A Day in the Life: How SoulCycle's Badass CEO Does It All

If you've ever taken a SoulCycle class, you know that a breakneck pace, boundless energy, and all-permeating enthusiasm are just part of the deal—it's this trifecta that has made the company a household name, after all. It should thus come as no surprise that CEO Melanie Whelan fully embodies this MO: Though her day is packed with meetings and the endless responsibilities that come with running one of the top players in the wellness industry, Whelan still prioritizes company culture and makes a point to maintain personal relationships with every team member.

When she has a few minutes, she'll walk around SoulCycle's NYC headquarters to chat with employees and typically drops in for classes at local studios at least four times a week. (Even those who work in SoulCycle locations across the country receive handwritten notes from Whelan on the regular.) Though it's hard to imagine there are even enough hours in the day, Whelan makes it all happen—all while balancing her life as a busy mom of two. (And she has a killer beauty routine to boot.) So what does a typical day as SoulCycle's CEO look like?

Whelan gives us her play-by-play below, from her 6 a.m. wake-up call to the books she dozes off with at night.

6 A.M.

"I usually wake up around 6 a.m. to sounds of my two kids and husband in the kitchen. We're a family of early risers, and I never use an alarm except for when I'm traveling—there's no need at home! Before I join them, I spend about 15 minutes checking my email and the news. Our daily numbers come out around 4 a.m., so I'll read through those for the past day's performance and skim through my inbox to put together a quick mental priority list for the day. Those few minutes of catch-up time allow me to be truly present for my kids' morning routine. The art of presence is something I'm practicing daily!"

6:30 A.M.

"I start every day with citrus-infused sparkling water—it's so refreshing. I'm obsessed with our SodaStream ($95), and we have a signature family drink called 'the lemon popper,' which is 90% seltzer water and 10% limeade. Highly recommended. On the weekends, I love making a full pancake breakfast for my family, but during the week, it's oatmeal, cereal, and fruit for everyone. I can't leave the house in the morning until every bed is made, every pajama folded away, every dish in the sink is clean, and all of the counters are wiped down. Before heading out for the day, I do a quick walk-through and the kids help—my son loves to clean."

 

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7:30 A.M.

"If I'm not traveling, I always try to drop my kids off at school. Then I usually will head to a SoulCycle class. I try to ride at least four to five times a week. I love to visit different studios throughout the city and take classes with different instructors. If I'm traveling in a city where we have a SoulCycle, I spend as much time as possible in our studios, working with our teams and meeting our riders. Connecting with our teams is the most rewarding part of my job.

"We recently introduced our next-gen SoulCycle bike and are in the process of rolling it out to all of our studios. Being in our studio lobbies, helping riders get set up, hearing their feedback and excitement for the new bikes has been so much fun (and a great excuse to spend more time in the studios!)."

8 A.M.

"When it comes to my beauty routine, I'm as low-maintenance as possible: hot shower first thing, wash and moisturize—I love Tatcha's Cleansing Oil ($48) and Sunday Riley's UFO ($40). A girlfriend of mine recommended this face oil, and it's super moisturizing, which is perfect given how much I like to sweat!

"If I'm feeling it, I'll add a quick coat of mascara and Nars Lip Gloss in Playpen ($26).  My millennial mentor (yes, that's a thing!) recently introduced me to Boy Brow ($16) by Glossier. Done brows make all the difference!"

 

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"My signature scent is Le Labo Santal 26, and I have it in every form that Le Labo makes—eau de parfum, hand lotion, candles, travel sizes, etc. I'd like to pretend there's room in this routine for doing my hair, but it's usually up in a bun for me!"

8:15 A.M.

"For breakfast, I usually have a few leftover bites of my kids' unfinished oatmeal and a banana on the run while preordering my cold brew, a grande in a Venti cup with extra ice and a splash of coconut milk, en route to the office on the Starbucks app. The running joke in the office is that Starbucks always writes 'Melody' on my cup. I just recently celebrated my birthday, and my team got me a custom MisterKrisp Rice Krispies cake in the shape of a Starbucks cup with 'Melody' written on it."

 

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"On my commute, I catch up on the news, skim the NYT Morning Briefing, WSJ What's News, NY Mag Daily Intelligencer, and Page Six."

9:30 A.M.

"Soul's HQ office and our West Village studio are adjoined.  I like to use the entrance to our West Village studio on Leroy Street so I can walk through a busy morning check-in, say hi to the staff, and scope out our retail.

"No day is the same, but I usually have six to eight meetings on the calendar, including one first thing in the morning. I meet with my senior leadership team ('SoulForceOne') and with the operating heads of the business to really dig into the day-to-day business and help problem-solve—we're an operating business that runs 17/7/365, so we always have problems to solve."

