Bursting Your Assumptions with Megan Shone!

This week I sat down with Soul Cycle instructor and fitness entrepreneur Megan Shone to burst your assumptions! I was introduced to Megan through my best friend Hailey, who had described Megan as the human embodiment of sunshine. I can now attest that that is absolutely true! In our conversation we talked about creating a healthy relationship with your body, realizing no one is more critical of you than you are, and learning to stop placing all your worth in what others think.

What inspired your fitness journey?

I was an athlete my whole life and that was a huge part of my identity and who I was. I got four concussions throughout high school, but it was biggest dream ever to play soccer in college. As soon as that couldn’t happen anymore, I felt so lost. What do I do? Where do I go to school? I was your average student, but I didn’t put my all into it because I was super invested in soccer. Out of nowhere, I applied to University of Arizona. My freshman year, it was the first time where I went somewhere, and people didn’t know me as an athlete. I just felt lost because soccer had always been my physical activity and I loved working out because there was no pressure around it. Now I’m in college away from home and I’m trying to work out but it’s not fun anymore. I just wasn’t loving my body and I was trying to eat healthy to be skinny.

Sophomore year, my mom had had an extra pass to a cycling class, so I went with my mom and I seriously thought I was going to throw up after.  I went back and thought “This is the best workout I’ve gotten since soccer.” There was a small cycling studio, called Revolve Cycling, in Arizona and I started going all the time. The owner at Revolve came up to me after class one time and he was like, “Would you ever want to teach? In the of my mind I thought yes but then I thought, hell no could I ever teach. I could never go up in front of a class with a microphone on it. I’m the girl who when you are going around the classroom calling roll is scared to say “here.”So I of blew them off and just didn’t take his class so he wouldn’t ask me. One day I realized I want to be a cycle instructor because this is what makes me happy and it’s changed my life, so I want to be able to change other people’s lives. The first step is saying yes to teaching at Revolve, the next step is teaching one song in the manager’s class. I was driving to teach one song in a class and I seriously was having an anxiety attack and almost called him and said, I can’t do it. I started teaching the song and after it was the biggest high of my whole entire life, I was on cloud nine. And every time after that it got easier and I was still anxious and scared but as soon as I started riding, all the fear went away, and I saw the impact it had on other people.

So, I graduated now and ended up getting accepted into Soul Cycle training and then I was teaching 10-12 classes a week before the pandemic. I was trying to cross train on the side so that I didn’t get hurt but in January I hurt my back super bad. It was in the middle of the class and the whole side of my back had worst pain in my whole entire life. You’re teaching a class, no one knows and so you’re stressed out, but you can’t do anything about it. All I remembers is everyone left the room after class and as soon as they shut the door, I dropped down on the podium and started crying. After a month, I came back to teaching and my body was just not happy with me teaching the 10 to 12 classes because I was just overexerting it and doing way too much. You can’t recover when you’re teaching that much, and you have one day off a week. So, the pandemic was honestly a blessing in disguise.

At first, I didn’t know it and then three months in I thought, what am I doing with my life? Is my body OK to go back to be a full time instructor? Is it good for my mental health to be teaching that much and not being able to go out to my friend’s birthday dinner because I’m teaching a triple on a Saturday? All these things that I didn’t realize because being a soul cycle instructor was my dream. So, I ended up applying and getting a job as a plant-based protein area sales manager for that now and I started with Shine with Shone. I wanted a place for all the recipes and my playlists and a place to teach classes. So, the idea the idea for my website came from the idea that I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew that I wanted a place for sweating and connecting with other people.

I think something that a lot of people see fitness instructors as invincible and it’s important to remember that you guys are human, and your bodies do break down too.

I think a big thing, too, is that a lot of people think that fitness instructors have this really perfect relationship with working out and that’s just really not true at all for so many of us. Before we were instructors, we were people who were just taking classes so the assumption that we’re in this great place with our bodies and working out in general is not always true.

You are your brand in a lot of aspects. How do you navigate that external pressure versus what you’re feeling internally when your brand relies on you to always be uplifting?

The natural energy and the natural happiness are all there because I’m not overwhelmed and overworked anymore. Back when I was teaching twelve classes there would be times where I’d be actually crying an hour before class. But even on the days where it was the hardest and I was sad and tired and the last thing I wanted to do was go be happy and motivate someone, as soon as I walked into a class and saw the people that were there immediately that was all gone. I always think back to when I was a rider and there were days where I needed that motivation so badly. At the same time, when I was feeling down and then I would go and give out even more energy, I left feeling even more depleted. Something that nobody talks about because a full-time fitness instructor is that it’s even harder mentally than physically. Even though physically it’s a huge challenge, mentally it really takes a toll on you.

That was something I would have never known about you because I remember the first time, I took your class, I left and thought it was like a great class and I want to be her friend.

