Imagine exercise that made you happy.
You didn’t have to worry about burning calories. You didn’t have to do exercises you hated just to get toned.
You could just go and do your workout, happy in your baggy workout gear, knowing that no one is going to criticize you and no one is going to yell at you to push harder.
At the end of the workout, when you wave goodbye and walk out that door, you’ll feel happy, glowing, and rested. Like you’ve just taken a break from the craziness of the world and found your center again.
Would you sign up?
Before you answer, meet Dr. Michael Hosking. He’s a biology professor and the founder of Revocycle Mind and Body, an indoor cycling studio in Portland, Oregon.
He wants to change your expectations around fitness. Maybe fitness isn’t supposed to be about losing weight and toning up. Maybe fitness was always supposed to be about something else:
The sheer joy of movement.
In this week’s YBTV interview, you’ll learn how exercise can change the brain to make you happier and less stressed. You’ll find out how the fitness industry is trying to sell you something other than fitness. You’ll also learn the very best way to motivate yourself for a lifetime of fitness (and the very worst).
Best of all, you’ll discover a new form of fitness that isn’t about how you look at all. It’s about feeling good.
What You’ll Learn
When folks walk into Michael’s indoor cycling studio in Portland, Oregon, they react in one of two ways:
Either they just go, ‘What is this? You don’t know anything about cycling or spin class.’ Or they stay for an hour and say, ‘I cannot believe I’ve found a place like this! Tell me more about what you do. I feel so much happier right now. Everyone is so calm and nice and pleasant.'”
At Revocycle, there’s no talk of weight loss. No mention of bikini season. No one is going to tell you that you need to feel the burn and whip that body into shape.
Instead, the message is “feel good. Move to be happy. Take time out of your busy chaotic lives to just celebrate movement for its own sake.”
That can come as a shock to anyone expecting a typical spin class.
“I have had young women literally burst into tears when I explained to them that we will not be talking about calories burned or bodies or bikini season or getting ready for anything,” Michael says.
“Women have been bombarded with this message their entire lives… In my view it’s objectifying and reduces women to their external appearance, which I think is a small fraction of the value of human beings.”
He gets why some people call Revocycle a feminist fitness business. But his mission is much broader than that.
He wants to instill a lifetime love of fitness. He wants to teach people “that you can use exercise to reduce your stress or your anxiety levels and also reduce or prevent depression.”
Quite simply, he wants to make people happy.
What Fitness is Really Selling
Michael didn’t always see the fitness in this way.
Years ago, he was a high-level athlete who didn’t question the language and goals of fitness. But an girlfriend who was in recovery from an eating disorder opened his eyes.
We used to go to the grocery store together, and she would point out the women’s magazines by the checkout stand. She’d say, ‘Look, Michael, what part of those magazines is about fitness?’ I said, ‘Well, they’re fitness magazines, of course.’
And then she’d point out the headlines, and the titles of the articles, and the pictures, and she said, ‘None of that has to do with fitness. It has to do with confidence, beauty, sexiness, and losing weight.’
“She told me that those magazines actually fed into her eating disorder,” Michael says, “by making her feel really bad about her body, making her feel like she wasn’t good enough, that she needed to lose five more pounds. Then, if she did, she’d be happy and look just like those people in the magazines.”
“It’s at that time,” he explains, “when I started to realize that health, wellness, and fitness are not the same things.”
Exercise is about More than Body Shape
It’s impossible to ignore the parade of models in cute fitness gear, happier and more toned than anyone has the right to be.
But are these women really happier? Or are their bodies being used to sell us something we don’t need?
#Fitness is built on the assumption that exercise sucks, but you got to do it in order to get hot. And then once you’re hot, you’ll be really happy, just like the smiling, laughing, skinny people on the website or in the Instagram photos.”
He adds, “All of that is false.”
When Michael created Revocycle, he made a pledge.
I made a pledge that we would never talk about bodies, weight loss, bikini season, summer’s coming, new year new you, lose those five extra pounds, or get ready for the new season—none of that—because I’d seen the damage that had done to … women all around the world.”
The Revocycle Difference
It can be quite a surprise for people who arrive at Revocycle expecting a normal spin class where they get pumped, rock out to loud music, and leave feeling satisfied, sweaty, and exhausted.
Instead, Revocycle classes treat “movement as a time to be present and focused.”
They start with a professional bike fitting, then flow into a “mindful moment, playing soft yoga-style music [where] people sit up, take a few deep breaths, let their arms hang by the side, release the belly, focus on releasing tension in the shoulders, and move the legs, feeling the muscles engage.”
Instructors don’t yell. They don’t even talk the entire time. They let the music do its work, helping cyclists feel the rhythm of the song and align their bodies to it.
It’s yoga meets indoor cycling, and it does much more than give you a workout. It makes you feel good inside.
And that’s the best motivation to exercise of all, according to Michael.
Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation
“Invariably you ask people—runners, hikers, climbers, rowers, paddlers, cyclists—why they do what they do,” Michael says, “and they will tell you [they do it] because it makes them feel good … and that they feel like they’re happier and more present during and after the workout.”
That’s intrinsic motivation.
You exercise because you like how it makes you feel, and so you start to seek it out. You end up in great shape without having to make yourself do anything you didn’t want to do.
“If people want to build a lifetime of exercise for health and happiness, they ought to do it by tuning into intrinsic motivations,” Michael says.
“The very worst way to build a lifetime of exercise is by exercising to lose weight or exercising to change your body in some fashion. That’s an external motivation—what we call extrinsic motivation—and extrinsic motivations do not allow you to keep your motivation for a long period of time.”
Exercise for Mental Health
For Michael, exercise is not just something he does to feel good. It nearly saved his life.
Cycling helped him recover from major depression. Now he shares the science behind using exercise to improve mental health.
“Aerobic exercise can fundamentally change the brain in a way that can combat depression, stress and anxiety,” he says.
“Aerobic exercise promotes growth of brand-new neurons in the hippocampus of the brain, and the growth of those new neurons is associated with the reduction and prevention of depression.”
So if you want to feel good, be happy, and feel at home in your body, then mindful exercise or mind body fitness may be the answer. Learn more at Revocycle’s website and make sure to visit if you’re ever in Portland!
Your body is built to move, and that movement should feel good. If your gym or fitness program isn’t giving you that—it’s just about burning calories and toning up—then maybe it’s time you started demanding more.
Jump to Topics of Interest
2:15 How Michael woke up to the way fitness was being sold to women
3:30 Revocycle’s pledge
4:39 How it feels to give up exercising to change how you look
5:53 Extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation
7:12 Building a lifetime of exercise
10:31 The difference between Revocycle and a spin studio
11:49 The Revocycle experience
14:11 Exercise and mental health
17:07 Our bodies are built to move
Michael Hosking, Ph.D.
Michael is the creator of Revocycle Mind and Body, a Portland, Oregon based mind-body indoor cycling program built from the science of exercise and the brain and the stress-reduction benefits of mindfulness. Revocycle brings the calm instruction, focus on alignment, and body awareness of yoga into group indoor cycling. Michael is also a biology professor with a Harvard CME in aerobic exercise and the brain.