When Fred Fox was asked to lead spinning classes at the San Francisco gym he co-founded in the mid-1990s, it seemed like a crazy idea. At the time, he was busy working as a managing director at a major New York banking firm, raising a family and building a house in Tiburon. But, he had taken to the then-emerging exercise class, and decided to give it a go.
That began his now nearly 25-year stint as a spinning instructor, much of which has been at the Bay Club Marin in Corte Madera and recently outdoors at its Kentfield location.
Known as the Spinning Rabbi, the Tiburon resident, who dreamed as a kid of being a rabbi, therapist, comedian and entertainer, uses that for inspiration in his one-hour classes, which he uses as a platform to motivate and inspire people in the class and beyond.
Wanting to reach more people with his efforts, he started an email blast of inspirational quotes around 2009, which later turned into a blog of advice, stories and other musings at spinningrabbi.com, and speaking engagements.
Q How did you get the name the Spinning Rabbi?
A Having played competitive sports at a small college in New York City, I was used to the things that coaches say to get you fired up. That’s how I and other instructors started classes. But, there were so many things that I was learning about and studying that moved me and motivated me. I made the class a metaphor for life, all geared toward taking on challenges, tests, hurdles and struggles sent their way to help them become the human being they were created to be. People would start telling me, this is like going to synagogue, this is is like going to church, this is like going to a therapist. Someone said, ‘You’re the Spinning Rabbi,’ and it stuck.
Q You approach this class as much more than an exercise class.
A Yes. People that have talked to me about illness, loss, divorce, someone in their family died and financial troubles. A woman came to me at the end of a special charity ride I had been doing for Susan G. Komen — which works to prevent and end breast cancer — who had been in my class before and she said, “You don’t know this about me but I am suffering with breast cancer and the things you talk about mean more to me than a 1,000 support groups that I can go to.” That was extremely moving to me. Sometimes it shakes me up and sometimes, whether they know it or not, it brings me to tears. There’s a Jewish teaching from the Talmud that says to save one life is to save the whole world, so even if one person reads my post, and it means something to them, then I have done something important.
Q Where do you find inspiration?
A Current events like the pandemic, other tragedies, fires, earthquakes and other things that have happened not just domestically but around the world. Sometimes it’s just something I read that really moved me. It could be a quote that I see or something someone shares with me. I made a point at the beginning of the blog that I didn’t want it to be about me; I wanted it to be about my words.
Q Where does your positivity come from?
A From books like “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl and “The Choice” by Edith Eva Eger. I am a proud Jew, and in the last 15 to 20 years, I have spent a lot more time studying Kabbalah and it’s underlying what I write about, though these are universal messages. In the same token, my parents were both Holocaust survivors, they were both in Auschwitz. I’ve written about my parents, especially my father, who is my hero. When my parents had died and when we were cleaning out their closets, we found all these old photos of my parents, some when they first were in Italy as refugees after the war. They were happy and smiling. I wrote about how it’s possible to be happy after they went through, because they didn’t allow themselves to be victims.