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Southern California Edit

A Grit Story: Kelli Heald


It’s true when we say, “our clients become family to us;” with Kelli Heald, though, that bond goes even deeper.

A Gritty from day one, Kelli has been bouncing with us in the Saddle Room ever since Holy Grail dropped its first beat.

To say she and her daughter, Lauren, are our Front-row favorites would be substantially downplaying our barefaced-bias for these powerful beauties. When Kelli and Lauren ride in the pit, it is “GAME ON!!!” for the rest of us.

Kelli’s drive and tenacity on the bike is just as fierce off. With the passing of her beloved husband, Tres, Kelli took a devastating event, which would side-line most people, and she put herself full-throttle into the ring, fighting to find a cure for Amyloidosis, the disease that took Tres’ life.

Although her two kids, Jack 20 and Lauren 14, are her first priorities, Kelli works tirelessly to raise funds and awareness for Amyloidosis.

Last year Kelli organized the Karma Ride RIDE#4TRES at Grit for her birthday, where every dollar raised went to Amyloidosis; she surpassed over $11,000,00. It was the event of the year, and many of the staff recounted it as their most fun and cherished 2016 Grit memory.

We are beyond excited and honored to host Kelli’s second annual Ride#4TRES; this year she is hosting it at our gorgeous Monarch Beach Studio.

Kelli was gracious enough to stop by The Outpost to share her Grit Story with us.

What brought you to Grit Cycle? 

I followed Marisa and Matt from another studio.

Do you remember your first class at Grit? What was that like?

Yes, I remember it was during the opening week.  I can’t remember anything about who taught it or any of the moves or music.  What I do remember is exactly how it made me feel.  I felt like I was at a luxurious spa where I got a great workout that left me dripping in sweat surrounded by friends.

What about Grit kept you coming back? 

Duh…see above.

Describe how your life has been affected by your time at Grit.   

In early 2014 my husband Tres had been suffering from unexplained pain and sudden weight loss.  There were about 4-5 months where the doctors had no answers but all agreed that something was wrong.  I would come to class and cry the minute the lights went out.  I didn’t want my family to see this because I wanted to hold everything together for them.  Grit was my safe place.  I would come to Matt’s class and when he played Pompeii by Bastille the line “How am I going to be an optimist  felt like my subconscious speaking to me. 

We finally received the diagnosis of Amyloidosis {a rare blood disorder} on August 17th, the day before my birthday.  That birthday was awful!  After months of chemo and a bone marrow transplant, we thought we were finally in the home stretch and were going to be able to resume our lives.  That’s not how it went.  At 4:55 am on April 22nd the hospital called to tell me that Tres had passed away in his sleep.  The disease had done damage to his heart that the doctors hadn’t seen.  My world as I knew it was over. 

Weeks or maybe a month later, I can’t remember,  I was able to go back to Grit. It was a Monday at 8:15am, not a time I normally went, and Leigh was teaching.  At the time I didn’t know her which is why I went.  I didn’t want to see people I knew who knew my story.  I wanted to be invisible, and when the lights went down I could be.  There were many days those first few months that making it to class was the only thing {other than trying to be a mom to Jack and Lauren} I did.  Grit played a huge role in my recovery because it was the only place other than home that I felt safe.

 What or Who is your biggest inspiration or motivation?

Tres is my biggest inspiration.  He lived each day like it might be his last and never took anyone or anything for granted.  Jack and Lauren are my motivation.  I want to show them that you can go through a terrible loss and still have an amazing life.

 Do you have a mantra that inspires you? 

I have a lot but right now the ones I go to are: 

Keep your head where your feet are.

Make the rest of your life the best of your life.

You are stronger than you think.

 Do you have a ride or class that has been your most memorable or favorite? 

I have three.

1. The Movember Ride the first year Grit was open.  Tres and I did this ride together and it is probably the last time we rode together.

2. My birthday ride last year.  I remember looking around the room and seeing my family, friends and even people I didn’t know supporting me. Gratitude was pouring out of me. 

3. The Karma Ride this year that benefitted the Down Syndrome Association. Cassie and Alex let Lauren ride podium for the last 2 songs.  I loved seeing her up there.

What is your favorite song to ride to and why?

I have three.

1. “Heros” by Alesso  Cassie recently played this during class and dedicated it to me.  I have never been so flattered.

2. “Praying” by Kesha – I cry every time Katie and Leigh play it.  Its almost like I wrote some of the lyrics…”I can breathe again” “The best is yet to come ‘cause I can make it on my own.”

3. “Die a Happy Man” by Thomas Rhett- The first time I ever heard this song Marisa played it as a cool down.  It sums up Tres..dying a happy man because of the simple things in life.

 What was your “aha” moment, experience, ride, situation where you realized Grit was more than a spin class for you?

There were lots and lots of “aha” moments during Tres’s illness and after he died that I realized Grit was special because it was literally helping me survive.  Recently I have had more of these moments since Lauren started spinning.  She always wants to sit in the front row and it gives me so much anxiety because I am concerned that she will be off beat and other riders around her will be annoyed.  The “aha” moments are when strangers come up after class and tell her she “killed” it or tell me how much she inspires them.  Somehow I still am surprised by the Love and Support of the Grit Family.

Kelli you are what makes Grit so special. We feel so grateful to have you in the Grit Family, and we are honored to, once again, celebrate Tres’ memory with another ride this year.

If you’d like more information or better yet, if you’d like to join us on this magical day, visit Kelli’s page for details. You can book your bike for the August 18th ride lead by Marisa, Cassie + Katie at 11am in our Monarch Beach studio, here.

Wishing you a beautiful weekend.


Grit Cycle