Today is March 14 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you realize you are bigger than a smaller pair of pants?” Navigating the Chaos and practicing the art of living well requires one to have a healthy mind body balance. When the size of one’s waist becomes all-consuming at the expense of almost everything else in life, one should stop and ask if they realize they are bigger than a smaller pair of pants. That is exactly what Senior Peloton instructor Christine D'Ercole did, and in so doing figured out how to navigate the chaos of her career and started to practice the art of living well.
When D’Ercole was a child she dreamed of becoming a ballerina. Sadly, she was rarely cast in recitals that required short tutus, and she eventually found out the reason why. As she recalled in an October 2020 interview the reason she was never cast was because "My thighs were twice the size of all the other little girls, and that was a devastating realization. I was just bigger. I was too big. Too big to be cute, too big to be pretty, too big to be beautiful, too big to be loved, worthy, successful. You name it."
Armed with that damaging messaging and harsh realization, D'Ercole abandoned her ballet dreams and decided to try acting. Instead of ballet she got into a performing arts high school, then studied theater at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and set her sights on Broadway. While working an office job at the university around her studies, D'Ercole found her personal file. Against her better judgment she looked at it anyway. While it had some complimentary observations about her acting, included in the file was the notation “A little heavy in the thigh.'" Here again was another massive blow, both for D'Ercole's self-confidence and her career aspirations. Devasted again because of the size of her thighs her response to herself was “Am I not built for any of my dreams?” Turns out she was built perfectly for her dream; she just needed to keep dreaming. As other Navigate the Chaos suggests, you should keep dreaming your entire life and have as many as you need two lifetimes to achieve.
After graduating college D'Ercole moved to New York, got an agent and started auditioning for acting parts. To help pay the bills she became a bike messenger. She loved long bike rides as a kid so being a bike messenger seemed like a fun way to make some money and meet new friends. She quickly realized, however, that she had a natural talent when she won races against the other messengers around parks at the end of the day.
Encouraged by her peers, D'Ercole started dabbling in track cycling and racing — and "absolutely fell in love." Having failed to make much headway in acting, D'Ercole decided to pursue cycling. Some of the other bike messengers were also racing cyclists, so they introduced her to the industry. Before she knew it, D'Ercole had a sponsorship deal with Nautica and was travelling across the US, racing with Olympians and world champions.
At the age of 27, D'Ercole became pregnant with her daughter. After gaining weight, the new mom decided she would become a plus-size model and got a job on the QVC network. To add insult to her former injuries of being told her thighs were too big, this time QVC deemed here not big enough and made her wear extra padding and could only model the fall/winter lines, which covered more of her body. As D’Ercole recalled "As a ballerina, they wouldn't let me wear the short tutu because my thighs were bigger, but now they wouldn't let me wear the short sleeves because my arms were smaller.”
Before long, she realized she missed competitive cycling. She started racing again, but also qualified as an instructor, teaching spin classes at various studios. In 2014, D'Ercole had been teaching at SoulCycle for a few years, but she knew the style wasn't quite the right fit for her. And that's when Peloton came knocking. "There were people who were riding more traditional cycling, and there were people who were doing more dance-y workouts," she said. "I thought it was so smart to not be locked into one style, and I really felt like there was room for me there."
Six years later, her classes are taken by thousands of Peloton members globally — her Power Zone rides have been taken over 750,000 times since January 2020. D'Ercole's mission is to help people change the way they speak about themselves, both through her Peloton classes and her "Wordshops," which are workshops explaining how to realign your self-talk.
"What I've learned from racing is that if I think I can't handle it and I'm telling myself I can't handle it, then I've decided I can't handle it. There were so many moments that I caught myself and said, 'But what if you can? What if you simply dug a little deeper, believed a little bigger, pushed a little harder, pedaled a little faster?' And this turned into, 'I am, I can, I will, I do,' this little secret mantra of my own that I would repeat over and over," she said.
D'Ercole had been seeing the benefits of the mantra since 1996. But when she first said it in a spin class at Equinox in 2005, she was amazed by how well people responded. It's become her trademark. D'Ercole believes her mantra is powerful because it's like a map: You can't know how to get to your destination if you don't already know where you are now.
"The most powerful thing anyone can say to us is what we say to ourselves," she said. "You can take a class and be inspired by 33 different instructors. You can read a book that someone mentioned on Instagram, see a billboard, read a sticky note ... something will inspire you at some point. But inspiration is like a butterfly: It flies and it dies. And you can't harness it because it's not yours. When the words are yours, then you can make change. My self talk is about embracing where I am, not judging myself, and reminding myself that I am bigger than a smaller pair of pants."
How often do you realize you are bigger than a small size of pants?