This week’s topic is: How to Create Your Dreams at Any Age with SoulCycle Co-Founder Ruth Zukerman
I am so excited to have my very special guest, Ruth Zukerman, who is the co-founder of SoulCycle and Flywheel and pioneered the boutique fitness industry by creating the “studio” and pay per class structure. Listen as Ruth shares her mission beyond fitness, how to embody a dream, advice for entrepreneurs and connecting people to each other and their own inner strength.
- Connecting with the mom part of us and what it has been like raising twins as a single mom…
- Embodying a dream, crystallizing an idea and synchro-destiny…
- Creating a business plan and finding the right support to scale it…
- Advice for entrepreneurs to be successful during the hiring process…
- Starting a company later in life and moving past self-doubt…
- Juggling being a working mom and entrepreneurship…
- Ruth shares how she keeps her center and what beauty means to her…
About Ruth Zukerman
Ruth Zukerman of New York City is the co-founder of SoulCycle and Flywheel — companies I do not have to explain to any of you! She pioneered the boutique fitness industry by creating the “studio” and pay per class structure. But, her mission is more than fitness — it’s connecting people to each other and their own inner strength.
She left Flywheel in 2018, wrote a memoir Riding High: How I Kissed SoulCycle Goodbye, Co-Founded Flywheel and Built the Life I Always Wanted. Her latest venture, tru community virtually connects a global community to fitness, seminars, and discussions on health and wellness.
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Ruth Zukerman’s Interview
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- Manifest Your Dreams With Gary Quinn
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Note: The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate. This is due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
Kimberly: 00:01 Hey Beauties. Welcome back to our Monday interview podcast. I am so excited for our guest today. I recently met her and heard her story and it just blew me away. And I said, “I have to have this woman as a guest on our podcast.” Her name is Ruth Zukerman and she co-founded SoulCycle. And four years later, co-founded Flywheel.
Kimberly: 00:24 But here’s the thing, I’m sorry, I’m giving you a little spoiler, but there’s so much, much incredible wisdom and information she shares in our interview today. But she was a single mom and she never really had many full-time jobs. And she found herself as a single mom and had to figure it out. So she founded SoulCycle at 48 years old and Flywheel at 52 years old. So she is so inspiring. She shows that dream big, never limit yourself, and also, never put time limits on creating your dream.
Fan of the Week
Kimberly: 00:59 So I cannot wait to get into our interview today. But before we do, I want to give you a quick shout out to our fan of the week, and her name is Bitty12345, and she writes, “Love it. One of the best podcasts I’ve heard.” Boom. Thank you so much Bitty12345 for being part of our community and for also showing that that reviews can be short and sweet and still super, super powerful.
Leave a Review and Subscribe on Itunes
Kimberly: 01:27 So, for your chance to also be shouted out as our fan of the week, please just take a moment out of your day and please leave us a review over on iTunes, which is free and easy, and as you can see from bitty’s review here, can literally be one sentence and can literally be just a wonderful way to support the show. While you’re over there, please be sure to subscribe to the show and that way you don’t miss out on any of our Monday interview’s or solo casts or Thursday QA shows. All right, all that being said, let’s get into our amazing interview today with Ruth.
Interview with Ruth Zukerman
Kimberly: 00:17 So Ruth, I loved we connected. We’re part of this amazing wellness program. We’re two of the four women. And the first time we connected over Zoom, of course, during this funny period, I just loved hearing your story. And I felt really connected to you as an entrepreneur but also as a mom. You have twins. Girls, is that right?
Ruth: 00:40 Yes. And they are 30, which I can hardly believe. And as you heard on the podcast, I’m going to be a grandmother, which is just-
Kimberly: 00:51 Oh, my gosh.
Ruth: 00:53 … crazy to me, but…
Kimberly: 00:55 Congratulations.
Ruth: 00:55 Thank you.
Kimberly: 00:56 I can’t even imagine having… I think, for me, the period… Toddler twins, what was that like?
Ruth: 01:03 It was not easy. It’s funny because I have older twin brothers, and when my mother found out… When I told her I was pregnant with twins, the first thing she said to me was, “I’m just praying they’re not boys.” So I was relieved that they weren’t boys, because I heard that’s even harder. But they definitely gave me a run for my money. They were just always running in opposite directions. And as you probably, well, maybe have experienced, but as they grow and get older, the biggest challenge as a parent, I think, is to find a moment where, when you have more than one child, where both are actually happy at the same time.
Kimberly: 01:49 Oh. Yeah, I’m looking forward to that time where they can play together, because now one is a baby and one is older. They love each other, but I’m hoping in a year or two, they can actually play and maybe entertain each other more.
Ruth: 02:05 That will really help you, and that is a plus with twins, is that happens from the beginning. They can entertain each other, so that’s when mommy gets a break.
Connecting with the mom part of us and what it has been like raising twins as a single mom
Kimberly: 02:17 So Ruth, you founded both SoulCycle and Flywheel, which is incredible. And I want to get into that in a moment, but first I just love connecting on the mom part of us first.
