Q & A with Matthew
Every single time we share one of these Q & As, I/we get more than just a little excited picturing you all reading the story and what it means individually and collectively. You’ve heard it said around here that we all have a story, and it needs to be told. Yes and yes. Reading about how someone is doing their life and working to be the best version of themselves is powerful.
Matthew has been leading rides at Torque for almost a year. In addition to his full time career, he teaches once a week, so if you haven't cycled on Saturdays or worked out with him in the gym, you may not have had a chance to experience his greatness.
When I told a friend to take Matt's class I said, “When he looks at you (because that's you he's nodding at!) and tells you that you look incredible on that bike, you will totally believe him!” Matt, thanks for sharing all your answers to my questions and letting us dig in with you a little bit.
Describe your morning routine, what does it look like, and what is the first thing you eat and do on a normal day?
I recently started working from home, so I have the luxury of a little extra time in the morning that used to be spent sitting in traffic. My mornings now start with brewing a pot of coffee, instead of just a cup. It is so nice to be able to go back for the second (and third) cup. With that little extra time I have, I’ve been trying to prepare more breakfasts instead of relying on a quick yogurt or a frozen evol sandwich. Lately, it’s been egg whites with a vegetable and another protein mixed in.
I’ve been on a mission to finish up all the frozen bananas I have lying around and I’ve been loving having this for breakfast: Baked Banana Oatmeal from Kath Eats Real Food. It freezes well and I add a scoop of plain greek yogurt for some protein.
What’s your favorite way to get cardio into your week?
Cycling. It’s what I love and I’m so glad I found it as an efficient way to get my cardio in. I love teaching it and I love riding with other instructors. Cycling helps me get my cardio in and let my mind go.
This summer I discovered open water swimming. I thought I was in shape from a cardio perspective, but starting open water swimming proved me otherwise! With a little bit of practice (and sometimes forcing myself to do it), I ended up being able to swim across Lake Nokomis and back without stopping to catch my breath. I was proud when my husband, sister, and I completed a tri-sprint this summer.
I also love when the trainers downstairs push me on a hard workout that gets my heart rate and breathing up. But more on that below.
What's your favorite exercise to do downstairs with the trainers?
I was so nervous for my first workout downstairs with the trainers. Again, I thought I was in shape from teaching spin 3 days/week. But working out downstairs with the trainers showed me there was a whole side of fitness and wellbeing that I was missing. And it really changed my body and perception of strength.
Anyone who works out with me is going to hate me for writing this …. But I actually like burpees. The hardest things like burpees, ropes, jump squats, or extensive sets of anything are a chance for me to tell myself “am I going to half-ass this, or am I actually going to push myself to do this.” I choose the later and make myself do it. I think I already regret writing this …. because I know I (and everyone working out with me) am going to be doing burpees every workout from now on.
What's your food strategy and prepping style?
I love cooking. So I purposely try to make time to set aside some time each night to do some cooking. For me, time in the kitchen is my me-time -- time to listen to NPR, new music stations, or just be peaceful with my own thoughts. I like cutting, chopping, mixing, and experimenting too much to do it all in just one day. My week would feel empty without time cooking.
Because of that, my food strategy is to make sure I have a sufficient supply of proteins, vegetables, and clean grains on hand for the week. And then I basically make it up as I go. No matter what I make, I make at least 2 extra servings that we can use for lunches the following day. It’s become really important to me to make sure I have a quick healthy lunch to heat up otherwise I end up eating a bunch of junk the following day for lunch and then I still feel hungry and lethargic.
I drive my husband nuts when I cook because I view a recipe as inspiration, but not a script (he’s a pharmacist, so he likes precision!). My strategy is awesome until it comes time to make it again …. I can rarely duplicate anything twice because I have a terrible memory.
Some things I love lately that have become really versatile for my meal prep:
- The Cub Food by BBB has huge bunches of organic kale that are so reasonably priced (way more so than Whole Food, etc.). We go through at least 3 bunches/week. I like to sautee it in a pan with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice. Or it is great seared in a wok with sesame oil, garlic, a dash of soy sauce, a dash of fish sauce, and a good portion of sriracha.
- Trader Joe’s 10 minutes farro. It goes well with anything as a replacement for rice or other lower-value carbohydrates. I love adding mushrooms and making a quick risotto.
- Squashes and root vegetables this winter. I’ve been having fun trying to incorporate parsnips and turnips into the things I’m cooking for some new flavors and textures.
- A fun mail-delivery service called Raw Spice Bar. They send a monthly packet of spices blends and recipes that encourage me to explore new flavors and cooking techniques.
How did you find cycling, or how did cycling find you?
Like most people, I tried my first cycling class when a friend invited me to come along. The first instructor I tried was terrible -- threatening, in your face, and aggressive. Frankly, I’m surprised I ever tried it again. But eventually I found instructors and class formats that I liked and I was hooked. I used to live 1 block from the studio where I rode regularly so it became easy to make cycling a part of my routine. I lived with roommates at the time and it because all of our routines with a social aspect added to it.
