As told to David Robertson
Name: Frank Wells
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.