Ruth: 02:29 Yes.
Kimberly: 02:29 And the other part of your story that I also really connected to were pretty real on the podcast, so I hope that’s okay with you.
Ruth: 02:37 I know how to be.
Kimberly: 02:39 I also actually went through a period with my first son, where my mom ended up passing away before he was one, and that was sort of this defining moment in my life, I think, where it took me to my rock bottom. It took me to my core. And some months later, I ended up splitting up with his dad. So there was a period where I was a single mom for a while, and I was resetting before I got remarried. And I believe you were also a single mom–
Ruth: 03:08 I was.
Kimberly: 03:09 … with twins. So can you tell a little bit about what that experience was like? Did you also hit rock bottom or-
Ruth: 03:18 It was quite a shock in that I decided to leave the marriage when my twin girls were six years old, so they were obviously young. I was living a very comfortable life, and suddenly, after making the decision to leave, I was a fish out of water. Everything changed. I had to really watch every penny I spent, and the days of having a babysitter were over. So it was just me and the girls.
Kimberly: 03:51 Yes. [crosstalk 00:03:52].
Ruth: 03:54 Yeah, so it was a huge change and humbling, and I learned a lot. It was during that period, that was one… Actually, that was my second, what I call, reinvention moment, where I had to figure out what I was going to do next, who I was, and how I was going to support myself. So it was a very humbling time, but I figured it out. Not overnight, but I did figure it out. And Kimberly, I do believe that everything happens for a reason.
Kimberly: 04:27 Yes.
Ruth: 04:27 We learn from every setback, and we get stronger, and that’s really been the story of my life.
What Ruth’s career trajectory looked like prior to SoulCycle
Kimberly: 04:34 Wow! Well, had you worked before you had children, Ruth, and then did you go back to that career? Or did you not work when your kids were younger? What does your career trajectory look like?
Ruth: 04:45 Yeah. I grew up as an aspiring dancer. I thought I would have a profession as a modern dancer in New York City. That didn’t work out. As we all know, that’s pretty tough to do. So when I made the decision to leave dancing, I eventually found myself in a group fitness class. It was in the 1980s, and it was aerobics, and it was like a dancy aerobics small-
Kimberly: 05:13 Was it like Jane Fonda style?
Ruth: 05:14 Kind of, but even a little more dancy.
Kimberly: 05:18 Okay.
Ruth: 05:18 So I started taking class there because suddenly I had to exercise. It was always built in for me as a dancer. I never had to think about exercise. And very soon after starting to take class there, the owner of the studio said, “You should really teach.” And I thought, “Oh, okay, let me try that,” because it felt like I was dancing to a certain extent. And that was really my foray into group fitness, and that all happened right before I got married and as I got married. So I had a career kind of as a part-time fitness instructor. And then once the girls were born, I put it aside, and I became a full-time mom.
Kimberly: 05:59 And then the breakup happened.
Ruth: 06:02 The breakup happened and-
Kimberly: 06:02 You were like, “Oh, what do I do now?”
Ruth: 06:05 Right, and I had no clue. I still was able to hold onto my membership at my neighborhood gym, which had a spin room, and they offered spin classes. I had never taken one before, and I used to walk by and kind of peer in, and it looked very intimidating to me. It was a full room of everyone was on the bike and dark and loud music. I wanted to go in there, but I was scared, and then one day I just pushed myself. I didn’t go in with a friend. I went in by myself, and that was it. 45 minutes later, I was blown away by this experience.
Ruth: 06:44 And I call it an experience because it wasn’t just an exercise class. There was something more to it for me, and I became addicted to it because I saw that… It became this kind of mini-transformation for me every time I took a class. There I was in this very traumatic time of my life going through a divorce, and I saw that at the end of the 45 minutes, I suddenly felt empowered, as if I could conquer my day. So I started going to class six times a week.
Kimberly: 07:16 Wow!
Ruth: 07:18 I know. And then one day, my guru spin instructor, who I loved because he kind of got me into the whole thing, announced to the class that he was moving to Florida, and I was like, “What? How am I going to survive without him?” You know how it is. You get attached.
Kimberly: 07:40 Yes.
Ruth: 07:40 And I didn’t really like the classes offered by the other instructors there, so I thought, “Well, maybe I should try teaching spin.” So I auditioned for the club, and they hired me within three minutes. They said, “You’re hired.”
Kimberly: 07:58 Wow!
Ruth: 07:58 I know, because I was a dancer, and so I knew how to ride on the beat, and I knew music from my dance background. So that was it, and that started my career as a spin instructor. I taught at the Reebok Club for five years, and during those five years, I really honed my method of teaching. I learned what people liked, what they didn’t like, what attracted them to spin. And five years later, a rider in my class approached me and said, “I’d love to open a spin-only boutique studio in New York.” This was my dream. She had the funding, the capital. I didn’t. And within two minutes, I said, “I’m in.” And that was the start of SoulCycle.
