May I introduce you...Charlee Atkins @SoulCycle

Love Life and Lollipops- Charlee Atkins

When Jolie was on maternity leave and I was devastated at not having her class to depend on for the stress reduction I so desperately needed with two little kiddies driving me mad, I fell into Charlee's class and fell in love.  Her class is superdifficult and totally sexy and wildly addictive.  She agreed to give us a glimpse into her life and psyche and I have to say after reading her interview I was floored.  Not only is she an amazing instructor, woking out of a perfect body, and popular on top of all that, she's smart and analytical and deep.  LOVE HER!! So with no further adieu:

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I know you've moved around a bit in your life (Hawaii, Seattle, LA to name a few).  What made you plop down in NYC? And did Soul have anything to do with it? Have you taught spin anywhere else? I was teaching spin for about a year at a small studio in LA when I was invited to a private ride taught by Soul Master Instructor Janet Fitzgerald.  At the time, I had heard of SoulCycle as a fitness studio, but I honestly had no idea about the community.  I went to the ride with my two best friends in LA -- Pixie and Angela (who are also instructors in WeHo now!) , and I literally took the best, most life-changing ride of my life. The following day, SoulCycle was holding auditions for the upcoming WeHo location, so me and my girls auditioned.  I remember driving to the studio, being nervous, wondering what music to play, and half-way there decided to just wing-it because all the spin classes I had taught previously had been practice for that moment. Immediately following my audition, Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler (founds of SoulCycle) followed me out of the spin room and said, "Where can we find you?  Have you ever thought about moving to NYC?"  Ha!  At the time, I had only been in LA for about a year so the thought of moving again was not an option, but Julie had planted the seed.  A month later I was at dinner with Janet Fitzgerald, Kaili Stevens, and Clare Walsh asking about NYC because I had somewhat entertained the idea in the last month.  My best friend, Angela, drove me home that night and was like, "Girl, you gotta jump!"  And jump I did.  Here I am! How long have you been teaching at Soul?  And what was the incubus to get you started as an instructor? My first day in NYC was December 1st, 2011 and I taught my first SoulCycle class December 12th at 6:30 pm in Union Square (so...9 months at Soul?) Like most instructors, the catalyst to me becoming an instructor was actually taking my first class.  After graduating college, I was living in Albuqueque, New Mexico (where my family currently lives) and I decided to take a spin class.  I, too, had a first class and it was super challenging (I definitely was not tap-backing or push-upping!).  The instructor yelled at me because I kept resting my elbows on the handlebars (big no-no!). The drive home that morning felt like it was suspended in time.  New Mexico is called The Land of Enchantment, and the sunrises and sunsets are the best I've seen in this lifetime.  Albuquerque sits at the base of the Sandia Mountains, with "sandia" translating to watermelon.  I was driving up, the sun was rising, the mountains were pink, I felt defeated, yet energized.  Looking back it was in that moment I decided that I wanted to be a motivator, instructor, coach, or life-changer of some sort. Side note, I thought my music selection would be pretty amazing too! When I moved from New Mexico (to Hawaii) I had no intention of returning to NM but something magical happened while I lived there, so I wanted to document that change.  I got the Zia sun symbol (the "symbol" of NM) tattooed on my sternum, aka heart center.

And while that was about four years ago, the meaning of that tattoo has manifested itself into my life:
(from Wikipedia...)
"...The Zia Indians of New Mexico regard the Sun as a sacred symbol.  Their symbol, a red circle with groups of rays pointing in four directions, is painted on ceremonial vases, drawn on the ground around campfires, and used to introduce newborns to the Sun.  Four is sacred number of the Zia and can be found repeated in the four points radiating from the circle.  The number four is embodied in:
  • the four points of the compass (north, south, east, and west);
  • the four seasons of the year (spring, summer, autumn, and winter);
  • the four periods of each day (morning, noon, evening, and night);
  • the four seasons of life (childhood, youth, middle years, and old age); and
  • the four sacred obligations one must develop (a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit, and devotion the welfare of others), according to the Zia's belief...."

