Melissa Hopf is well-known to most of the Elevate community. A popular Spinning instructor and former gym co-owner, Hopf is renowned for her themed Spin playlists and challenging workout calendar – it’s hard to find a weekend where she isn’t competing in some sort of Fun Run or team challenge.
But surprisingly, Melissa hasn’t always felt at home in the gym.
Q: You haven’t always been a person who exercises regularly. In fact, until a few years ago, you didn’t work out much at all. What changed?
A: I really don’t know. About 10 years ago, I realized that although I was having a lot of fun, I was uncomfortable in my body. Then I saw an ad for personal training in The Hippo Press and thought, ‘There’s got to be a better way to feel.’ So I signed up. That got the ball rolling, and then about five years ago I discovered Anatomic, the predecessor to Elevate. The most significant part of my transformation began when I started working out here.
Q: What was the most surprising change you experienced when you began working out regularly?
A: I noticed a mental change right away. When I first started exercising, I went into every situation thinking, ‘I can’t do this.’ But then I began working out and discovered that I could do many things, both mentally and physically. I continue to build on that knowledge as I take on new challenges.
Q: Working out is one thing, but becoming an instructor is another level of commitment altogether. What moved you to take that next step?
A: I’m shy and reserved and while I began to enjoy taking classes once I started exercising, it never occurred to me that I would ever want to teach.
But when I started Spinning, I fell in love with the music and the focus on individual effort and thought teaching was something I could do. I have always been a lover of music – the way it can trigger memories, enhance a mood, elicit emotion, etc., so I love that I can use it as a tool in my classes. Whether I’m using songs with uplifting or motivational lyrics or just a driving beat, the playlist is extremely important to me, and I hope that shows.
I also felt teaching would challenge me to come out of my shell a bit more, which it has.
Q: How do you motivate yourself when you just don’t feel like working out?
A: I really try to focus on how good I will feel when the workout’s done. I know that when I exercise, I feel better — mentally and physically – so that’s where I concentrate my attention.
It’s also important to work out in a supportive environment, which is why Elevate is so great. You know when you walk in the door that there are people you want to see, and they want to see you as well. That’s huge. It’s like a whole community of workout buddies.
I’ve also done a lot of reading about the effects of exercise on depression and anxiety and have learned that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating both conditions. So, I keep that in the back of my mind, too.
Q: How has your life changed since you committed yourself to a healthy lifestyle?
A: I have more self-confidence. I’ve lost that ‘I can’t’ attitude because I’ve seen what my body can do. I’ve learned that I am responsible for my own health and well-being. If I don’t put in the work, nothing will change. It’s fun and motivating to work out with others, but in the end, it’s a solo endeavor. The outcome you realize is a direct result of the dedication and work you put into your routine.
And of course, the physical changes have been big, too, which is rewarding.
My family is not an active, healthy group of people, something that’s made me acutely aware of the importance of taking care of my body now, so that I will be healthy in the future. It doesn’t need to be all about going to the gym, either – you just need to move.
Q: What, for you, makes Elevate a special place?
A: Its size, the members and the sense of community that permeates the place. Everyone there has an attitude of inclusivity – every member is welcomed and encouraged, no matter the level of fitness. It’s not the type of gym where you just pay your dues, take your class and leave. It’s a social place where people genuinely care, and every member wants every other member to succeed.