After riding for years with my regular instructors, one of them encouraged me to give instructing a shot. I attended several certification workshops with incredible trainers to learn technique, safety, and effective class design. I felt like I was ready to start leading a class.
I was rejected the first time I auditioned for a studio. That hurt. It hurt because of the rejection but also because I lost an important part of my own fitness routine because I was too embarrassed to go back.
I was determined to make it work and tried out for a different studio. They placed me in a Monday 5:45 AM class. As much as I hated the early class time on a Monday, it was a perfect place for me to start because I had a small class of regulars who helped me grow as a new instructor.
How did end up at Torque and Bodies by Burgoon?
I’m a firm believer that good things happen to good people for a reason. I found Torque Cycling and Bodies by Burgoon through Lindsey. We used to teach back-to-back at another gym. We’d chat but we were usually in a rush switching out the class. Randomly, I decided to stay after my class one morning and take Lindsey’s class for a double header. We started chatting after class and I learned it was one of her last classes there before she moved to Torque. She told me to come by and check the place out … that random connection to Toque, Bodies, and all the people that have come along with it prove to me that things happen for a reason.
I’m really proud to work at Torque where I get to help people push themselves and where they help push me right back. Training with riders downstairs is one of my favorites parts about working at Torque. One of my other favorites parts is having my husband ride in nearly every one of my classes. Whenever I think I’ve butchered a drill or that people are hating me, I look down off the instructor platform and he flashes me a reassuring smile. (Usually. Sometimes it is death daggers along with everyone else). Shout out to Matt D. for cheering me on in all aspects of my life!
As a cycling instructor, what have you noticed about riders that stick with it and become regulars?
I am always so impressed by how quickly new riders who stick with it improve. It seems like it is just a matter of a few rides after their first class that the new rider is up out of the saddle sprinting and climbing with the pack.
There is that one ride where it all of a sudden “clicks.” When I see that happen for a new rider, it is usually accompanied by a big smile on that rider’s face. Most people don’t realize they smile at points during a ride. When I see that smile, I know that rider is having a strong ride and I let them know it after class. So when I tell you that you had a strong ride, I mean it.
The other thing that I’ve noticed about riders who become regulars is that they are capable of more than they know. I make a point of asking newly regular riders to try a class in the front row. They usually fight me on it, but once they try it, they never go “back” to row 2 or 3. There is something about the front row that gives you an extra push for an even stronger ride.
What is your favorite part about leading a class?
My favorite part about leading the pack is the energy I get from each and every rider in the room. I thrive on that. I thrive when I see people really pushing themselves because I know they’ll feel proud about themselves for the rest of the day. If I can help you get to a point where you are proud about yourself, my entire day is made and my soul and energy feel full.
There were two times this year when leading my classes was really, really hard for me. The first was the week after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. The second was the week after the Presidential Election. Both times, I felt ingenuine and inauthentic being energetic because I was really struggling and hurting. But looking back, I’m so glad I had the gift of leading classes those week. I created playlist those weeks with songs about love, humanity, and strength. I saw other people who were hurting like me let go of the external world around them and give their energy to the ride and the room instead. So I did the same. And that, in turn, helped me, too -- more than anyone knows.
What are you currently working on or learning about as it relates food or fitness?
Professionally, I’m working on expanding my music library and drill sets. I want to start bringing drills to my Torque Challenge classes that’ll help riders hit higher mileage targets during their rides.
Personally, I’m trying to incorporate what I’ve been learning about my body design from the trainers downstairs to improve my posture. My day job is at a desk so it’s important for me to support my body as best I can in that unnatural position. Our trainers are brilliant and focusing on this has helped eliminate pesky back pain that I was never able to get rid of before.
As it relates to “fun food,” I’m trying to learn more about building better cheese & charcuterie boards. I’m always so impressed when I see an incredible one at a restaurant. I’m learning that there is a lot that goes into pairing the profiles of cheeses and the enhancements you can serve with them.
In order to take care of yourself, is there anything in life you have had to let go of in order to be healthy, strong, and your best self?
I still have more work to do here. My approach to being my best self is to never let anything go completely, but to find an appropriate place for it to support that best self. I’m not perfect with what I eat or how much I drink. But I’ve been finding more and more of those appropriate places along the way.
A great example is pizza. I love pizza. But it wasn’t a good fit with eating in a way that supports my efforts to be strong. So there is no more frozen pizza in our house. Instead, when we enjoy pizza - we really enjoy it. I spend time making a homemade pizza or we treat ourselves to a really good pizzeria pizza. I haven’t let pizza go …. I just found a more appropriate place for it (usually followed by riding a Torque Challenge class the next day!).
What’s a favorite inspirational song, lyric or quote?
I have two.
#1: Opportunityisnowhere. You can look at this phrase two ways …. “Opportunity is No Where” or “Opportunity is Now Here.” I always choose the latter no matter what situation I’m in.
#2: "What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?" --George Eliot/Mary Ann Evans
You can catch a Matt class on Saturdays at 9 am, and for special rides like our January 7th 2 hour ride and January 21st Pedaling for Kindness ride. Stay tuned for more!
THANK YOU, Matt, for sharing your story. We are so lucky to have you on the team!