Any brave student who has attended a SoulCycle class in Washington, D.C. can attest to the celebrity of instructor Chris Pepe (COL ’15). He is no stranger to the SoulCycle community, and can regularly be found “tapping it back” at many of the D.C. studios. However, it may come to surprise many students that Pepe, who is known popularly as an exercise instructor, is also a graduate of Georgetown University.
For the uninitiated, SoulCycle is a 45-minute full-body workout class of spinning, core exercises and weight training. “Soul,” as it is referred to by regular riders, has taken the fitness world by storm. Celebrities like soccer player David Beckham, model Alessandra Ambrosio and artist Demi Lovato have been sighted at the trendy workout classes. Even Michelle Obama has paid a visit to the Foggy Bottom location.
Since its founding in 2006, SoulCycle has expanded from New York City throughout the United States and boasts four studios in D.C. Pepe helped open the Georgetown, 14th Street and the Mount Vernon studios, all within the past year.
A native of New Jersey, Pepe double-majored in music and economics and was president of the Superfood a capella group while at Georgetown. With the goal of working in the music industry, Pepe spent his summers interning at the Verizon Center, the Fillmore and with various talent agencies in New York and Los Angeles. When SoulCycle opened in D.C. during his senior year at Georgetown, Pepe connected with the classes and their musical aspect. Although he originally auditioned to be an instructor for fun, he became hooked. After receiving an offer at a highly regarded talent agency, Pepe turned it down when he got an offer from SoulCycle.
The transition was surprising for those who knew Pepe. At Georgetown, he was not a Yates regular and barely even worked out until he discovered the one workout that he loved: SoulCycle.
“I always kept in shape, but I was pretty new to working out and fitness in general,” Pepe said.
Like many Georgetown students, Pepe found himself constantly stressed with curricular work and not prioritizing his health.
“Fitness really isn’t my passion. I just love being active and helping other people become active,” Pepe said.
Part of what has helped make SoulCycle so popular around the country is its social aspect. More than just a workout, it is an opportunity to set aside technology and be completely present in the moment.
“I think what I loved about it, and what a lot of people love about it when they come, is that they love the group environment of it. People like being in these group settings, because people look forward to leaving their phone in the locker for 45 minutes and are completely zoned in on something,” Pepe said.
Apart from conducting a rigorous routine, part of his job entails making people in his class feel welcome and have a fun time.
“I love making it hard, but I also love adding a bit of lightness to it and trying to make it funny — really engaging people. I really focus on the music aspect of it, so it’s one 45-minute DJ set,” Pepe said.
The job of instructor does not stop when the class is over. Pepe prepares a different playlist for every class, so he spends a lot of time finding new, popular music. In class, Pepe gets into the music by singing along and putting on a performance. He is best known for his “Bad Girls of Hip Hop” themed class, contributing to his reputation as a fun and engaging instructor.
According to Pepe, the most difficult part of his job is having to captivate different audiences. Pepe finds it mentally and physically exhausting to engage in the experience while maintaining awareness of the room and the clients. Moreover, constantly motivating a room of 40 people proves to be difficult when one is teaching upwards of 13 classes a week.
“It can get a bit repetitive. We find ourselves saying the same things over and over again sometimes. But I think the best thing you can do in a SoulCycle class, the most genuine thing, is to take what you are going through outside of the walls of SoulCycle and apply it in a very broad sense,” Pepe said.
With regards to the tribe of SoulCycle riders, Pepe says that the more classes he attended and the more he interacted with his instructor, the more he saw himself becoming part of the community.
“Having that community is something that people love and it’s a support system that follows you post-graduation. There is a big focus on welcoming every person who walks in the door — making them feel part of the family. Obviously it gets made fun of a bit, as people are sort of ‘cultish,’ but people are really proud to go to SoulCycle and be part of that community,” Pepe said.
For the typical college student, SoulCycle is an expensive routine to get into — single classes cost $34. Pepe explained that he strictly limited himself to going twice a week while at Georgetown. That was enough to create a habit of being excited about fitness and self-care. For the students who have never tried it, it is all about experiencing it for the first time.
“[You] have to give it a shot and see what it is. It sounds dramatic, but it can change the way you look at your life, or how you deal with problems that you have, or change the way you look at your health, or how you’re approaching your lifestyle — Especially for the typical Georgetown student who is always on the run and not really caring about themselves,” said Pepe.
Pepe found SoulCycle as a way to reconnect, adding that it is a no-pressure environment. It was really great for him to take a step back from his passion for music after graduation to remind him how much he truly appreciates it.
“It is important for students to realize that it is okay to be unaware of what you want to do or take a step back from your track when you are 22 years old. When you graduate, you realize how young you are and how much time you have,” Pepe said.
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