It has been about 13 months since I started making radical changes to my lifestyle in order to lose weight and get healthier. Flashback to late Summer 2018 and I was the heaviest I’d ever been in my life, I was having daily hypertension headaches because I was eating unhealthy, my doctor told me I had high blood pressure and needed to get healthy, and I’d just found out I was going to be a dad. Change was needed.
I’ve always thrived on the ‘strength in numbers’ style of exercise with the peer pressure and accountability pushing me on the in the class. A friend told me about CycleBar and how locals got their first class for free so I checked it out and I was hooked almost instantly. CycleBar is an indoor cycling class with a mixture of sprints, climbs, push-ups, ‘tap backs’, arm exercises, and a brief bit of meditation. It’s all done in a dark room with mirrored walls, club lights, and loud ass music. I love it.
Last October, I started ramping up my fitness and went on to lose 40-pounds between October 2018 and March 2019 by doing 4-7 indoor cycling classes a week and getting my portion control in order. Along this fitness journey of mine, I came across Jesse Alexander (@ja__tapback22) who is a Master Instructor at CycleBar. He’s based out of NYC/NJ but also gets to travel the nation and teach master classes at their over 200 locations throughout the U.S.
I’ll be honest, when someone tells me “you have to take this class, this person is AMAZING” I immediately assume that person’s full of shit and probably way too into things like horoscopes and astrology but I was blown away by his enthusiasm for exercise and his motivational. It was infectious. So when I received an email a while back asking if I wanted to interview him about fitness my interest was piqued.
Jesse reached 230 pounds and was looking quite ‘puffy’ due to too much late-night snacking, drinking, and partying. He’s now 44-years-old, has lost more than 60 pounds, and he’s in the best shape of his life (picture above). I asked him a series of questions about how he stays fit, what’s the best clothing for men to work out in, how to preserve that athletic apparel so it doesn’t get worn out in a few weeks, and how he helps clients take it to the next level.
Cass: When did you know you wanted to lose weight? What was the first step you took in getting healthy? And something I’ve been wondering myself, when did you realize you’d reached a point in life where you were healthy?
Jesse Alexander: For me, it was never an issue of not liking what I saw in the mirror. I was always a confident guy. I think the biggest thing is you have to like yourself before you set out on a weight loss journey. If you do it out of self-hatred you aren’t going to be happier when the weight comes off. I always tell the story of being out to Chinese food with my father, and over an egg roll he said to me I had “gotten puffy”. My lifestyle wasn’t great – I was out partying a lot, eating whatever, not in a consistent routine.
I knew it was time to make a change, not because I didn’t like myself, but because it was time to get healthier. I cut out things like soda, eating 2 breakfast sandwiches a day (yes I did that), and started indoor cycling. Finding SoulCycle was my first indoor cycling class and a true game-changer for me. I had never before been a part of that kind of community experience.
I was quickly addicted and having a fitness routine combined with small changes in my diet the weight came off. Eventually, I auditioned, got rejected, auditioned again and became a founding instructor for FlyWheel. My fitness routine changed again when I found HIIT classes and strength training. Today I feel I’m in the best shape of my life and look better than I ever did when I was younger.
Cass: As someone who burns a ton of calories every day but needs to stay fully energized, could you take me through what a typical Monday-Friday diet might look like? Does it differ from the weekends in any way?
Jesse Alexander: I teach 10 classes a week in addition to my own daily workouts so eating throughout the day is a priority to make sure I stay fueled. Breakfast is usually protein pancakes, or eggs with avocado toast. I’m on the go a lot so I’ll try to get a protein shake or two in throughout the day. I’ll try to grab whole foods for lunch that includes greens and protein.
I get home late from work but I’ll always cook so I’m not just eating whatever’s around – usually I’ll make some form of protein like burgers, steak or chicken and something green on the side. Since my schedule isn’t the typical Mon-Fri work week, I tend to eat pretty similarly all week long – I go for an 80/20 mindset daily instead of eating well through the week and letting loose on weekends. I try not to deprive myself too much – I’m going to have pizza with my kids if they want to go get pizza.
Cass: A lot of people start exercising after reaching that invisible ‘I can’t believe I’ve hit this weight’ number that we all have in our heads. It’s different for everyone. Then they hit the gym and expect to see results overnight. The ones that stick with it are always happy they do because they’re lighter, healthier, stronger.