Your class is addictive and your energy is intoxicating!  How do you keep it fresh each class and maintain your cool while killing it on the bike?
Well, it wasn't always like that, so I'd like to say it took a lot of practice.  :)  A lot of spin classes.  When you're put in a situation where you are acting from impulse and have to be in the flow of the Universe, I believe our true selves come out.  You are acting from pure action and reaction, similar to any pro-ball player who only has seconds left on the clock and has to decide whether to take the shot, or pass.  So, to relate that to teaching, I believe your true colors come out up there.  That, my friends, is the truest form of life coming through me!  To relate it to riding, when you're put in a stressful situation (i.e., last song in class, and instructor is asking you to push-it!) and the choice you make to keep pushing or to pull back, is a reflection of how you act outside of the room.  But the beauty of it, is that you choose.
As far as keeping it fresh, that's what progression is all about.  As a rider, and as a instructor, each class should be your best class....otherwise why keep coming back?
Where do you find your music and do you listen to the same stuff on your off time that you play in class?
A lot of music research goes into the SoulCycle instructor lifestyle!  I've always called it "music-ing" and I believe the term has since caught on!
I find most of music online through the website Hype Machine.  (http://hypem.com/popular).  I looooove me some remixes, so I'll hear a song that I like and then search for the remix and I purchase most music from beatport.  Also, a lot of riders also send me music, and I tend the venture out for music search from there.  I music share with instructors a lot.  Marvin and Janet are the best music share-ers!
I listen to the music I play in class, because there is an element of knowing the song.  However, when I'm not in music-land I tend to listen to trance-y, chill-like stuff.  Currently I'm listening to the Moby station on Pandora, and it is so relaxing, yet energizing at the same time.
Where did "Yes or Yes" come from?  I love love it.
I'm big on "inner-cising" as well as exercising.  Inner-cising is keeping the mental component of life fine-tuned.  I only read motivational, success, and business-like books.  This particular saying comes from one of the best books I've read Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker.  Driving around a lot in LA, I used to get audio books to listen to while spending hours (literally, hours) in the car.  Eker was one of the speakers on the audiobook "The Secret: Teachers Recorded Live" (http://www.amazon.com/The-Secret-Teachers-Recorded-Live/dp/B000Y8ZIM8) and I really resonated with his speaking style and how he delivered the message.  If you listen to his part, I'd like to think you would say he and I are similar.  Ha!  His speech definitely influenced me!
Do you workout outside of Soul?  Your abs are uh-mazing!  What's your favorite way to break a sweat?
Working out to me is a lifestyle choice and I do it because I enjoy it.  Much like some people enjoy watching movies, or dining out, or traveling.  Working out is what I do.  :)
I workout in and out of Soul.  Most people know my obsession with SoulCycle instructor Danny Kopel, and if they don't, I certainly make sure to give him credit because it is most certainly due.  I try to take as many DK classes as possible, because his class is art, his class is beauty, his class in fun, his class is soul.  He is fabulous!  Other than #dannyce-ing with DK, I take yoga at Moksha Yoga in the West Village and kundalini yoga at Golden Bridge in Little Italy.  And as of late, I've been obsessed with taking the group fitness classes at Equinox.  I love the MetCon3 class as well as the 30/60/90 classes.
We chatted once about you eating vegetarian (yay!).  What lead you down that path?  And is it something you'll stick with??
While living in LA, I came into the land of organic vegan and vegetarian restaurants.  I started going because I thought the food was phenomenal, so much that I starting seeking out vegan/vegetarian spots and they just became my go-to restaurants: (Cafe Gratitude, Real Food Daily, Cru, M Cafe, The Newsroom, Urth Cafe, Veggie Grill).  I was still eating some meat (mainly at Chipotle!) however, I started to notice an energy level increase when I stuck to just the veggie diet.  About the same time I discovered kundalini yoga, and then Forks Over Knives was released, and I just made a conscious decision to eliminate meat (including fish) completely.  A few months later, I tried eating meat again at dinner, and it just didn't taste the same.  In fact, I find since going veggie that the flavors profiles of the food start to become much more noticeable.  It definitely makes eating that much more enjoyable.  I don't typically drink wine, however since going veggie, I even find drinks to have more robust flavors.  People find it hard to believe that an athlete can be vegetarian/vegan, but plain and simple, for me, I don't need meat to survive.  :)
What advice do you have for new Soul riders (/addicts;))?  Any advice for advanced riders??
New Souls -- show up early!!!!
  • Give yourself time to get situated, that way you're not rushed into the room and onto the bike.
  • Have no expectations.  And trust the process.  If your first class is easy, then you're not giving yourself room for growth and improvement.  :)
Old Souls -- show up early!!! :)
  • Give yourself time to breath, when you rush into class you lose the essence of being in the flow.
  • Have no expectations and trust the process.  If it was easy, you wouldn't have showed up.

Eve