Everyone’s morning routine is unique; SoulCycle’s CEO Melanie Whelan tells Stylist why a cup of black coffee, her mobile phone and being mindful and present with her kids is vital to starting her day well.
There is a farfetched idea that people who run big businesses are up at the crack of dawn poring over reams of data, trying to squeeze every last minute of the day to balance the books. But for Melanie Whelan, the CEO of SoulCycle, the start to her day is surprisingly conventional – and she works hard to keep it like that.
There’s no eye-watering early mornings or number crunching over a coffee to go, in fact her priority is being present – the practice of presence is a form of mindfulness - for her two children before the business day begins.
“I have a nine-year-old who gets up at 6am every morning, which is wonderful…ly challenging to live with!” she jokes. “The good news is, he can read so there are things to do that don’t involve mum and dad on a Saturday morning, but my husband and I are both early risers.”
On a typical week day, when Melanie wakes up at roughly 6am and the first thing she reaches for is her mobile phone.
“I make sure I go through my email, text, WhatsApp, news headlines and numbers that have come in overnight – and I schedule for the day.
“It’s not healthy but, yes, I do that in bed,” she admits.
Although Whelan checks her emails, she’s not replying to them while she’s in bed. “I don’t answer a lot of emails,” she says, “but I at least know what’s in there. I answer anything urgent but then I have between 6.15am-7.20am to be with my kids.”
And this is where the CEO’s morning turns from business to a family focus. When we meet, she explains how she tries to practice being present with her friends and family – particularly her two young children. “I am a big believer in work-life integration,” she tells me.
“I think that, you don’t go to work and then go to life. You have one life. And there is so much advantage in that. Casting it to the positive creates so much opportunity.
“There’s no way I could raise two children and run this company and be on the road and be in contact with the team without my loaded connector (mobile phone) 24 hours a day.”
One of Whelan’s priorities is her ability to practice “presence”. She says: “That’s saying, now I’m home the 30 minutes I have with my kids before they go to bed, I’m with them. Deeply with them.
“The older I’ve got the more I’ve realised that really giving someone your presence is the greatest gift.”
And it’s this presence she applies to her morning routine where she bursts into life in the kitchen cooking up a feast for her children – anything from porridge to pancakes can be on the menu.
“I don’t see them at night very much so that’s our time together. I hear about everything that’s going on from first grade and third grade at school,” she adds.
Whelan herself forgoes the pancakes for a more stripped back start to the day. A glass of sparkling water with a splash of lime or lemon, a cup of black coffee and a banana is her breakfast of choice. She explains: “Because I’m working out at 8am, I don’t like to eat before… and I can eat the banana standing up.”
She drops her children at the school bus before 7.30am and heads straight to a SoulCycle class for her morning ride.
“I’m usually on a bike by 8am,” she says. “I try to ride most mornings of the week. We have 22 studios in Manhattan, I usually ride at Tribeca or at the office studio. By 8.45am I’m off the bike and 8.45 I’m in the office and my day can begin.”
SoulCycle is opening its first studio outside of North America in Soho, London, on 14 June. Speaking about the company, Whelan adds: “SoulCycle is social and joyful - and gives people a way to connect. Our classes are high energy and results oriented.
“We’re a community and a space where you can come as you are and celebrate who you are, to work through whatever you’re facing that day and emerge feeling stronger and inspired. Above all, SoulCycle is fun!”