SoulCycle Instructor Kitty Terzo Talks Creating And Maintaining A Fitness Routine – Exclusive Interview

Katherine Terzo, known to her SoulCycle students as Kitty, has been passionate about movement since she was literally a toddler. She started dancing when she was three and went on to become a competitive dancer. Terzo traveled the country to perform in dance competitions. When she wasn't traveling, she played on local soccer teams. Then, in middle school, Terzo discovered running and it became her new passion. She started doing track and field and cross country in addition to soccer. She was always on the move, and usually outside. 

Terzo turned this passion for movement into a career by working in gyms as an adult. And, after a particularly inspirational ride at SoulCycle during a difficult time in her life, Terzo got hooked on cycling. She dove headfirst into the community and started riding several times a week, eventually becoming an instructor herself.

In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Terzo revealed how she cultivates her movement routine, fuels her body as a fitness professional, and motivates herself and others out of movement ruts.

SoulCycle was an acquired taste

How did you discover SoulCycle?

So, actually, it's kind of a funny story. This was back in 2016, I believe. ... My best friend's mom signed up for her to go to this ... charity ride.

She was going to go with her parents, and her dad, actually, last minute couldn't go. He had to leave town [on] a business trip or something. And her mom asked her, "Do you want to invite a friend or something?" So she asked me to go with them. And I was like, "What is this? I don't know what SoulCycle is. I guess I'll go try it."

I went and I just remember not enjoying it. Because, well, first of all, I had no idea what was going on, which is pretty normal when you take your first class. I always tell my riders, "If you feel like you have no idea what's going on, I got you, and that's such a normal feeling." But I think what bothered me, too, was that I was a dancer my whole entire life and I couldn't put the concept together and figure out the whole rhythm-based movement. So I remember leaving class and I felt great, but I just remember thinking "I could not do any of that!" I think it kind of scared me away for a little bit.

And then, ironically, that summer — this was in May — my other friend ended up getting a job at the front desk at my home studio. I'm from Long Island, New York. So she started working front desk there. And I remember her just saying, "Kitty, you should come try it again. I'll take you with me. Whenever you want to come just let me know. Really, you should go in there and try it again."

I took her up on the offer, and I started going a few more times. And then I just remember there was this one class where I was going through my first breakup ever, and the instructor said something that just really resonated with me. And again, this is something that I tell my riders all the time, too: All it takes is that one moment in class to really get you hooked. And that was definitely my silver lining.

Ever since then, I was riding multiple times a week to multiple times a day, becoming super close with everyone else who worked there — all the other instructors. And then my other close friend at the time became an instructor at my home studio. ... I would double podium with her all the time. And just that entire journey made me realize this was something I wanted to do with myself.

I love that.

But, yeah, it's just always funny looking back thinking of what I thought of it at first and now I'm actually up there doing it as my full-time job. It makes me laugh every single time.

It's so funny that the rhythm was what threw you off — as a dancer!

It did. I was like, I don't like this. I can be honest — I can be a little bit of a competitive individual. So sometimes I don't like not be being able to do things. ... It definitely threw me off but, I mean, here I am.

The special vibe of SoulCycle

What do you think makes SoulCycle different from other movement programs?

I actually [used to work the] front desk at a different gym facility. It didn't have any indoor cycling. It was just, like, Zumba classes, group classes with free weights, circuit-type of situations. And I used to take the classes sometimes, or hop in once everyone was checked in. But I think the main takeaway and difference for me [after] having the opportunity to take so many different group fitness classes is that SoulCycle ... I think you just realize your own personal journey when you're inside that room. I always say, too, we're all so different, but we're connected in some sort of way. We're all here in this room for a reason, and it may be different for each and every one of us, but we're here for a reason. So with that, we're all connected.

I just think the message that we put across, and just the dynamics of class, and all the different things you can do — having the freedom to playlist the way that you want, and create structure the way that you want — it also gives a sense of being vulnerable. I think riders are able to feel that as well.

