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FITT Q&A: LIZA SOLBERG – GIRL BOSS, FITNESS LEGACY

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RYAN DEER

JUL 14, 2020

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IMAGE VIA @LIZA.SOLBERG | INSTAGRAM

In a recurring series, we’re talking to inspirational people doing amazing things in Chicago’s fitness scene. This time, it’s Liza Solberg, owner of Spynergy Wicker Park.

Cycling is in her blood, but the reputation she has built “down the alley” reaches far beyond the bike. We caught up with her about the challenges of being independent, how classic rock should always be on a workout playlist, and the occasional secret concert held in her studio.

SO YOUR PERSONAL STORY AND THE SPYNERGY STORY START IN THE SAME PLACE?

Spinning has been a constant for me since I was 15, when I started teaching teen spin in my mom’s studio in Winnetka, which she co-owns with her twin sister. All my sisters and cousins taught there, too… so it’s definitely a family affair. Even while in college in New York and when I lived in Denver for a few years, I was an instructor. And I moved back to Chicago because I wanted to open my own studio.

YOU KNEW YOU’D BE COMPETING WITH SOULCYCLE AND FLYWHEEL; HOW IS SPYNERGY DIFFERENT?

I was going to all of these studios, and I felt there was an opportunity to do something like at my mom’s studio, where it has always felt like family. It's everyone's "third space" — you have home, work, and then Spynergy.

I saw this opportunity in the boutique fitness scene to create a space like that for my own peers, where the number one goal is to be inclusive. Every person that walks through the door should be contributing to the class, not just our instructors. They’re superstars, but it’s not about them — it’s about you.

YOUR STUDIO LAYOUT’S A LITTLE DIFFERENT, TOO.

When I was looking for space, I had said I wanted it to look different than the typical studio right away, like a speakeasy, or a coffee shop, or brewery. Plus, we have this massive skylight that can make the indoor class feel outdoors. You know the weather in Chicago can be crazy, so teaching a class in a thunderstorm is a pretty cool experience.

That, and we move the bikes away to host Sofar Sounds at the studio. If you don’t know, they do small concerts in hidden spaces for local artists. You buy a ticket in advance, you get an email 24 hours beforehand telling you where to be and when, and you show up to find like four artists set to perform.

SPEAKING OF TUNES, WE LOVE YOUR CURATED WORKOUT PLAYLIST. WHAT’S THE INSPIRATION?

Music can turn my day around, whether it’s listening at home or going to a concert. But putting together spinning programming is 100 million percent about the music to me. I’m motivated by it, and I love putting together my playlists.

One thing that sets Spynergy apart is that we play music that you would actually listen to outside of working out. Obviously, the remixes and Beyoncé and Avicii are motivating, but throwing in some classic rock is part of my personal brand — I play a Rolling Stones song every Saturday.

@liza.solberg | Instagram

YOU WERE ONE OF THE FIRST ONLINE WHEN CHICAGO GYMS CLOSED. HOW’D YOU MAKE IT HAPPEN?

Some places perfected everything before they got virtual, but I said let’s go for it. A trial by fire. We ended up renting out 39 out of 40 bikes [keeping one for instructors] — people were wheeling them down the street, we loaded some into the back of my mom’s car... it was very guerilla, but it was a blast.

And I’m really proud of my team for how quickly we transitioned online. I feel like the experience is really fun because we are still holding true to our mission, which is to inspire positivity through fitness, music, and community — so that community piece is still there, which is awesome.

DO YOU THINK YOU’LL CONTINUE FILMING POST-COVID?

The silver lining here is that the way studios previously operated had been deeply connected the size of their space — eventually, you’ll max out capacity. There are only so many hours in a day and so many people you can fit into one room. Well now, those barriers have been broken, and we’ll definitely keep virtual on our list of services.

AND NOW THERE’S HIIT ON THAT LIST.

It’s beat-based, so it’s completely on-brand. And though it’s new to Spynergy, teaching HIIT isn’t anything new to me or our instructors. So I’m excited to try something off-bike.

YOU’RE PRETTY CONFIDENT. WHERE DO YOU FIND THAT INNER STRENGTH?

Honestly, I still get nervous right before a class, but in an excited way. I think the confidence comes from the room and the community. It’s so much easier to motivate when you’re getting it right back.

@liza.solberg | Instagram

WHAT ABOUT SHOWING IT OUTWARDLY ON SOCIAL?

Funny enough, I rarely ever posted anything about Spynergy on my personal Instagram account until the pandemic. I guess I had always felt that my personal space and professional space were separate. Now, I’m starting to identify myself more with the studio owner side of me, and I’m motivated for that same need to engage with the community.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO UNWIND?

I feel like I’ve only been talking about music, but definitely that. I also like watching Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office reruns for a laugh. Oh, and Killing Eve. Have you seen it? I love the character Villanelle — she’s a murderer… but she’s really funny, has amazing style, and is a complete badass.

ANY SELF-CARE?

To me, self-care is having a glass of wine or going out for tacos and margaritas. It always involves friends, good food, music, or a drink.

WHAT DOES “GOOD FOOD” MEAN TO YOU?

Most of the day, I’m ‘food for fuel’ just because of how many calories you burn from spinning. But I’m also sort of freestyle, where I just eat what makes me feel good. I eat a lot of lean proteins and greens throughout the day, things like apples and almond butter when I’m on the go, and I pop popcorn almost every night after dinner to go with a glass of wine and a little dark chocolate.

And when I go out, I go out — tacos and pizza are my go-tos.

@liza.solberg | Instagram

IT ONLY MAKES SENSE TO GO OUT WITH YOUR TOP FIVE FAVORITE SPOTS IN CHICAGO...

1.) I love the Lakefront. I think it’s the number one reason to live in Chicago.

2.) Spynergy.

3.) Hopleaf. My family lived in Germany when I was young, and we’re really into Belgian and German beer.

4.) Rhine Hall Distillery. It’s my cousin’s distillery in West Town. They have this super cool tasting room.

5.) Oh, and how could I forget? United Center. I love going to Blackhawks games.

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If you have a bike, hop on for a dose of positivity with Liza and the Spynergy team on Zoom. And be on the lookout for open-air, limited-capacity studio classes popping up on the schedule. Need a classic, feel-good workout playlist? Liza hooked us up. Discover that and more from local faves on Fitt Chicago’s Insta.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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