Kimberly: 08:45 Wait. So Ruth, this was 10 years then you were an instructor?
Ruth: 08:49 Five. Five years.
Kimberly: 08:50 Five years.
Ruth: 08:50 From 2000 to 2005.
Kimberly: 08:55 Now, I don’t know… I’ve done, I think, one spin class, so I’m not as educated about the energy of it. But it feels like you being a dancer, which is flowy, and spin feels very linear to me, how did you reconcile those movements?
Ruth: 09:12 I love that question, and you’re right. Ever since I gave up dance, I still miss moving across a floor, because certainly you’re not doing that… You’re on a bike, and you are very linear. However, there were aspects of dance and dance class and dancing that I could bring to spin, and that’s exactly what I did. So the spin class suddenly became a chance to choreograph to music, even though I’m on a bike.
Kimberly: 09:47 Wow!
Ruth: 09:47 So that means moving to the music. That means timing your intervals to the chorus of the song. A lot goes into the playlist of a spin class. So I would choose music that moved me, as I would when I was dancing. I figured if it’s moving me, it’s going to move the people in the class. And that kind of opened up a wide set of possibilities in terms of the music I would use in my playlist. I realized very soon into it that I didn’t have to use thumping gym music. I could use anything. I could use a ballad by Neil Young. I could use-
Kimberly: 10:37 Wow!
Ruth: 10:37 … yeah, anything, because, again, if it moved you emotionally, I could make it work. I think that was one of the draws of my class, was the playlist.
Kimberly: 10:48 Wow, because you were so connected to the music as well.
Ruth: 10:50 Exactly.
Embodying a dream, crystallizing an idea and synchro-destiny
Kimberly: 10:53 You said, Ruth, this woman approached you, but you said it was your dream. So deep inside of you, even though you didn’t have the funding, even though you didn’t have this whole structured business plan, did you have this dream of having your own studio, but you just hadn’t said it out loud at that point?
Ruth: 11:08 I did. I did. And a friend of mine, who was also a rider in my class, was very addicted to taking spin classes, and she and I used to sit and talk about… We both had the dream, so we would talk about doing it. But she didn’t have the capital either, so it really was just a dream.
Kimberly: 11:27 Wow! But you put it out there. You were talking about it. You were thinking about it.
Ruth: 11:31 Yes.
Kimberly: 11:31 And then it was just out of the blue. I mean, I love these stories that are… My co-author on one of my books, Deepak Chopra, would call it synchro-destiny.
Ruth: 11:41 Oh, I love that.
Kimberly: 11:42 When you embody something in yourself, you crystallize an idea, and then some kind of synchronicity shows up.
Ruth: 11:52 [crosstalk 00:11:52].
Kimberly: 11:52 Would you say that describes what happened to you?
Ruth: 11:54 I think it is. I mean, honestly, as I get older, I am realizing the importance of putting things out into the universe. I think they really do get answered. Sometimes, it might take a really long time, but I feel that it happens. And yes, I do feel that that is what happened.
Creating a business plan and finding the right support to scale it
Kimberly: 12:15 Wow. It’s so powerful. So she approached you about this idea. And then was it this whole business plan, this whole thing you guys had to create? Or were you able to get the right support people right away? What did-
Ruth: 12:29 We really just played it by ear.
Kimberly: 12:32 I love it.
Ruth: 12:32 We just decided… We really did. I had no experience in business. One of my co-founders at the time had experience in real estate, and the other one was a talent agent from LA. And we literally found the space and just started, and we had no playbook at all.
Kimberly: 12:58 Wow! And then how did you figure out how to scale it? Did you just get one location really locked in and then…
Ruth: 13:05 Yeah. It really all happened organically. We had our one location on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and that was the spring of 2006 when we opened it. And slowly, it was growing. I ended up taking my entire following from the Reebok Club, which, quite frankly, I never thought I would because it was this beautiful full-service gym, and I was basically asking these people to come to what was essentially a hole in the wall. There was nothing basically.
Kimberly: 13:36 No showers.
Ruth: 13:37 Literally, it was not fancy. It was one room with a long narrow hallway that led to the room, one bathroom, no shower. It was a big departure from the Reebok Club, but they all came slowly but surely. So our second summer, the summer of 2007, we decided we need to open our second location in the Hamptons out on Long Island because, as we all know, everybody summers there from all over the world. Great exposure. We found a barn, which was just the most amazing space, and we opened our doors that summer in our second location. And then the fall of 2007, we couldn’t fit everyone through our doors. The business exploded.
Kimberly: 14:30 Wow! I’m getting goosebumps.
Ruth: 14:32 Yeah.
Kimberly: 14:33 Well, let me ask you. I think, let’s say, a cup or a food product can easily be replicated and scaled in a factory. But you were talking about how you got so attached to your instructor, and I imagine people are so attached to you and your energy.
Ruth: 14:48 Yes.
We discuss if it’s possible to scale the energy of an actual person
Kimberly: 14:48 How do you scale that? How do you scale the energy of an instructor, an actual person?