So, your first class was exactly one of the classes I was talking about where I was actually crying on the way to class because I’ve never been so tired in my life. That ended up being like one of my favorite class and was completely unexpected. I left that day thinking this is why I love this job, because even when I’m sad and having a bad day, I can go and teach and people I haven’t even met before are the ones lifting me up.

What impact do you feel like you have had on the community you have created and what impact have they had on you?

This all started from wishing when I was younger, I had somebody who was more open about things that I’m going through. There’s just so much that I want to unpack with fitness, wellness and food relationships that we all have with it because I struggled so much without anyone ever knowing. The more that I’ve talked about it with people, the more I realized that I’m not alone in having a weird relationship with food or with working out and being insecure. What ended up changing my relationship with my body and with food and with working out was listening to a podcast episode that hit home and it really shifted my whole perspective, so I want to be that source for everybody else.

How much of your life do you feel like you actually put on social media and how is it changing now that you’re creating more honest platforms for yourself?

In college social media was just a highlight reel. Then teaching with Soul Cycle, there’s this pressure to be happy and positive all the time. I can’t fake it; I genuinely am happy when I’m in the room and when I’m with friends. But of course, I get sad and I have anxiety and I don’t know how much people know something like that. I had this moment during Quarantine where I realized, I don’t want my social media to be something where I can’t ever talk about these things or where people are shocked when they hear that I have anxiety or that I had a hard time with my body in the past or with food in the past. I think that it’s super important to be more real on social media because it’s so hard to just look at everybody’s social media all the time and see these perfect lives and when we know it’s just not real. When somebody shares something and they’re so open, it makes you feel better. It makes me think, why don’t I want to be that for somebody else and be honest and open about the things that I’m going through. It’s not just the highlights all the time.

Being an entrepreneur in the fitness and influencer field is untraditional and there are a lot of misconceptions about how they make money because it is so new and public, how would you describe your streams of income?

Yeah that is something that no one really talks about. When I was thinking about being a Soul Cycling instructor, I was like, how do you make money? Do you make good money? Fitness instructors typically get paid per class. Basically, the more classes you teach, the more money you’re making so the more you’re exerting yourself, the more you’re giving more classes the more money you are making.  It feeds into the mindset of hustle culture because you are having to work so hard to make money and it’s hard to take care of myself. That was a big reason I made the decision to be part time now instead of coming back full time and to have another job where I’m on salary because now I’m teaching is just my hobby and my passion. It’s not a financial stress where I’m overexerting my body and going past what is good for my mental and physical health just to make more money, because then it takes the joy out of what I’m doing.

If you could go back to the start of this fitness journey, What advice would you give yourself or to someone who is in your position?

There’s such a big challenge in the beginning because you’re trying to meet as many people as you can and really get invested in the community. I would say something that no one probably thinks about, but is one of the biggest challenges, is just not comparing yourself to any other instructor in their journey. When you’re new, it is so hard and you want to have all this confidence in yourself, but you’re constantly doubting yourself. You’ll look out into the room and sometimes your thoughts are like, are they having fun? Are they going to go tell someone they didn’t like it? It’s just this spiral of thoughts. In the end, it doesn’t matter. It’s just giving all my energy and attention to the people that are showing up rather than thinking about all the open bikes in the room. Why not just focus on the people that are right there showing up, because that’s where all your energy should be going to. The hardest part for me was realizing not everyone is going to like you and that’s OK. That’s why there’s so many different instructors. Everyone has their own magic, their own music taste, what they bring to the table, their style of teaching, everything. My biggest piece of advice is to start off with so much confidence in yourself and be so grounded and rooted in your intention of why you’re teaching.

Because you are marketing yourself, how does this affect your mental health and your perception of yourself?

Social media is a huge part of promoting yourself in this business. It gets hard when you’re busy doing so many things and you’re trying to rest in between classes and detach, but you have to promote yourself on social media at the same time. How much time can you take away from it if you’re constantly responding to riders and engaging with them on social media, which is so important. I don’t just want to show up, teach and then never talk to the people that took my class. That’s the reason I do it, it’s so much more than a bike and working out.

What do you want people to feel or take away from you and your class and the atmosphere you create?

I love that question. My number one thing is that I just want to spread joy and spread light. I want people to leave feeling lighter and feeling freer. The biggest thing is to just feel more confident in themselves. I never want people to show up to my class and leave feeling down that they couldn’t do everything. I just want people to feel so confident in themselves and their ability and realizing that every single person has a different light that they can shine and that the beauty of it is that we’re all different. I think that you can have role models but that doesn’t mean that you have to be exactly like them. That’s one of the biggest things that I’ve learned and I’m still learning, it’s so important to have people you look up to, but you are never going to be them. So how can you take what you love about them and the light that you see in them and let it come to you and shine out? I just want people to connect with the people around them while they’re there and leave feeling stronger. I think that when you move your body and you challenge yourself; it gives you a sort of confidence when you leave.

If you want to keep up with Megan and hear more of these conversations subscribe to her website Shine with Shone and keep a look out for her upcoming podcast!