Written by Olivia Putnal Tuesday, April 24 2012
Snapshot: Ruth Zukerman, Co-founder of Flywheel Sports
New York City lover, resident and 25-year fitness instructor Ruth Zukerman has become an icon and inspiration in the world of indoor cycling and is thought to be the person that began the ever-so-popular New York City indoor cycling trend. Along with her co-founder Jay Galluzzo, Zukerman brought the cycling studio Flywheel Sports to the front burner, beginning in February 2010. The country has since followed her lead, and the world of spinning has exploded. Now, Flywheel has expanded to six major cities including Chicago, Atlanta, New York City, Highland Park, Charlotte and Boca Raton and in the coming months will open their doors in three more. “What I’ve learned, is that good businesses are based on trust, open communication and goal setting – these are foundation elements of the Flywheel ethos, and I’m proud, every day, to be a part of it,” says Zukerman.
Womenetics: Tell us a little about how Flywheel came about.
Ruth Zukerman: I’ve been in the fitness industry for upwards of 20 years, and I have always tried to stay ahead of the curve as it relates to the evolution of specialized fitness offerings – indoor cycling in particular. My partners and I developed the concept for Flywheel Sports by focusing on one key question: How can we make indoor cycling as fun and effective as possible without being exclusionary or, for lack of a better word, snobby? We developed proprietary performance tracking technology to allow for elements of self-motivation and competition. (Flywheel’s specially rigged bikes track a riders’ RPM, cadence, resistance and mileage, then uploads all the data to private online accounts so participants can track their performance over time.) We further enhanced the experience with stadium seating and theater lighting. Most importantly, we developed a method that incorporates the best, positive-energy-only instruction with amazingly curated playlists.
Womenetics: You’ve been a fitness instructor for over 25 years. What keeps you going?
Zukerman: I love everything about exercise and being healthy. I love a good sweat once a day. It keeps me looking young and, more importantly, healthy! Philosophically, I exercise so that I can live a “fun” life. I love to eat, drink good wine and enjoy time with friends and family.
Womenetics: Quality in your instructors is very important to you. What is your process for hiring new employees?
Zukerman: At Flywheel we search for the most talented fitness instructors. They need not have any experience “on the bike”, but they have to be compelling, charismatic, positive leaders. Flywheel has an intensive, multi-week training program that feeds our apprentice instructor program nationwide. Additionally, and as part of the training, we focus on some important philosophical principles. It’s important to make sure our instructors fit into the Flywheel culture of inclusiveness — we are a warm, open community and it is important that everyone, including instructors, staff and most importantly riders, feel they are part of our family.
Womenetics: Can you talk a little about any struggles you’ve faced along the way and how you overcame them?
Zukerman: I have had my fair share of bad experiences with business partners in the past where I went into situations a bit naïve and ended up paying the price. I don’t see as much of an “old boys club” in fitness as there may be in other industries, but the pitfalls and risks are still the same. What I’ve learned is that good businesses are based on trust, open communication and goal setting. These are foundation elements of the Flywheel ethos, and I’m proud, every day, to be a part of it.
Womenetics: Where did the funding come from to start and grow your business?
Zukerman: My partners and I used our own money and raised additional money from individual investors. We have tried to target what we call “money+.” These are people who bring exceptional track records and expertise, as well as funding.
Womenetics: Who has inspired or mentored you the most?
Zukerman: So many people have influenced my career and provided encouragement and inspiration. I am constantly inspired by my fellow instructors at Flywheel who are amazing and beautiful people, both inside and out. I would have to say my “mentor” was also my biggest fan – my Dad. He encouraged me to follow my dreams, never settle and to make people the number one priority in everything I do. I see that those values of his have influenced my two beautiful daughters as well.
Womenetics: You now have cycling studios in Chicago, New York City, Atlanta, Charlotte and Boca Raton. How does it feel to be expanding? Do you have any plans to extend Flywheel to other cities?
Zukerman: Yes! We just opened Highland Park, Ill. this week, and Seattle, Wash. opens later this month. Miami, Fla. will open in May, and this summer we will launch in Stamford, Conn. at the new Chelsea Piers facility. Beyond that…more cities in the United States and beyond!
Womenetics: As a mom, how do you motivate your children to be active in their everyday lives? What types of exercise do you enjoy as a family?
Zukerman: My twin daughters are both graduating college this year, and they are always regulars in my class when they come home to visit. They grew up in a healthy environment where we emphasized living a balanced life. We stressed the importance of studying, playing, exercise and most importantly, eating amazing food.
Womenetics: Do you have any tips for busy women in business that want to begin a new fitness regime, like indoor cycling, but don’t know where to start?
Zukerman: Well, I guess I would say that, like other things in life, the first step is the hardest. Inertia is very difficult to overcome, especially if your life is already jam-packed with work, family and other commitments. My suggestion is to sign up for a class, make it a priority on your weekly schedule and go for it! With indoor cycling in particular, I tell people it usually takes three classes to get hooked and about that many to start seeing and feeling results. Make that commitment, and motivation will never be a problem again!
Womenetics: What are some of your hobbies (besides cycling!)? What do you enjoy doing on the weekends?
Zukerman: I love New York City and everything it has to offer: great restaurants, theater, movies, museums and, most importantly, MUSIC! I am a music junkie, and I love the music scene in New York. I also cherish my alone/quiet time when I can disconnect from all technology, and the beach is one of my favorite places to do that. I have a tiny cottage in Sag Harbor, N.Y. that is my escape.
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Olivia Putnal is a writer and editor in Atlanta. She formerly wrote web articles and blogs for WomansDay.com in the areas of health, fitness, beauty, fashion, entertainment, news and food.