Ruth: 14:53 Yeah. It’s hard, and we made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. And a lot of the instructors that we hired didn’t work out, but a lot did. And I attribute that also to perfecting our training program as we were rolling away and figuring out how to find good instructors, but also train them. And something we realized as we went on was that a lot of the best instructors that we had, again, came organically because they were originally just riders in the class. They had never instructed before, and they became very passionate about it. So we just kind of graduated them from being riders to coming to the training program and then teaching them the skills that they needed. But they kind of already had a lot going for them already just from taking so many classes.
Kimberly: 15:56 Interesting.
Ruth: 15:57 Yes.
Kimberly: 15:57 Because I’ve made a lot of hiring mistakes too, Ruth. People can write whatever they write on paper, and then as I’ve gone along, I’ve found that there’s just some things that you can’t put words to.
Ruth: 16:09 Teach.
Advice for entrepreneurs to be successful during the hiring process
Kimberly: 16:10 Yeah, it’s just the energy of someone. So what advice would you say to any entrepreneur, anyone listening to this that says, “What do you find to be the most helpful when you’re looking to hire someone? What have you learned from the mistakes that you’ve made and the successful hires that you’ve made?”
Ruth: 16:28 I think that whether it’s an instructor or really any employee who’s going to work for you, you really want them to… And I know it sounds a little cliché, but you really do want them to be passionate about what you’re selling, about what you stand for. Those are the people that are going to work for you as if they owned the business, like as you do. And speaking of that, when you do find people who you do feel are as passionate about it as you are, treat them really well and give them some equity in the business. Give them some options. Give them something that makes them feel invested, and then they are as invested as you are and want it to succeed as much as you do.
Ruth: 17:20 That is something that we were very jazzed about that idea when we started Flywheel especially, my two co-founders and I. And our first set of instructors we gave equity to. And they so appreciated it and had skin in the game and worked as if they had skin in the game, and it worked.
Kimberly: 17:44 Wow! That’s great advice, because it’s very different. It shifts the perspective from I’m working for someone versus I’m part of this.
Ruth: 17:51 Exactly. Yeah.
Kimberly: 17:53 Wow. So Ruth, what’s impressive is you started SoulCycle, which is enormous. I mean, even though I’m not a rider, as you say, everybody knows SoulCycle.
Ruth: 18:04 Yes.
Kimberly: 18:06 And then there was a journey where you transitioned, and then you started another huge company, Flywheel.
Ruth: 18:12 Yes.
Ruth shares the difference between SoulCycle versus Flywheel
Kimberly: 18:12 So tell us the difference and maybe a little bit about what happened there.
Ruth: 18:17 Definitely. It was quite a transition. I had a falling out with my partners at SoulCycle, and it was ugly. I’m not going to lie. And it was devastating.
Kimberly: 18:32 And this was the original woman that had approached you? Oh, man!
Ruth: 18:36 Not only that. It was the original woman who had approached me, but then I also mentioned to you that there was another woman who was a very close friend of mine, and the one who used to talk to me about opening the studio before I was approached. I actually felt almost a little guilty going into the business without her, and so I mentioned her to the woman who had approached me, and she said, “Well, I’m happy to meet her.” I put the two of them together, and we ended up bringing her into the partnership. And at the end of the day, they both ultimately, how do I say this, had a meeting with me where let’s just… I’m going to leave out the details, but let’s just say I walked into the meeting thinking we were going to sign a contract because we had had a verbal agreement. This was after the business exploded. I walked out of the meeting no longer being a partner in this business.
Kimberly: 19:36 Oh, my God. That was a huge betrayal.
Ruth: 19:39 Yes. And I describe it as being as traumatic as my divorce and the death of my father. This was my baby, and this was a business that never would have existed without me, so…
Kimberly: 19:54 Sure.
Ruth: 19:54 It was devastating. I describe it as devastating, to say the least. So that started the ball rolling on my exit from SoulCycle, which actually happened two years later. I stayed on, believe it or not, as an instructor in the business that I started.
Kimberly: 20:16 Oh, my. Ruth, how did you do that? How did you find the grace?
Ruth: 20:21 Painful. But what happened was, Kimberly, every day I walked in there to teach my class, I felt like I grew another gray hair walking through these doors. But what would happen is I would get up on the bike and on the podium, and I would hit the play button to start my class, and for those 45 minutes, it all went away.
Kimberly: 20:45 Wow.
Ruth: 20:46 You have to understand that all of my riders, none of them knew what happened. As far as they were concerned, nothing changed. So for those 45 minutes, I could connect with them. They connected with me, and everything was fine, and then I left each day.
Kimberly: 21:05 Wow!
