SOUL FOOD: How to Tackle Holiday Feasting With SoulCycle's Laurie Cole

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The holidays, perhaps more than anything else, are about eating. From endless plates of turkey to eggnog and latkes, it's hard to resist all the temptation to stuff your face like a wild hyena. But with all the heavenly deliciousness, there's also the depressing prospect of weight gain and sluggishness. Every year, I struggle with this dilemma. I want to eat until the cows come home but I also want to stay fit and healthy. This seems like an impossible task.

To get some advice on how to handle this, I talked to SoulCycle's senior master instructor, Laurie Cole. Laurie is one of the most popular SoulCycle instructors in New York City--the type whose classes go to waitlist within three seconds, not thirty. Laurie has been with SoulCycle for nine years. She typically teaches two morning classes and one evening class a day and on her days "off," she sees a personal trainer and often attends yoga classes. She's also a vegetarian, which makes her even more of a health and fitness guru. I figured she would be the best person to ask about holiday eating and fitness--although as a vehement carnivore, I can't agree with her advice about meat.

Isabel: So many people find the tendency to be lazy gets worse as it gets darker and colder. Do you struggle with this and if so, how do you keep yourself moving?

Laurie: I tell my class this: winter is actually a great time of year to get in the best shape of your life. It's an awesome time to try to set new goals, like taking Bikram yoga or indoor cycling classes without feeling FOMO with outdoor activities. It's also easier to keep an accurate track of what you are doing, versus just going out for a run which doesn't track distance as well as a treadmill or calories burned.

IE: Do you have any tips or suggestions on how people can stay in shape as they head into a season where they're constantly surrounded with huge meals and fattening foods?

LC: I am a big believer in balance. I think because we work out hard, we can play harder, and if that involves a few more drinks or carbs for a holiday dinner, you have to teach yourself that it is okay. Depriving yourself is counterproductive to enjoying the holidays with family and friends. You don't want to be counting calories this time of year but what you can tell yourself is this: if you decide to drink, you must have one full glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage (this not only helps with recovery but it also keeps you full), and if you are going to indulge in the typical holiday foods, you must not eat the leftovers! If you go in deep for a meal or a day of meals, make a point to eat as clean as possible the following day. I like to stock up on greens and sauté them during winter-time in order to get my body back on track as quickly as possible. Your body will tell you right away when it doesn't tolerate too much of something not in your normal regime.

IE: What are some exercises that you do off the SoulCycle bike? As people travel so much over the holidays and may be in locations without SoulCycle studios (all those places need to hurry up and get some though), what are some out-of-the box things you can do to stay fit?

LC: First of all, SoulCycle is more than just a workout: it's a mentality. It's a "I am getting it done" attitude. So if you approach any physical activity with that approach then you will have more effective results. I love to try new classes wherever I am on vacation, especially yoga classes, which are challenging and offer the extra bit of stretch I need. If you live in a temperate climate, choosing to ride a bike outside or even a short run can stimulate alternative muscle groups. It's always a good time to mix it up during the holidays and take a break from the year round routine. Even five minutes of jumping rope is super amazing from a cardio aspect and you would be surprised how challenging it truly is, plus it is easy to travel with.

IE: New Year's resolutions almost always involve trying to lose weight or lead a healthier lifestyle. What can you tell people trying to make this switch from lofty goal to reality? Do you have advice from your own experience getting into health and fitness?

LC: New Year's resolutions can be tricky. I think setting a goal is great but instead of making your goals with a do or die attitude, be more inclusive of the big picture. For instance, is this the year you attempt a half marathon? Is this a year you finally hire that trainer you have been Internet stalking? Health is a cumulative experience and the calendar has no boundaries. To simply say: "I want to lose ten pounds this year" without an action behind it can leave you feeling discouraged and uninspired. In regards to eating, it's always a good idea if you aren't already a vegetarian to take small breaks from eating meat in your New Year's resolutions. Not only is it good for your digestive system to have a break but also it's good for the environment.

IE: Why do you think SoulCycle is so effective at getting people to really enjoy working out? For those who may be trying to convince people to join them on the bike in the New Year.

LC: One aspect of working out is the human connection to SoulCycle. Nothing will ever replace the energy we all get by connecting in a fundamentally similar mindset that inspires all of us to dig a little bit deeper and reach a little bit higher. This is a community, a lifestyle, and a way to stay consistent by connecting to a community of like-minded individuals

IE: What songs are top of your list right now for making you want to work out for those of us who need musical motivation?

LC: Everyone who knows me and takes my classes right now knows my current obsession with Justin Bieber's new batch of songs. They are perfect for class in every way: perfect tempo, perfect vibe, perfect energy. But I would be remiss if I didn't mention my absolute two regular favorites: Kaskade and Odesza. Their remixes are stunning and when we ride to their music the energy is barely containable. They just have the magic touch in my classes.

Laurie's suggestions for holiday fitness are helpful most of all because they are realistic. Whether you try some of her tips or take a few of her SoulCycle classes, you won't be sorry (Justin BIeber reference intended).