I think the main difference is just feeling so close and connected as a community. And I think even with playing sports, of course, you always feel like you're a part of a team, but I think we just have such a different way of showing that to people, and just make people feel included.

What do you love most about SoulCycle?

Oh, there are so many things. I think aside from the workout, my friends. I have met the most amazing people through SoulCycle, and everyone who works at SoulCycle or who goes to SoulCycle, we always say SoulCycle people are the best people. And from my understanding and what I've been through with SoulCycle, I agree 100% — literally a family away from home.

My whole family's up and New York, I live down here in Miami now. So even though I've only been teaching in this market for a year, just how you can grow close to so many different people and actually feel like a family, gives me a sense of belonging and feeling like I have a family away from my family. So the people, 100%.

Something more fitness-based, I would say, [is] just how much you can do in 45 minutes and how much you can challenge yourself. And even if you're not really there to work out one day, I think another thing I love about SoulCycle is what it has to offer. You can go there and get a great workout if you want, but I've also had instances [of] just going to other instructors' classes, not really wanting to get the workout, but just wanting to kind of just sit there and be in tune and connect with myself and the music and just roll my legs. So that's another thing I love — just everything it has to offer.

Starting a movement routine

What tips do you have for those who are looking to start a movement routine for the first time?

I definitely think you have to maybe sit down and plan it and just stick to it for a month. I'm the type of person [who] can get very bored easily. So if you're like that, or people who are like that, I hear you, I'm with you, I understand. But just creating a routine, whether you have a calendar and you write down "on Monday I'm going to go to SoulCycle. Tuesday I'm going to go for a run or for a walk. Wednesday maybe I'll go to the gym and lift some weights. You know what? Thursday I'll relax. I'll have a day off. Friday maybe I'll take another SoulCycle class."

Whatever it may be — whether it's a fitness class, doing something on your own, working with a trainer — I think just having a schedule that you could set forth for yourself and just kind of get up and get it done and stick to it. I think once you have a few weeks of being in a routine, it just feels like life at that point.

Dealing with movement ruts

What about those who are trying to get back into a movement routine after a period of inactivity?

I think all of us kind of went through that over the past few years. I definitely struggled with that a little bit, going from not teaching for a long period of time and then being back on the schedule in a matter of days. And just being like, wow, I haven't really moved my body in such a high intensity in a long time — I'm a little nervous. I think that's just a normal thing to feel.

My best advice would just be — I'm a diver — dive right in. See what happens, see where it takes you, see what that first movement or workout is like. If you need to modify or change anything after that, you'll know. But you'll never know unless you just go right back into it.

And there's nothing wrong with taking your time. It doesn't have to be every day. It could be once a week, could be a few times a week. Everyone's different — whatever works for your body. Something that works for me may not work for you.

Just [take] things at your own pace and just see where it takes you. I really believe [that by] just getting that first workout or movement in, you're going to feel so much better after.

Any motivational tips for getting out of that rut to begin with? Because sometimes starting is the hardest part.

I agree. I think one thing that's really important to just be mindful about is that it's okay to be in a rut. We're all human. I think we all hit a rut at least once in our lives, right? Completely normal. But then, say, if you were a person who has been active their whole life and then you get into a rut, maybe just taking time to reflect, being like, "How did I feel when I was being active and living that particular type of lifestyle, and how am I feeling now? Will it make a difference?" And just comparing how you feel when you are moving and when you're not.

For me, for example, I feel best when I'm just being active. And it doesn't even have to be SoulCycle. It doesn't even have to be in the gym. Just doing things around my house, but also creating goals. What am I working towards? What am I trying to achieve? And I've always been a girl of big dreams.

Whether fitness-related or not ... I think just writing down your dreams and not letting anything stop you ... talking yourself back into it, being like, "You know what? I got this." Words of affirmation. Writing, journaling, reflecting. Those are all things I did when I was kind of in a rut. And it takes time, but eventually, you'll end up where you want to be.

The importance of rest days

[Any] tips for avoiding a rut to begin with? Sometimes that's the best way — to not get into the rut.