Ruth: 21:05 Two years later, I was introduced to these two men, who came up with the idea of adding metrics to the experience, adding metrics to the bike, which could allow the rider to calculate how hard they were working. It added kind of a game element to the ride, where we could compete with each other. It allowed the ride to become more athletic. They introduced the idea to me, and I was skeptical at first, because the mindful component of the ride was still so important to me. But I gave it a shot. I got on the bike by myself one day in a room and used the numbers and realized this could be not only a game-changer, but it could be a way to bring in spinning number two, if you will, and differentiate ourselves from the first business that I started and give us an opportunity that way. And in fact, that’s what happened, and then we started Flywheel.
Kimberly: 22:12 There’s Flywheel. So, Ruth, similarly to the first time, did you… I mean, I know that feels so painful even just hearing like [crosstalk 00:22:20] were so close.
Ruth: 22:22 It’s so painful.
Kimberly: 22:22 But then did you start thinking, “Well, I want to have another business?” Did you start manifesting it inside of yourself and then these guys showed up, or did you say to people, did you put it out in the world to attract your second set of partners?
Ruth: 22:36 You know what? I’m sure I did in a very internal, private way. I didn’t talk about it too much because I needed to preserve where I was because, keep in mind, I’m still that single mom trying to make a living and support my daughters. So I had worked out a deal where I was still getting paid enough to do that and didn’t want to jeopardize, but at the same time, wanted it to be known in some way that I’m open to something bigger, which of course I was. So I do think, as you’re putting it out there, that I did put it out there myself, and that did allow me to meet these two people who became my co-founders. And needless to say, it was just such a better experience working with them, and I was so grateful for that. Yeah.
Kimberly: 23:37 Thank gosh, Ruth.
Ruth: 23:39 Yes.
Kimberly: 23:39 Sometimes we hear a lot about these tech founders, these people that are billionaires by the time they’re 22 years old or 24 years old.
Ruth: 23:48 Yeah.
Starting a company later in life and moving past self-doubt
Kimberly: 23:48 The other really inspiring part about your story is that you founded these companies a little bit later in your career.
Ruth: 23:56 I did.
Kimberly: 23:58 Tell us about that. Did you ever have any self-doubt? Like, oh my gosh, I’m, what, in my 30s or 40s doing this?
Ruth: 24:05 I will tell you, it’s better than that. And I mention this whenever I do my speaking gigs because people gasp when I tell them that I was 48 when I started SoulCycle, and I was 52 when I started Flywheel, and I always get a big-
Kimberly: 24:23 Yes. Oh, I love it.
Ruth: 24:23 I get a big reaction because, again, going back to my story, Kim, it’s just proof that we do go through our lives reinventing ourselves, and I certainly did that. And I like to give people hope that, no matter how old they are, they can do it too. And just to bring this to today, I love to talk about our President-Elect. I mean, Joe Biden is going to be… He’s going to be 78, and let’s look at how long he’s been at this, at a political career, and he didn’t give up. I mean, here he is, now he’s going to be the President. So it never ends. It really doesn’t.
Juggling being a working mom and entrepreneurship
Kimberly: 25:17 You started these amazing businesses, Ruth, and then it started to explode. For me, I’m down here in my basement hiding from my kids, and even if I have a little time away, it’s hard, the mom-guilt, isn’t it a little bit, just being away from them, being a working mom? How was it for you when your businesses started to take off and your little girls were like, “Mom, where are you?” and they needed you?
Ruth: 25:43 Yes.
Kimberly: 25:44 What was that interplay like?
Ruth: 25:46 Not easy. Not easy at all. But on the one hand, I knew that I didn’t have a choice because I needed to figure out a way to support myself financially. Trust me, there were many moments where I wasn’t the greatest mother, and when I say that, I mean, as you know, as mothers we need an inordinate amount of patience. And when you’re working-
Kimberly: 26:16 It’s so hard.
Ruth: 26:17 It’s so hard. And when you’re working in the home and outside of the home, it’s a lot to expect to have the kind of patience that you need. I have a really good example, which I also used in my book, and I remember it so clearly. When I was in the midst of SoulCycle and all of the work that was involved there, my kids were applying to colleges and looking into the college choices. And I remember taking a road trip in the car to upstate New York. It was a five or six-hour drive. I didn’t have… What is it called again? A navigator.
Kimberly: 26:59 Yeah, yeah.
Ruth: 26:59 Something like that in the car. So I had a map, and we were driving upstate, my daughter and I, and I got lost. I had no idea where I was, and I was so frustrated, and my daughter was upset. And I literally pulled over to the side of the road and started crying, which is really not going to get us anywhere. But I started crying so hard, and my poor daughter. And I lost it. I lost patience. And obviously, I pulled it together and figured it out. But it was just one of those moments where I guess I couldn’t [crosstalk 00:27:38] thing.
Kimberly: 27:38 It’s a very real moment. Yeah. Well, it’s so refreshing to hear that. Sometimes it’s like everything can look so perfect on the outside, but we’re human.
Ruth: 27:48 Exactly.
Kimberly: 27:49 There’s only so many hours in the day with sleep and kids and work and…
Ruth: 27:53 Exactly. But I can tell you, Kim, because I know you work hard too, but I can give you a silver lining, which is again my daughters are 30 years old now, and as they started becoming adults, it all paid off because I became a role model for them.