11 A.M.

"Next, I'm off to a retail meeting to review product for September and October. We're working on some really cool collaborations launching this fall, so our new head merchant, Caroline Gogolak; our team; and I go over the styles and launch plan."

Whenever I interview a candidate for an open position, no matter the position, I like to take them to a SoulCycle studio to ride.

12:30 P.M.

"For lunch, I usually grab a smoothie. It's my go-to: quick, easy, and healthy. When I'm home, I'll make my own with fruit, almond milk, and peanut butter powder. It's a meal in a cup! We have two Juice Press locations right around our office, so it's a no-brainer for me. My usual order is either a Nurse Ginger Green or F$ING Genius. I'm also a huge sushi fan, so some days I'll order in and have a spicy tuna roll and some edamame to snack on over the afternoon."

2 P.M.

"I have a meeting with Tyler Benjamin, our VP of HR, to catch up on any hiring updates and cultural initiatives. Whenever I interview a candidate for an open position, no matter the position, I like to take them to a SoulCycle studio to ride. Culture and community is what makes SoulCycle so amazing. We place a huge emphasis on finding the right people—a mix of experience, aptitude, passion and values. At our core, SoulCycle is a hospitality business. We pride ourselves on our in-person experience and in every interaction, so as we scale, making sure that we have the right people to help us to grow is everything."

 

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3 P.M.

"Usually, I'll spend time checking on our midday numbers and going through my email. I have one-on-one meetings with our head of talent, PR, and brand strategy; field operations, marketing, and finance weekly; and attend larger group meetings on design and real estate development and product engineering.

"I try to get out of my office and walk the floors to chat with as many people as I can and pop into people's offices. Soul HQ is divided between three floors, and it's so easy to get stuck behind your computer screen. You have to leave time for a little spontaneity in your day!"

4:30 P.M.

"I'll check in with my teams for status updates on upcoming studio openings and activations. We're expanding quickly and now have 81 studios, with recent openings in Park Slope, Toronto, and Vancouver. Earlier this spring, I flew up to our first-ever international opening in Toronto. The response there was incredible and so inspiring! Next up: new studios in Midtown NYC, and Miami in late 2017.

"We're partnering with Smartwater for Destination Soul in Martha's Vineyard, where we will bring the SoulCycle experience to the Vineyard from August 5 to August 27. Our experiential Hamptons space, Below the Barn, is also currently open until September 4. Our teams are busy bringing Soul to the people, and I love getting updates on all of the initiatives, partnerships and the learnings from each opening and activation."

 

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6 P.M.

"Before leaving the office for the day, I will spend a few minutes looking at the next day's schedule—the who, what, when, where—and going through my priorities and ever-growing to-do list. I also like to use this time to write handwritten notes. I send each studio manager of a new studio a note and a little gift to congratulate them on their new community. As we grow and get bigger, it's so important to stay connected. The power of the handwritten note can sometimes be overlooked in our digital world."

6:45 P.M.

"I usually leave the office by 6:45 p.m. to head either out or home for the evening. We're working on reading skills with our son, so we'll read a chapter or two together each night. We always bring books with us so we can make the most of extra time in a taxi or train as we travel around the city between activities."

7 P.M.

"For dinner, our favorite local TriBeCa neighborhood family spots are The Odeon and Bubby's (also great for breakfast—try the pancakes, not to mention the ice cream). If it's date night (which is rare!), my husband and I love Landmarc or Sushi of Gari. We're so sad Nobu relocated!"

9 P.M.

"After the kids are both tucked in, if I'm home, I'm back on email for a few hours. My husband and I might multitask and watch an episode of TV while we're both working. He's in the process of starting a few companies, so his schedule is crazier than mine. We've recently been into Billions—the writing is incredibly smart and the acting is next-level. We're not really into binge-watching, so I like to joke that we watch TV like old people. Personally, I need to be doing at least three things while watching TV—email, FreshDirect, skimming the evening headlines—'presence' goes out the window at night."

10 P.M.

"Once all of the multitasking is done, I try to be in bed by 11. I read every night before bed to quiet my mind. I try to finish two to three books a month. I recently devoured Hillbilly Elegy ($17) by J.D. Vance and am currently reading The Content Trap ($17) by Bharat Anand—always on my Kindle that our Facilities Director and travel companion Chris Blaich gave me. Lights out no later than 11:30—I need sleep to feel refreshed for the next day and getting to do it all over again."

 

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Next up, see what it's really like to be a professional ballerina.

Opening Image: Courtesy of SoulCycle