Sammy Torres: Shows Us his Grit!
We, at GritCycle, are over-the-moon excited over one of our newest instructors, Sammy Torres. Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, Sammy’s only been on the schedule for a couple months, and already has a HUGE following for his Long Beach DANCE parties he holds in the Saddle Room. Classically trained, Sammy moves effortlessly from motorcycles to kick-ball-changes all in the matter of an 8-count. Long Beach GritCycle loves his contagious energy and off-the-wall FUN cycle sessions.
You’d never know from taking his class or looking at him, but Sammy has endured major hardship over the past year. All in a matter of 12 months Sammy suffered a career-ending injury, a devastating break-up, found himself homeless and lost his beloved father.
Sammy’s story is one of resilience, self-motivation, and TRUE GRIT! He was kind enough to stop by and share how he persevered in his darkest of times.
Sammy, thank you so much for sharing your story of Grit! You had a successful dancing career at Disneyland, but an injury ended it. Tell us about it:
I was dancing in a show and pulled my right hamstring. The problem was that I had already pulled that same hamstring a few years prior to this injury. So because of all the scar tissue from the first injury, I could barely walk. So I went from being an extremely active person to someone who was almost immobile.
You’ve spoken about being homeless; how did this come about?
At the time that I pulled my hamstring, I was living with my boyfriend of about a year. I found out that he had been cheating on me for the majority of that year that we had been together. After confronting him about his infidelity he kicked me out of our apartment and had the guy he was cheating on me with move in. I spent the majority of a year trying to find a place to live, I was bouncing around my couch to couch sometimes not knowing where I’d be sleeping the next night.
Your father, whom you were very close to passed away last year; can you tell us about how you found out?
On January 2nd, 2018 I was working a shift at Lululemon, On one of my breaks I read a news article of a pileup on the freeway near my home town in NY because of a massive snowstorm. At the end of my shift, I grabbed my phone and had multiple missed phone calls from my sister. I called her back and that’s when she informed me that our father had passed away in that pile up on the freeway that I had just read the article on. I almost blacked out and things still seem to be a blur. My coworker got me a flight home, drove me to my apartment, packed my bags for me, and drove me to the airport. While I was sitting in the airport in tears I found out that my flight might be canceled because yet another snowstorm was hitting my hometown and they weren’t sure if they’d be able to total off and land the plane in those conditions. Thankfully after a few hours, the storm calmed down enough that we were able to take off and I was on my way home to get to my family.
What made you decide to return to California?
I had no intention of coming back to California after my dad passed away. I was home for several weeks and everyone would ask “Are you moving back home?” “How long are you staying in NY for?” Then one day I was sitting on the couch with my uncle and he leaned over to me and said: “You know your dad wouldn’t want you to move back here after all the progress you’ve made in California, you belong out there making your dad proud.” After that conversation, I booked a flight back to LAX.
How was being back in California?
After moving back to California, the passing of the father became 10 times more real. I was extremely depressed, I shut people out, I would put on a brave face to go to work and act like I was completely ok and then just cry all the way home in my car. I started smoking cigarettes again. I had started smoking when I was 18 but prior to my dad’s accident, I hadn’t had a cigarette for almost 2 years. I remember every time Id light a cigarette id look up the sky and say “Sorry Dad” cause I knew he always hated when I smoked but at the time it was one of the few things that calmed me down.
How did you get out of this depression?
After a few months if being back in California, I was in a pretty dark place. I would call my sister on almost a daily basis crying saying I wanted to come home. But something in me stopped me from booking that plane ticket. I was in a major slump. I wasn’t eating healthy, I was smoking several cigarettes a day, I was barely leaving the house, and I wasn’t working out at all. I remember being so uncomfortable in my body. Then one day I thought back to the conversation with my uncle and heard him saying “you belong out there making your dad proud”. I knew I wasn’t doing that so I made a shift. I stopped smoking. I started asking friends to make me come with them to work out, to keep me accountable, and keep me on track. Once I got back into a normal workout routine I started feeling a little bit more like myself. I wasn’t able to control so many things going on in my life but my fitness was one thing that I had complete control of and having that one thing that I could hold onto saved me. It gave me hope that I could control other things in my life.
Has teaching at GritCycle helped you “bounce back”?
Yes I often tell people that riding and eventually teaching at Grit became my “Happy Place” I took my first Grit class on February 7th last year just about a week after being back in California and it was one of the first time I was able to fully remove myself (in a good way) for 45 mins from everything that was going on in my life and adjusting to being back. And every time I teach I get that same feeling I got when took my first class. It’s 45 min that I get to spend in a room full of people trying to better themselves and that inspires me to keep pushing forward in life.
How do you use your platform as a GritCycle instructor to help others who might be facing similar struggles: depression, homelessness, break-ups, the death of a loved one, injuries, unhealthy lifestyle choices, etc?
I try to use my platform as an instructor to inspire people to “rise from the ashes” as cheesy as that sounds. Like I’ve told you I try to be really open about my story in hopes that it’ll help someone in need to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I often have clients ask about my instagram post about my dad and the things I’ve been through and it usually opens up a conversation about things that they have going on in their lives and it becomes this really healthy exchange of advice, and just an ear to listen and get things off their chest. I always tell them it can be way more then a workout if you want it to be. I can be life changing if you let it. I encourage them to use the strength they find in the saddle room in the real world.
What is your advice to someone who is feeling lost or at their low point and are looking for direction?
My advice to anyone going through a low point is that the universe only throws things at you that you equipped to handle. So if you think you’re dealing with something you’re not prepared to handle, you just don’t realize how strong you really are yet. I remember when I was homeless and sitting in my car with Morty not knowing where I’d be sleeping that night and just crying out loud “I can’t do this!” But the truth was that I could, I just had to dig deep and find that inner strength I didn’t know I had.
Sammy, you are truly an inspiration. You are the embodiment of Grit! We are truly grateful to have you in the GritCycle family. Make sure you catch Sammy in Long Beach. He currently teaches the 8:15 am’s on Tuesday + Thursday; 5:45 am’s on Thursday, and making Saturdays spicy at 9:30 am.