Kimberly: 28:12 Oh, yeah.
Ruth: 28:12 And this is the thing they talk to me about a lot, and nothing makes me happier than to hear this from two daughters that not only have I raised two very strong-willed daughters, I get to hear from them that I have become a role model for them, and that is just incredibly gratifying.
Kimberly: 28:34 Well, Ruth, I have to say you’re a role model for me and, I think, millions and millions of other women.
Ruth: 28:39 Oh, well, thank you.
Kimberly: 28:41 I do really relate to that because my mom worked a lot out… She worked in an office, and sometimes, of course, I wished she was home, but she was so strong, and she was this female executive. And I don’t know that I would be doing what I’m doing today if I didn’t have that role model, so…
Ruth: 28:57 That feels good.
Kimberly: 28:59 Yeah. Yeah, I think every mother obviously has to do their best, and there’s very powerful women that choose to be stay-at-home moms too, so everybody has their own journey, of course.
Ruth: 29:08 Exactly. Yeah.
How Tru Community Evolved from the pandemic
Kimberly: 29:10 Are you still involved with Flywheel now, Ruth?
Ruth: 29:13 No. In fact, I left Flywheel at the end of 2018 when… We were acquired, which was in 2014. Four years into the business, we sold. It was still my baby, and I absolutely knew I wanted to stay with the company. The people that took it over unfortunately became very difficult to work with, and I know this is a very common story when companies are acquired. I didn’t quite realize how it was going to play out. And sadly, as the years went on, it just more and more started to not feel like my company anymore. It changed a lot, and I couldn’t… It got to the point where I felt that it didn’t represent me anymore, and because of that, it was hard for me to represent the company. So I made the very difficult decision to leave at the end of 2018.
Ruth: 30:17 And quite frankly, since 2018, it’s been a tough journey, and I’ve really had to take a lot of my own advice. What I mean is we’ve all had those moments and periods of time where we have to sit with discomfort because we might not know what’s next, and that’s really difficult. So I spent a lot of time… I took some time off, but then I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was next. I was getting closer and closer to some new ideas, again, in the health and wellness realm, and they all involve brick and mortar. And then bam, the pandemic hit, right, in March. And boy, I didn’t know what to do then. It really felt as if the fitness industry was turned upside down so suddenly.
Ruth: 31:15 And what I did know was I needed desperately to do something. I couldn’t just sit there in the pandemic and in the lockdown and not do anything. So that inspired me to start what I call Tru Community. And Tru Community became an online virtual business offering spin classes, and then we expanded it to different genres of fitness. But most importantly, I did it not just to exercise or to offer exercise to all of my community that I had built for all these years, but what was as equally important to me was connecting, because certainly in a pandemic, we need to connect more than ever.
Ruth: 32:02 So I started these classes, only live streamed because if we could do it on Zoom, we can connect with each other. So for the 10 minutes or so before the class and after the class, we could all chat with each other. And we also added another element to it, which I called Tru Talks. So once every couple of weeks, we could all get together on a Zoom call and not be on a bike or not be sweating and exercising together, and get to talk to each other and listen to maybe a speaker or someone speaking to something that we can all relate to. And that has become a big part of it, and I’ll be curious to see where that goes. So we’re having fun with it. Yeah.
Kimberly: 32:48 I love it, love it.
Ruth: 32:49 Thank you.
Kimberly: 32:50 Ruth, you’re constantly evolving. You’re constantly [crosstalk 00:32:53].
Ruth: 32:53 Yeah.
Kimberly: 32:54 You have this creative power. In yoga, this embodiment, Saraswati. I don’t know if you’re familiar with yoga, but this idea, this intelligent, creative beauty.
Ruth: 33:04 Thank you. So who knows? We’ll see where that goes. We’ll see where I go as a person who inspires people. It was hard to get my speaker series going, but then that obviously came to a screeching halt too because I couldn’t travel anymore around the country and do my keynotes. Obviously, I can do a little bit on Zoom, but that changed too. So I am looking forward to the day I can do that again and see where that takes me.
Kimberly: 33:42 Well, hopefully, it won’t be too much longer.
Ruth: 33:43 I hope. I hope it’s not. Yeah.
Ruth shares how she puts the Four Cornerstones into her daily practice
Kimberly: 33:46 So Ruth, here in our community at Solluna, we have what we call our Four Cornerstones of wellness, of true beauty, which are food, body, emotional well-being, and spiritual growth. I think the body part is exercise and supplements and sleep. Food is obviously food. Emotional well-being is community, journaling, processing, anything that helps us to support our mental health. And then spiritual growth I define as nothing to do with religion, but more our journey to understanding ourselves more deeply, whether that’s stillness, going in nature, meditation. So can you talk a little bit about practices or the way that you would approach these four? Body we know about. We’ll start there. We know about the spin. We know about the dance. Anything else you’d want to add there in that category?
