Plus-Size Cycle Instructor Inspires with Positivity: ‘You Cannot Hate Yourself into the Life You Want’ (Exclusive)

After gaining weight during COVID, Amanda Hinds found her new fitness path — and way to motivate her students

<p>Kayla Lavallee</p> Cycle instructor Amanda Hinds

Kayla Lavallee

Cycle instructor Amanda Hinds

Amanda Hinds still remembers her favorite childhood bike.

“I was a tomboy when I was younger,” the Belleville, N.J. resident tells PEOPLE of her teal metallic Mongoose, a brand of bikes used for tricks. “I always had like the coolest bike.”

But it wasn’t until 2015 that she brought her love of bikes indoors, trying her hand at indoor cycling. She loved it so much, she decided to go for her certification and pursue being an instructor.

She says she was “so close to becoming a cycle instructor — and then it got ripped away.” That’s because Hinds, 31, got her certification right before the COVID pandemic, which shut down gyms and fitness centers.

<p>Kayla Lavallee</p> Cycle instructor Amanda Hinds

Kayla Lavallee

Cycle instructor Amanda Hinds

“It took a hit on me,” she tells PEOPLE. ”It was hard."

Hinds said she was working from home at her corporate job, and her relationship at the time was rocky — so she “turned to food a lot.”

“My downfall was definitely snacks. So I ate a lot of snacks and, also, emotional eating took a large play in it because I was in a situation that was really taking over my mental health in a negative way.”

Related: Women Are Not Getting Enough Exercise — and It's Harming Their Mental Health

It wasn’t until she went for a physical in June 2021 that her doctor gave her a wakeup call.

“She told me I was 298 lbs.,” says Hinds, who stands at 5’2”.

“It goes all to my midsection, my back, my arms. It doesn't go to my butt, it doesn't go to my thighs, it doesn't go to any fun places,” she quipped.

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It was that moment when she decided to get back on the bike.

“Being 300 lbs., I think [is] what really made me like full gear,” she says, sharing that she had an indoor bike that was “collecting dust.” 

“I tried it. I was like, ‘Oh, this is too hard. This is nothing like cycling classes at the gym.’ “

“After my physical,” she continued, “I was like, ’Okay, let me stop being scared of my bike.’ I just remember saying, ‘I'm tired of being scared to get on my bike.’ ”

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She said she started slowly, and after a few months, “I felt myself getting better and stronger. So, it didn't take too much time and it was, it was really exciting. So then I started not even being afraid or discouraged anymore.”

It was then when she started pursing being a cycling instructor again, eventually landing at CycleBar in Jersey City and Montclair. And now, she’s not only up there for herself — but she’s there for her clients.

Related: Meghan Trainor Had to 'Rewire My Brain' to Develop Healthy Body Image: 'Weight Sits Differently on Everyone' (Exclusive)

“I'm your hype girl. I'm pushing you to elevate. I'm in their shoes because I'm also still a rider and not always an instructor. So I know when you're feeling fatigued, I know the thoughts that can go through our mind that we can have like where you want to stop."

"So you're starting to tell yourself, you know, negative self-sabotaging thoughts. I know all of that because I've been there and I'm still there.”

<p>Kayla Lavallee</p> Cycle instructor Amanda Hinds

Kayla Lavallee

Cycle instructor Amanda Hinds

But as she says, “You cannot hate yourself into the life you want and into the body you want. It literally does not work that way — like you cannot be working out, just beating yourself down."

So, she says, “I tell them I'm struggling too. I feel this right with you. I'm pushing right along with you.”

And with her popular classes, Hinds is also helping squash negative perceptions around body size and health.

“There's a big stereotype around that, around larger bodies being unhealthy,” she tells PEOPLE. “When I go to the doctor, they're usually surprised that I don't have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Like, I see it in their face. I hear it in their tone,” she says, adding, “It doesn't bother me.”

<p>Courtesy Amanda Hinds</p> Cycle instructor Amanda Hinds

Courtesy Amanda Hinds

Cycle instructor Amanda Hinds

“I think when I'm up there and being a woman of color and plus size, I think people think, 'If she can do it, I can do it too.' And I want them to think that.”

But, she adds, “I don't want them to have to see someone that looks like them to feel that way, though, because that can also be something that limits yourself. Because if I waited to see someone that looked like me to do this, I probably would not even be here.”

She continues, “Representation 100% matters. But if you gotta be the first one to do it, you might just gotta be the first one to do it."

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