take does that, but I can’t always make it there so I just make up my own spin classes. If I’m ever in your area, I would love to go to your class! Aaaand now I’m scrolling back up to stare at Kenny’s ass one more time. Thanks!


8 Chelsey May 12, 2010 at 11:06 pm

If they were saying “Ay Papi” instead of “Mmm Papi” it could possibly be Toca Me Lo.


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