Pride Month Spotlight: How Fitness Changed Frank Wells

As told to David Robertson

Name: Frank Wells

Age: 30

City: Chicago, IL

Occupation: Instructor at CycleBar, server, and retail

I was born and raised in a small town in Kentucky. I played a few sports like most kids, but I never really felt like I fit in, being black and gay. After leaving the sports world behind due to injury, I gained a lot of weight, and at my largest, was over 400 pounds. Like most kids, I struggled with drinking too much and partying too hard when I started college, but things got worse. 

Once I moved out of the dorms and into my first college apartment, I had more control over my diet, and I was able to lose about 200 pounds through a vegetarian diet and yoga. Honestly, my wellness journey started with the usual vanity and body goals – I wanted to be smaller and have more options when it came to clothes, dating, etc.

However, further into my journey, it became more about feeling better. Most notably, I felt more confident, and I liked that.

After college, in my late twenties, my best friend from school moved to Denver. Shortly after, I decided to follow her. Through a funny turn of events, I stumbled into working full-time at an indoor cycling studio, CycleBar. Originally, I thought I was applying to be a bartender!

The rest evolved into a wild two-year ride. I started behind the desk checking riders in, along with some light custodial work. Then I moved on to sales and managing three CycleBar locations. Finally, after riding almost four or five days a week for two years, I became an instructor!

Along with teaching, I fell in love with taking boutique fitness classes, chiefly because of the group energy and atmosphere. Whether it’s yoga, HIIT, or spin, it doesn’t really matter to me. I simply enjoy the energy when a room of people are working together!

The biggest transformation I’ve seen has been mental more than anything. Yes, I have the dramatic before-and-after pictures and loose skin from losing a bunch of weight.

However, the most important transformation for me is feeling more confident and more in control of my body and my health.

I feel more relaxed, and having a regular exercise routine has been great for my anxiety and ADHD.

Coming from a small town in the South and being who I am, it has always been a struggle for me to be comfortable and express myself. Working in the fitness industry and having a place to be as out, loud, and proud as I like when teaching a Britney Spears theme class (and have people love it) has been a liberating experience and helped me come out of my shell in so many ways.

I wish I could let younger me know that exercise isn’t a punishment.

Growing up, I think we learn some not-so-positive things from playing sports. Mess something up? “Run the track.” Fumble a pass? “Wind sprints.” Same with food. Did you eat too much today? “Better get on the treadmill and burn it off!”

I think learning to enjoy exercise and finding what you love is so important because it can make something extremely uncomfortable become so much fun. I wish I had learned that earlier and let go of thinking about exercise as something “I had to do” and more of something “I get the chance to do.”

Frank’s Fitness Advice: One thing I’d love to stress is that it isn’t always easy! Be kind to yourself and take your time finding your rhythm. It’s about progress, not perfection.

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About David Robertson

David Robertson has been teaching group fitness for over nine years. He has degrees in Advertising and Kinesiology from the University of Illinois and is certified in Les Mills BODYPUMP, BODYATTACK, BODYJAM and Core, among other formats. Based in Chicago, he currently teaches at the Chicago Athletic Clubs and Fitness Formula Clubs. Previously he has taught at Flywheel Sports, CycleBar and OrangeTheory Fitness. By day, he works as a publicist for several lifestyle brands at a local public relations agency.