Behind The Scenes With Melanie Whelan

SoulCycle CEO and powerhouse mama, Melanie Whelan talks non-negotiables.

You know that moment after a really hard morning workout when you feel like you’re ready to conquer the day? Well, SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan certainly does and it’s infectious. After meeting Melanie, we at Is This Normal felt rejuvenated, inspired, and ready to conquer parenthood. Her family-focused, business-centric real talk comes from the heart. As a mom of two children and CEO of industry-shaking SoulCycle, Melanie has helped define what work/life balance really means all while raising her son, Lachlan, and daughter, Charlotte. 

With studios across the United States and internationally, SoulCycle has revolutionized the fitness community by bringing together individuals dealing with all the stresses of life for forty-five minutes of hardcore self-care. “I think it’s important that we, as women and mothers, are honest about the journey of navigating motherhood and the workplace,” Melanie shares. “For me, it’s important I share my journey because maybe something that I say can help a fellow mom who may be struggling.”

Finding The Non-Negotiables

When looking at Melanie’s Instagram (@MelanieAnya) you find a mix of SoulCycle ‘family’ pics, and downtime with the kids. Working parents know the struggle of juggling meetings, office time, birthday parties, soccer games, and teacher meetings that oftentimes leave parents guessing which event to prioritize. 

“I think it’s important to come up with your non-negotiables,” she says. “The school events that you’ll always make the time to go to, the days that you’re going to take the kids to school, being home for bedtime, or whatever it may be. When you’re a working parent, it’s impossible to be everywhere for all of your children, all the time. So come up with the events that you will always attend. Really commit to those.”

Sweating Out The Small Stuff

SoulCycle has a way of bringing together parents—especially working moms—in a way that no other gym or studio seems to be able to do. In a day full of parent pick-ups, work deadlines, figuring out dinner, and laundry folding, taking an hour to head to the gym for some sweat-it-out time can seem overwhelming. But SoulCycle has gotten parents to not only make the time, but to become part of the SoulCycle family. 

“When you walk into one of our classes after you’ve had a rough day, it’s almost guaranteed that someone else in that class is having a tough day, too. That’s why people come to SoulCycle,” she says. “Some days you’re that person for the rider next to you, you’re the one lifting them up, other days you’re the one that needs to be lifted up. It’s a very special and sacred space where you can cry, sweat, and laugh with sixty other riders for forty-five minutes. I feel very lucky to be a part of such an incredible community.” 

Balancing Work and Family

Across the nation, more and more employers are working to redefine their work culture with greater balance for parents. As the CEO of SoulCycle, Melanie has leveraged her personal experience to create an environment that encourages employees to have a shared focus on both work and family. 

“It’s important to me that we have a culture here where moms can actually be present when it matters. So work flexibility is a priority,” she says. “I have worked really hard to make that part of the culture here at SoulCycle. Being a parent is tough, working or not working, and it’s helpful when you work for a company that allows for that much needed flexibility.

Trying To Have It All

We asked Melanie what one of her top lessons in working parenthood and balancing motherhood has been. “The only way to do it all is to surround yourself with amazing people and say thank you as often as possible. We call our tribe TeamWhelan, and we all work together every day to get it all done.” 

That’s not to say that there aren’t any bumps in the road, but Melanie has a refreshing way of looking at those bumps as lessons in the making. “Everyone has low moments—and I’m sure many more will come. But every setback is a set up for a comeback!” she says.

“I always try to frame low moments as learning moments. I remember a day where my son had an incident in school and I was in the middle of an executive meeting. The school said someone needed to pick him up immediately and I felt incredibly torn whether to send my babysitter or to make the trip myself. In that moment, it really hit me that the idea of ‘having it all’ just isn’t possible. Life is a series of choices and you never know if you’re making the right one.”  

We at Is This Normal know that couldn’t be more true. Every parenting decision is rife with possibilities and, if we’re being honest, potential for failure. But even when it seems that nothing could go right, Melanie has advice. “All you can do is lead with both head and heart,” she says. “All you can do is try—every day—to prioritize what matters most.”


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