Since the very beginning of his journey to become one of the next instructors at The Sweat Shoppe, Alex Gastelum has supported his fellow teacher trainees. We sat down with Alex after his second class of the day taught by fellow teacher-in-training Callie Stark. He was sweaty, happy, and ready for a massage.
Over the last four years, Alex has been a staple in Shoppe trainer Melissa Lau's class. He takes his training seriously. On occasion, he has missed family events, skipped out on plans, and even taken a day off work to attend sweat cycles. Alex is the real deal.
Melissa has been Alex's heated indoor-cycling mentor and his inspiration to teach spin himself. "I taught Melissa's kids at one point, and she challenged me to come in and take her class. I thought, "I can't be indoors in a closed room—plus I already have my [own] workouts."
Finally, though, Alex decided to take on Melissa's challenge. "One day, I had the opportunity to take her class. I remember I was nervous. I sat in the back row next to a woman whose child I also had taught. I took the challenge because I thought, 'I can do this.'"
To his surprise, he found the class difficult and challenging.
"I was shocked. I thought with all the working out I was doing, I would be able to do it. But I couldn't. In the end, I was exhausted, and that's when I decided I wanted to start cycling."
Alex has been teaching children at Fun and Fit Gymnastics Center for 17 years. He was looking for the next step in his career—teaching adults. Over the summer, he decided to become a trainer at the Shoppe. This has been his way of giving back for what cycling has done for him.
"It has enhanced my performance, built my self esteem, and made me love myself."
His energy is contagious. Anyone who knows Alex can tell you his smile and demeanor can make even the shyest person come out of their shell. Cycling has been an emotional journey for him. When asked why he cycles now, his eyes welled up with tears of joy.
"I spin because I am afraid to die. I sit on the bike and just run. Just pedal. You only live once. I want to be happy, healthy, and alive to see my family and friends. Never look back!"
His favorite song for a seated climb is "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol. This song reminds him of how he refuses to fail or give up. He said he simply wants to be loved and understood.
"I just love that song; I want it for my wedding. When the song says, 'Would you lie with me and just forget the world,' it is like saying, 'I love you for you.' To me, when the song says, 'All that I am, all that I ever was,' it reminds me that I am okay just being Alex."
TSS: What do you do to let loose?
AG: I come to class five times a week. It's my stress reliever. I drop my shoulders and give my all, 110%.
TSS: What do you do when you miss a class?
AG: I panic. I am very structured, so when I miss class, I feel like I'm missing something—like I'm not complete. I'm stressed out if I'm not here. I feel empty.
TSS: What is your favorite thing about the Shoppe?
AG: The atmosphere. I like that everybody is different—different sizes, colors, ages. I like picking up people who are down, acknowledging them and making their day.
TSS: What was teaching your first class like?
AG: I was overwhelmed with so much support—which made it easy. It helped me not to be so emotional. I felt comfortable and was able to get right into teaching mode.
TSS: Who inspires you?
AG: Melissa (Lau)—her endurance, energy, and body, and her having three kids.
TSS: What is your personal mantra?
AG: Keep moving forward, don't look back.
TSS: What are your heated indoor-cycling musts?
AG: It's funny—but a mirror, then good music, a towel, water, and I'm good to go.
TSS: What do you leave at home?
AG: All of my baggage. I leave everything from the day at home: personal, financial, emotional, relationship—just, "Bye." Once I come in here, it's a whole other story.
TSS: Any advice for those new to training at the Shoppe?
AG: I would encourage them to breathe and focus on themselves. I would tell them they aren't here to compete against anyone. If I have to sit next to you, I will; and we will get through this together.