Yeah, I have to sometimes take my own advice as well. I think the best way to prevent a rut is [by] listening to your body and really prioritizing rest. I used to never do that. And I've had periods of time where I feel like I'm really burnt out.

Just [incorporate] — even if it's one day a week — something for yourself. Get your nails done or something, anything like that. Also look towards fitness as not something you have to do, but you want to do. You don't have to work out every single day of your life. It's something that, once you start feeling like it's a forced thing that you have to do, you're going to fall out of love with it. It's going to feel like a chore. It's not going to be as enjoyable. It's going to feel like a pity. So I think the best thing to just avoid a rut or burnout is listening to your body when you need to.

That's great. I think a lot of people discount the rest days.

I know I used to, but now I look forward to it every single week.

Creating a movement routine that avoids burnout

Other than SoulCycle, what does your typical movement routine look like?

I have a dog, a puppy, so she loves to be outside. I walk her probably four times a day. So I don't know what that calculates in terms of mileage, I have no idea, but we're always outside walking, running. So that, and then something I love to do [is] weightlifting. I try to get into the gym at least three times a week. Sometimes it's hard depending on my schedule. If I happen to be teaching more that week, I'll definitely pull back and not try to overexert myself, but I love weightlifting. I'm always trying to get into the gym a little bit every week. Those are definitely my main things. And rollerblading — can't forget that!

Absolutely. How do you adjust your movement routine to avoid that burnout, or overtraining?

With SoulCycle, I like to change up my playlist a lot, like the structure of class. I don't think it's necessary to do [it] every single time, but just experimenting and finding things that work and may not work. And I just remind myself, "You know what, okay, that was one class. I still have the rest of my career to go. It's totally fine. We'll figure it out next time. All good!"

In SoulCycle we have a weights portion where we have weights on our bike and we pick up and use our weights. Lately, I haven't been doing the weights and I've been doing our arm series with our towel. So you're pulling it as hard as you can and creating tension. You really feel it in your shoulders. And then sitting up tall and being mindful of your abdominals and everything — you can really feel it in your entire body.

Even just little things like that in class — switching it up, adding an extra turn on your wheel when you normally don't do that. A little turn goes a long way and can really shock your body. ... In terms of outside of class in the gym, I think for me, I like simple movements. I'm really by the book: squats, deadlifts, things like that. But lately, I've been incorporating little movements in between my sets. So maybe I'll do heavier squats and then stop for a second and do some lunges real quick, kind of to work a different body muscle, so supersets. Very simple. ... I really would love to go try a different fitness class. It's just hard to with my schedule.

If you have the time, if the individual has the time, I'm definitely recommending trying different things, because then you'll figure out what you like.

Adjusting your movement routine for warmer weather

And now that, well, you're always with the warmer weather in Miami, but up here we're headed into warmer weather. What are some of your favorite outdoor spring workouts?

I love hiking. I love, love hiking. I lived in New York my entire life. I only moved down here in November 2020 so I had a good 23 years up in New York. Hiking is definitely my favorite. Growing up, my grandparents had property in upstate New York, so we would always be hiking, we would always be four-wheeling, just doing activities outside that. So that's definitely my favorite.

If you have dogs, walk your dog. Go to the trail. Pull up Google, find a trail. It's so much fun taking them and trying a different setting other than around the block. Rollerblading.

I'm loving all the rollerblading!

If you haven't started rollerblading you're missing out. So much fun. Swimming. Ooh, I love to swim. It's a little cold for you guys, but you'll be there soon.

We will. Yes, for sure.

I love to ride indoor bikes, but outdoor biking is also really fun.

Mountain biking or road biking?

I haven't tried mountain biking. I would love to. I'm going to be back home in a few months. Maybe I'll give that a whirl, but that would be fun.

Yeah. Just anything that you can do to be active. Like I said, even just going for a walk, putting in headphones, listening to good music. Enjoy being outside. Winter is rough, I understand.