As an instructor, do you notice when clients hit this invisible barrier of self-confidence and health? What are some ways to keep people motivated to exercise in those early days before they start seeing the weight loss results and body changes to stop guys from losing interest?
Jesse Alexander: As an indoor cycling instructor, a lot of milestones I see my clients hit have nothing to do with weight loss. Of course they start to look and feel a lot better and we will always praise and notice that but I try to also recognize the smaller moments that have more to do with them gaining the confidence they didn’t have before.
The moments like moving from the back corner of the room to a front-row bike, hitting a personal goal of a number they’ve never sprinted to before, and especially gaining the endurance to stay out of the saddle at faster speeds for longer which is generally difficult for beginners. Even wanting to take pictures with other clients or being more involved in the community is a huge step forward.
Cass: There seems to be a day when every serious gym rat ditches the sleeves and starts wearing tank tops to the gym whether it be for cardio or weight lifting. I’m a Sleeves Guy™. In fact, I’d prefer to workout in a collared tennis or golf shirt made from smart fabrics if I can.
Each guy is unique and this is an issue the fitness/athleticwear industry seems to grapple with. When you look at the athleisure industry for ladies, there are very clear frontrunners on which brands are dominating the market. For guys, the best options are usually shopping online or hitting a discount store and buying workout clothes that we know will last a few months before you can’t clean them anymore.
Do you have advice on the best athletic apparel for a guy who does cardio every day if not several times a day? What tips do you have for getting the most life out of this clothing when it’s constantly getting hit with sweat? When should a guy know it’s time to toss away his favorite gym shit because its lifespan has passed?
Jesse Alexander: My two favorite brands that consistently deliver great quality are Lululemon and Nike. These materials recover better from intense workouts and are consistently good quality for the price. In terms of getting the most life out of clothing, I try not to let my sweaty clothes sit in sweat bags after a workout.
Hang them to dry out before you wash them and use a good quality detergent made for athletic wear (I like Tide Sport). Another tip is to add plain white vinegar to your wash cycle – this absorbs odors. If I notice a shirt isn’t smelling clean even after a wash or two, then I know it’s time for it to go.
Cass: I love food. I love eating food. I love all cuisines and I’m not the type of person who can eat the same thing every single day. I recently lost 40-pounds from doing 6-7 days a week at CycleBar but have hit this plateau and can’t lose the 10-15 more I’d like to.
What sort of advice would you give someone like myself looking to hit that next gear? And what sort of advice would you give to someone who has hit their target weight? Do they maintain the same daily routine that got them there or is a shift in lifestyle needed to maintain?
Jesse Alexander: Indoor cycling was the biggest game-changer for me when I lost the weight I needed to, but consistent weight training put me over the edge to see the final goals I wanted to come to life. CycleBar is incredible for cardio and doing it almost every day will definitely help maintain and continue to lose weight but adding in strength training will help you build muscle and continue to burn fat as well.
If you’ve hit your target weight my advice would be to continue doing what you’re doing but adding in cross-training keeps your body guessing. I think a shift in lifestyle is definitely the key – you aren’t just going back to old habits once you’ve hit your goals, you’re now a new version of you.
Also, rest! People underestimate how important rest days are to weight loss and building muscle. Your body needs to recover to perform efficiently. Add in an extra rest day and see what happens!
Cass: For any aspiring instructors out there, how do you develop the lung strength to speak constantly throughout a workout? I know people who are in immaculate shape but can’t hold a conversation on a jog or they’d be winded. What are some tips to develop that lung strength to be able to lead a group while working out?
Jesse Alexander: This truly takes building vocal endurance which takes time and practice. Newer instructors build their stamina talking and riding and it gets easier – a huge game-changer is the perch on the bike! Instructors shouldn’t be crushing their ride like a rider does. Stop pedaling so you can efficiently look, talk and coach your riders – plus you’ll get your breath back too. When I came back from my honeymoon, I was out of shape from not teaching for weeks and this forced me to develop this new style of coaching while perching and being off-bike more. It really upped my game and forced me to connect in a newer way to my riders.
You can find Jesse Alexander on Instagram at @ja__tapback22, at CycleBar Fort Lee where he’s a Master Instructor, or at CycleBar locations throughout the nation where Jesse regularly travels as a guest Master Instructor. You can find me on Twitter at @casspa, regularly riding at CycleBar UTC in Sarasota, on Peloton at username ‘CassPA’, and on Instagram at @BroBible.