Expect a wellness experience at this indoor Cycling studio
The room is dark. The sound of whirring bikes and heavy breathing fills the air. On a raised platform, surrounded by flickering candles, Melina DiPaola grins at her audience from her bike.
By Andrea Keklak — Photographed by Jazz Martin
“Alright!” she calls out, through her headset microphone. “We’re going to start off nice and strong with some jumps!” Across the ceiling, blacklights flicker on, and the quick, clean beat of “Banquet” by Bloc Party begins pulsing from the speakers. “One-two-one-two-one-two! Nice and quick!” Melina shouts. “Tell the body it’s time to work!” There’s no response from the group, except an audible increase in the sound of pedals turning. It’s 5:30, and they’re here to ride.
The words that come to mind when you first meet Melina are something along the lines of “fitness badass.” Short, dark-haired, and incredibly toned, Melina bubbles with the kind of energy that’s at once intimidating – “boy, I wouldn’t want to fight this girl” – and inspiring. It’s this persona that makes her such a dynamic instructor, and has likely contributed to her success in the North End.
Despite appearances, however, Melina’s journey to running a cycling studio was far from smooth. When she was 5 years old, growing up in the North End, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor known as pilocytic astrocytoma. She underwent several surgeries at Boston Children’s Hospital to regain her health. At the same time, her parents incorporated holistic remedies such as acupuncture and drinking fresh-pressed juice into her treatment. To this day, Melina credits much of her recovery to these alternative practices – she still swears by the delicious taste and health benefits of cold-pressed juice.
A few years after her recovery, Melina began going to the gym with her father. She quickly found her passion in cardio and strength training, and started attending fitness classes. As she began college, Melina’s pursuit of indoor cycling, in particular, soon grew into what she describes as a “non-stop love affair.” “I was that girl trekking through a snowstorm to go to a cycling class,” she jokes.
While still in school, she founded e.t.c. juicery, a business dedicated to producing fresh, cold-pressed juices. With the savings from her college restaurant jobs, she purchased a hydraulic cold press and opened shop. Melina eventually returned to the North End, and set to work on her dream: a “wellness enthusiast’s haven,” where Bostonians could get in a grueling workout, and recover with fresh, nutritious juices and smoothies. In 2015, she made the gamble and opened her own cycling studio, which she named “ride,” alongside the first brick-and-mortar location of e.t.c. juicery. This move to embark on her own fitness career reflects Melina’s no-holds-barred approach to business and life.“If I had hesitated…it wouldn’t have happened,” she says.
Ride, located at 420 Commercial Street, has an industrial, modern feel. Inside the cycling studio, the walls are wood-panelled, save a large mirror facing the rows of bikes. Overhead, strips of blacklights blaze, illuminating additional fitness equipment along the walls – ropes, free weights. Through the side door you’ll find e.t.c. juicery, a smaller area with a checkered floor and café-like atmosphere. Drink options are written on a chalkboard behind the counter.
The cycling classes themselves, Melina explains, vary depending on who teaches them.
“We all have different styles, choreography and music,” she says, “but the intention is always the same: to give you the opportunity to de-stress and get a good hard sweat session.” Her own style, she says, combines everything she’s “…observed, liked, loved, despised, and picked up over 14 years [and] hundreds of classes.”
Today, on a Thursday evening, Melina certainly has an impressive command of the studio. In the midst of a long climb, she yells out constant encouragement to her panting, sweaty class. “Hit! Hit! Hit! Make it big! Lift those knees! Higher!” When it comes to that mentally tough, middle part of the workout, Melina is unapologetically blunt. “When it’s over,” she adds, you will “…feel accomplished [knowing] that you pushed yourself to your own personal limits and emerge stronger.”
Finally – what’s the best advice she can give to newcomers, looking to enter the world of fitness? The answer is unsurprising: “Don’t hesitate.”