Ruth: 34:39 Just really finding some form of exercise that makes you feel good. And one of the things I noticed that was a product of the pandemic and the lockdown was how great it is to just walk.
Kimberly: 34:55 Yes.
Ruth: 34:56 And walk outside and, as you said, be in nature. And that was something that… Walks fell by the wayside for me when I got so busy with everything else. And since the pandemic, I’ve been making a point of taking long walks, and boy, does that help us all around in all the pillars.
Kimberly: 35:19 Totally.
Ruth: 35:19 So I’m a big proponent of that, and it’s something I’ve learned recently.
Kimberly: 35:24 Yes. I actually am a daily walker too. I put the baby in the carrier, so I get to be with him, and I get to be outside, and it’s just so good mentally. So it’s part of my emotional well-being pillar too, for sure.
Ruth: 35:39 So that’s something.
Kimberly: 35:40 And then food-wise, Ruth, do you like to cook? You live in New York City. Are you a big take-out person? Do you have regularity to what you eat?
Ruth: 35:49 Yes. I am not a take-out person. I love to cook. And I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a lot of my time out in Sag Harbor, where I am now, out on Long Island, where we get such good ingredients because there are farms everywhere. And eating for me has always been about eating in moderation, but not depriving, and eating everything. I don’t really exclude food groups. I like everything. I love to eat, and it brings me great pleasure. So moderation has always been the key for me, not overdoing it, and definitely not… If I was going to exclude something, it would probably be sugars, but I’ll eat natural… things that have natural sugar and just try to curtail the processed foods. But I’m a meat eater, and I love it. And again, just eating to enjoy and making sure you’re eating for the right reasons, and not for emotional reasons, that has helped me a lot too.
Kimberly: 37:01 Yeah. I used to be a little bit more rigid about I won’t have any gluten, but then I discovered sourdough bread, which my body digests really well. So now I’m a huge sourdough bread eater, right? So we go along, and I don’t know. I just feel like I’ve opened up a little bit more to certain things that I would never eat.
Ruth: 37:20 Yes.
Kimberly: 37:21 And I just feel like having a really more relaxed approach helps me digest food better, in general, also.
Ruth: 37:27 I think that’s definitely true.
How to keep your center
Kimberly: 37:29 So Ruth, through all these incredible ups and downs of your life, you feel like a really centered person. So again, when I talk about the spiritual part, it could be advice you’ve gotten from other women or other teachers or just having time to meditate or stillness. How do you keep your center?
Ruth: 37:48 For me, Kimberly, it’s really been about therapy, doing my own work in therapy. I started the therapeutic process a long time ago when my father was dying and I didn’t know how I was going to deal with that, and I needed some help with that. And that just kind of set me on a trajectory of working on myself. It’s been a very long process, but it’s so incredibly helpful. I think if I’m going to simplify the whole path, it’s really about learning who you are, first and foremost, and then liking who you are.
Ruth: 38:32 This is not something that happens overnight. It takes a lot of work, and it’s really about, at the end of the day, your self-esteem level. And self-esteem levels, as I’ve learned subjectively, go up and down. We have phases in our lives where they’re pretty low and phases when they come up. It’s a constant work in progress, but so much of it has to do with how we feel about ourselves. I think that the better we feel about ourselves, the more authentic we can be and real.
Ruth: 39:08 And what I’ve learned through practice is that the more vulnerable I’m willing to be, the easier I can connect with people because, at the end of the day, that is how we connect. If you think about it, the people out there, and we all know a lot of them, who are really filled with a lot of fear and are afraid to be vulnerable, those are the people that we have a hard time connecting with-
Kimberly: 39:36 Totally
Ruth: 39:36 … because they’re putting on airs, or they’re trying to be someone they’re not, or they’re not-
Kimberly: 39:41 Totally.
Ruth: 39:45 … authentic. And I think you understand, from your reaction to what I’m saying, we don’t know what do with that. And sometimes we take it upon ourselves, and we think, “Oh, well, what am I doing wrong, because I’m not connecting with that person?” We have to remind ourselves that it’s not you. It’s that person.
Kimberly: 40:03 Exactly. Exactly. I know exactly what you’re talking about, Ruth. Again, when I go back to energy, you can feel someone’s heart. Vulnerability, their heart just feels more open, and they’re not pretending that everything’s perfect, like the moms that pretend, oh my God, everything’s these perfect little meals and everything’s neat. I’m like, “Come see what my kitchen looks like on a normal day with all the food on the floor and Legos.” I’m trying to carve out my little space to eat with all the Legos everywhere.
Ruth: 40:33 That’s real, right?
Kimberly: 40:35 Yes. Yeah, and it feels good to be real. It’s very freeing, isn’t it?
Ruth: 40:41 It’s so freeing, and it’s comforting when you find out that other people are experiencing what you’re experiencing. And again, that’s how we connect, and truthfully, I feel that that’s been a big reason for whatever success I’ve experienced because the feeling of success for me, again, comes back to being able to inspire people, and I could never do that without being vulnerable.
