After breaking up with his boyfriend of six years, Frank Wells found himself in his small Kentucky hometown unhappy, out of shape and relying a little too much on alcohol and cocaine. In 2019, his friend suggested he move to Denver and he leapt at the chance.
As he looked for a job he saw that a CycleBar was hiring and thought he’d be a good fit — he had a lot of experience working in bars. He was a little surprised when he learned it didn’t serve alcohol.
“I wanted to be a bartender because that was my experience,” the 29-year-old told TODAY. “When I walked in I realized it was a spin studio and I was like, ‘What is this thing?’ and the rest is history.”
The staff encouraged Wells to come in for a free class before accepting the front desk job where he would greet members, sell memberships and clean. While he loved the class, it was grueling.
“In that first class I died. I came back to life and then I went to my car and cried for like 10 minutes,” he said. “Then I was like, ‘OK this, beyond the physical death, was actually a lot of fun.’ Finding the rhythm was fun, the little dances moves are fun. I was like ‘I think I can get into this more.’”
Wells started at the front desk and began taking classes. While he had lost 200 pounds in his early 20s by changing his diet, he wasn’t fit. While going from 420 to 220 is an accomplishment, he struggled to walk up the stairs.
“I had never really exercised,” he explained. “I got down to like 220 and that was from dieting.”
Growing up, he remembers eating rich Southern foods and enjoying large portions of them. When Wells went to college, he gained the freshman 15. But then he started making healthier decisions, eating more vegetables and even becoming a vegetarian for a short time. Though, he mostly lost his weight by basically eating fewer calories. Gradually, he shed pounds. Wells didn’t really notice until he realized that the shirts he needed were two sizes smaller.
“All of a sudden you're like, ‘Oh (I’m) skinnier now.’ … A lot of it is mental when you lose a whole lot of weight to see yourself,” he said. “(I feel) like that 400-pound person no matter how small I get.”
But working at CycleBar and taking more classes transformed Wells’ body in ways he never anticipated. At first he hesitated to take classes, but the instructors kept encouraging him.
“It really took them to be like ‘Come to my class.’ They were pushing me,” he said. “(Without this) I probably would have just like stuck to my little one class a week and might not really have made the big changes that I've made over the past year and a half.”
Soon, he stopped using drugs and drinking as much.
“You don’t realize how many calories … are in a whiskey and PBR,” he said.
Thanks to spin and his new healthy habits, he lost another 40 pounds and gained loads of muscle.
“It’s crazy how my body has changed,” he said.
While he worked his way up from front desk to assistant manager to manager, Wells recently took on a new role — spin instructor.
“I still go to other classes,” he said. “That’s how you learn more because I’ve only been doing this for about three months.”
Wells said he’s also learned a lot about himself through this process and loves how he’s grown.
“I’m very good at limiting myself. I think it comes from being Black and from the South and being gay and always being different, that helped develop this mindset of like, ‘Oh, that's not for me,’” he said. “The biggest thing was just learning to let go of those preconceived notions.”
Wells shares advice to others hoping to lose weight or even try a new exercise, like cycling.
1. Don’t compare yourself to others.
It’s easy to find someone on social media to compare yourself to and often that can lead to bad feelings. Wells found himself looking at other people’s weight loss and wondering why he has loose skin or his abs don’t look ripped. Then he realized that everyone’s bodies and experiences are different.
“Don't compare yourself to others. Be kind to yourself and just love yourself because at the end of the day you only have one body. So all you can do is love it,” he said. “You can't exchange it.”
2. Don’t give up.
“For anyone starting spin class, don’t give up after your first class. Your first class will be hard,” he said. “It’ll be challenging but give it three more times. On that third or fourth class you’re going to love it … So just keep going back and keep trying.”
3. Make it fun.
Even after he lost 200 pounds, Wells disliked exercise because it seemed boring. That’s why cycling works so well for him. It’s fun.
“I didn’t like working out now until I found spin,” he said. “I go back because to me it’s fun.”