Crunching Chelsea with Cherie Lily - Fitness Week


By Jordan Reisman

Photo courtesy of Daniel D’Ottavio.

Cherie Lily is no stranger to BTR. The wild and vivacious “Queen of Cardio” has been the Discovery Artist of the Week and helped crash Third Eye Weekly’s one-year anniversary podcast with husband Andrew W.K. Besides her marriage and music, there’s another side to Lily that BTR had yet to excavate: her role as fitness instructor. She discussed the subject in both her Discovery Artist and Third Eye Weekly interviews, but talk isn’t good enough. You need the sweat to prove you were there.

I decided to make my way down to Crunch Chelsea where she teaches to take her Awesome 80’s Ride class. (Unbeknownst to me, the title implied a spinning class.) As attendees prepared, Cherie came in like a fireball of enthusiasm, lifting everyone’s moods as she yelled “Woo!” and “Let’s do this!” What followed over the next forty-five minutes was nothing short of a party, with 80’s dance hits from “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” to “Oh Sherrie” (that one seemed intentional) to even “London Calling”. After the class was finished and I was thoroughly out of breath, I was able to speak with Cherie about how she blends fitness and music together as one.

“I think the main thing is that I’m really into music so I make all my own personalized mixes for my classes. I put everything into Ableton and sync them up, and I put the most exciting parts of songs together so I can create the most exciting class around it,” Cherie says about the unique way she teaches. “I think that gives me a little bit of an upper hand with other teachers because not only do I create original music for my classes but I make original mixes and I just try to make it as exciting as possible.”

The inventor of the “houserobics” genre cites Richard Simmons as her primary influence and much like him, “there’s no wall, I’m on the same level as you” — an ethos Lily applies along with his emphasis on “humor and fun.” She even says there was a bit of Simmons in Awesome 80’s Ride in the way that it followed a theme. She says that he likes to pick themes for each class along with picking an apropos playlist, sending each track listing to the students.

Being married to Andrew W.K. and also working on her own musical output when she can, music is the essence of everything Cherie Lily does. We would be remiss to not discuss where music meets fitness at Crunch Chelsea.

“I think it’s the physical feeling like when you’re really into a song and your heart rate gets pumping, you just feel so emotional about a certain song. It’s the same when you’re at the gym and you’re working really, really hard. You have to take it to the next level and take it outside the comfort zone. You go into this headspace that’s almost outside your body and I feel like you can go there with fitness by pushing yourself to the limit or you can also get there listening to an amazing song or going to an amazing concert. It hits you at an ‘out-of-body’ level,” says Lily.

Getting the people in her class to experience this kind of physical transcendence is no easy task and so Cherie Lily uses all of her skills to help make the class a little more existential. In addition to just having an ear for music, she strives to blend her talent as a performer with her teaching as well.

“[Performing and teaching] completely blend together. Some of the best teachers are also great performers. It’s all about giving them a fabulous workout in the most entertaining way. When it’s fun and entertaining, the time flies by, the class stays in the moment, and they work harder because the focus is on feeling good, not how much time is left,” Lily says about how she keeps Chelsea hooked.

As evidenced by her class, Cherie Lily’s teaching style is like that of an encouraging best friend. At no point in the class did she use any remote sense of “tough love” to try to get us to work harder. She was always raising the bar with her motivation because she knew we could do it.

“I think motivation is a big part of my classes; tapping into why people are coming to the gym and going beyond the fact that they just want to lose a few pounds. They want to feel better most of the time. So I really lock in with, ‘Alright, you came here to feel better. How far are you willing to get to that place?” says Lily about being a fitness cheerleader.

Now, if you’re the type of internet-savvy music nerd that I am, you might not be finding yourself at the gym everyday because of, uh… intellectual pursuits. One practice that Lily admires in Richard Simmons is his willingness to reach out to people who aren’t already juiced up gym rats and show them the ways of Slimmons. Cherie Lily aims to do that with those of the BTR listeners and readers who are less than ripped. So, as a parting means of motivation from Cherie for you to get out there:

“The first thing you gotta do is start, that’s the hardest part,” says Lily. “Take a class with a friend or go do something physical with a friend. When you have a buddy, it’s a lot easier. Whether it’s going to a class with a friend, finding an instructor you like or doing something you like, if it’s a dance class, gymnastics class or a hiking class, whatever it might be. Anything active to get you in the headspace of moving, then you get addicted to the endorphins and it starts to get a little bit easier.”