Fueling your body for your movement routine

What kind of foods do you find fuel an active lifestyle?

This is a big one for me, because I definitely have struggled finding what is going to get me through my day. I am a bottomless pit — I can eat a whole meal and in an hour I'm just ready to eat again. So it has definitely been trial and error for me. This has been going on for probably years.

Foods that I find fueling: Protein. I love. I'm always very on top of my protein. I always have protein with every single meal. Even if I'm having a snack, I'll try to put protein in there in some way.

Protein is going to fuel you. It's also going to fuel your muscles. With all the cardio that I do at SoulCycle, I find it important to really prioritize my protein because I'm probably burning through muscle at that point, which is okay. It happens to everyone. But just make sure that you're replenishing after [and] even before, if you can. And there are so many different ways to get protein, whether you eat meat or you don't eat meat, there are so many different ways. So, for everyone, it's definitely attainable.

Carbs: Love carbs. Carbs are good. Please eat your carbs, everyone! They are our main source of energy. And so important. Pasta, oatmeal, rice, good fruits, vegetables. I love [having] some rice cakes with peanut butter or Nutella. Carbs!

I think proteins and carbs are my main source of fuel and energy, and what I found works best for me. ... But again, everyone's different. And I think everyone is just on their own personal journey in fitness and not in fitness. And I had to trial and error a bit, so I think everyone gets to that place in life where they just need to figure out what works and what doesn't.

But I think the most important thing is protein, carbs, obviously vegetables. I'm not really good at eating my vegetables. I try my best. I try my best, but I figured out ways to do it. And I don't really realize that I'm eating them. You can throw them in a smoothie. I like to make protein pancakes and throw in some spinach in the mix. You don't taste that at all. So many different ways to do it.

There's no such thing as a bad food

What's your favorite [food] post-workout?

It depends. It depends, because sometimes I teach in the morning and sometimes I teach late at night. Last night, for example, I taught at 7:30 p.m. so I eat dinner before. And then after I come home, I make my beloved chocolate chip protein pancakes, which are so good. That's probably, for a sweeter side thing, my favorite post-workout meal. That or an acai bowl with some protein in it, protein smoothie, oatmeal with some protein in it — anything that has protein, definitely for sure. A good carb. A little bit of sugar to replenish. When you're working out you're releasing a lot of glucose, so just putting that back into your system.

On the saltier side, the not so sweet side, it depends what type of day it is ... some chicken, rice and vegetables, or a good burger, always replenishes me and feels so good after. Good protein again.

I think all foods are good for you. Just [practice] mindful moderation. I think everything's good for you, and I always tell people who ask me for advice — "Oh, what do you eat? What should I shouldn't eat?" You shouldn't not not eat anything, if that makes sense. Eat things that you like, just be mindful about it, because even a "healthy food" can be bad for you if you eat too much of it. Anything could be bad for you if you eat too much of it. So, I always tell people: Eat what you love. Food is important. Food makes us happy. We're human beings.

I love that. It is really important to talk about how all foods can be included to fuel your body.

Of course.

'Be yourself always'

Last one. What's the most motivating piece of advice you've ever heard from a movement instructor or a mentor?

Oh, wow. There was this class that I was in a few years ago, and it kind of helped me create my motto of what I look for in my class, and the message I try to get out there. And it's just not being afraid of who you are and being yourself no matter what you look like, where you're from, where you are in your fitness journey, because that's going to look different for everyone. So just be yourself. I always end my classes, when we do our little low light and breathing ... saying, "Be yourself always." That's it.

Just creating a safe space where people can come and be as weird as they want to be, as loud as they want to be, as quiet as they want to be [is important], and just understanding that everyone is on a different path and just support everyone.

But also stay in your lane. You don't have to be where someone else is. You're going to get to where you want to be. You have to just trust the process and kind of stay in it, stay as motivated as you can, and you'll always end up where you need to be. I think that's definitely the best thing I've ever heard and has helped me create my message.

Catch Kitty at SoulCycle Miami. Book a bike here.