Ruth shares how she keeps her center and what beauty means to her
Kimberly: 41:10 Wow. So Ruth, this is the perfect segue into my last question for you, which has to do with the word beauty. I’ve explored beauty for years. Three out of my… Well, I’m writing my sixth book, so three out of the six books have beauty in the title. And as someone that grew up in a very… feeling very uneasy in my body, I think. I’m half-Asian, and I grew up in a very Caucasian town in Connecticut. So even if the attention was positive, I always felt different. I always felt awkward. It translated into being a doer and achiever, an over-achiever. And that parlayed also into eating disorders. So I’ve had this whole journey about beauty.
Kimberly: 41:52 And what I’ve come to find is that similarly to what you were saying about being vulnerable, this whole idea about beauty inside out, it really is when someone is so connected to themselves and their unique essence. Those are the women that I find to be just stunningly beautiful, like you. You’re one of my beauty role models. The external features can be perfect and this and that and perfect hair, but that gets old very quickly, I think, if you start to talk to someone and there’s this emptiness or disconnection inside of them.
Kimberly: 42:26 So that’s what I’ve come in to this whole journey, is true beauty is something we never have to be competitive about, because we each have our own essence. And that’s felt really wonderful to me as a woman to then look at other women and celebrate their beauty, and we have our own beauty. Because so many women are competitive with each other, and there’s this fleeting sense of beauty in society about features and just all this external. So can you speak a little bit to our community, Ruth, about what you’ve come to understand about your own beauty?
Ruth: 42:56 Absolutely. Well, you’ve said so much already, and I’m in complete agreement with everything you’ve said. I think that, for me, what I’ve discovered is that beauty comes from kindness.
Kimberly: 43:11 Yeah.
Ruth: 43:11 And I think that, in this day and age, it’s hard to find that kindness. I feel that the path our world has taken, our country has taken for the past four years, if you will, I feel that a lot of kindness has been lost. And when I am attracted to people, I’m attracted to their kindness first and their openness. It’s just like you talk about the heart and being open. And that’s what draws me in, and that’s what becomes beautiful for me in that other person. And I feel that with what’s going on today with social media and the emphasis on perfection and that outer beauty, there’s no kindness in that. It’s all kind of conveyed in a cold kind of way.
Kimberly: 44:10 That’s right.
Ruth: 44:10 There’s no warmth there. And therefore, it makes it-
Kimberly: 44:15 That’s exactly what you need.
Ruth: 44:17 … hard and challenging to relate to it. And these goals are created that are completely unrealistic. And as you said, at the end of the day, they’re vapid at the end of the day. There’s just-
Kimberly: 44:31 Good word. Exactly.
Ruth: 44:33 It doesn’t last. I just believe that kindness is something that… Kindness and warmth are two qualities that come from within, and they go such a long way. I mean, we all want that, right? We all want someone to put their arm around us and say, “I understand.”
Kimberly: 44:54 Yes, exactly.
Ruth: 44:56 And that’s empathy. And I think that that, to me, is the most important quality that someone can have, and the beauty comes pretty quickly once you have that.
Kimberly: 45:09 Wow! Ruth, of all the people I’ve ever asked that question to, no one has actually connected kindness with beauty.
Ruth: 45:16 Oh, I’m so happy. I came up with something good.
Kimberly: 45:18 It’s such a brilliant answer. I’m going to make a whole little quote about that. Thank you, Ruth.
Ruth: 45:24 I actually just want to say one more thing, which is I feel that I’m a very kind person, and it has worked against me in many times of my life. Certainly in the business setting, it has not always worked well for me. But at the same time, Kim, I wouldn’t give it up for anything. It’s who I am and something I’ve learned to love about myself, and obviously, it’s something I feel is more important than anything else.
Kimberly: 45:54 That makes sense because when your heart’s open, sure, someone can come in and trample. But then the other option is living with your heart closed, which is even worse.
Ruth: 46:06 Who wants that, right?
Kimberly: 46:07 Yeah. Wow! Ruth, thank you for being such an incredible, inspiring woman, just having such an open heart, having so much wisdom to share, being so inspiring as a mother and an entrepreneur and someone that has been able to stay centered through this journey of life. So thank you so much, Ruth. I’ve loved our conversation.
Kimberly: 02:03 All right Beauties. I hope you enjoyed that time we had together with Ruth as much as I did. I just think she is such a powerful, inspiring, kind woman. So warm and so kind. And she is an example to all of us that we can create our dreams, we can do what we want to do at any age, and we can stay really warm-hearted and nice along the journey. So, that to me is one of the best parts of her whole story.
Kimberly: 02:33 So, sending you so much love, we will be back here in just a few days for our next community show, till then, take great care and I’ll be over on Instagram every day for if you want to connect with me there @_kimberlysnyder. Remember the show notes, recipes, meditations, everything else is at our website, mysolluna.com. See you in a few days, till then, take care and lots of love.