Working It Out With SELF’s Joyce Chang

by Alexandra Ilyashov

Joyce Chang shot by Frances Tulk-Hart at SEE Management

We recently sweated it out with Joyce Chang, SELF‘s editor-in-chief, with a dance cardio session at Bari Studio in Tribeca, followed by a chat at the Juice Press (Aloe Water for Chang and some sort of very green concoction called Mother Earth for us). A private class with the EIC of the chicest fitness title around, taught by a completely chiseled, crazily energetic former Rock Of Ages national tour dancer? A pretty daunting scenario, especially for a, ahem, slightly coordination-challenged sort of person.

About six minutes in, the nerves subsided and the focus was on not face-planting on a pool of our own perspiration. Mission accomplished! The quick choreography and infectious, fairly superhuman energy levels of our instructor, who ripped off her Rock of Ages sweatpants halfway through class, revealing some insanely sculpted gams and a pair of hotpants, made the hour fly by. Though the pain from those sliders (see below) lingered quite a bit. We caught up with Chang about how and where she works out, what’s happening at SELF these days, which Wall Street Journal ed has a killer sense of rhythm, and much more… 
What brought us to Bari Studio?
I love supporting women-owned businesses. There’s such a great talent pool of smart, driven female entrepreneurs and business leaders in the fitness and wellness space. The founder of Bari, Yaya Bonetti, was only 24 when she started her studio, and now she’s expanded to the Hamptons and California, and she’s only 29. I like supporting women like Yaya, and there are so many like her: my good friend Amanda Freeman at SLT, Debora Warner at Mile High Run Club, Vanessa Packer at modelFIT, and Anna Kaiser at AKT. The CEO of Equinox is a woman: Sarah Robb O’Hagan has transformed Equinox from a gym into a global fitness brand, having risen through the ranks of Nike and Gatorade. She’s such a badass. I support badass women every opportunity I get. I’m exhausted working out all over town at their studios!

What did you think of our dance cardio sesh chez Bari Studio? 
I had never worked with this trainer before. She had a lot of energy and she gave me what I asked for: Lots of cardio, targeted sculpt, no trampoline (I don’t love that part). Of course, the sliders are torture, but you’re sore in the places you want to be the next day. I am the crazy person who asks for more sliders, but they get at your triceps and the weird soft spots of the backs of your arms like nothing else!

Yeah, we were really feeling the burn with those sliders…What’s your fitness diet like these days?
It’s more of a fitness feast. There’s so much to choose from. It changes all the time.

Talk us through a recent week’s worth of workouts. 
I went to Mile High Run Club—the instructor was Mike Stember, an Olympic runner—then I went to Bari with you, did yoga with an instructor from Pure, worked out with my trainer at Equinox, and played tennis at Midtown Tennis. I work out three to five times a week. Spin is in the mix. Now that Equinox has opened across the street from the office, I will probably get into precision running there and try other classes. Rowing is on my list, too. 

You’re up on all things workout-related. So, what’s happening in NYC’s fitness scene lately?
I love the range of experience—from a DJ dance party like 305 Fitness to underground boxing at Overthrow, nothing is middle-of-the-road anymore. You can immerse yourself in a culture (like CrossFit, SoulCycle, or Tracy Anderson) or experiment via ClassPass. How you work out has become so personal. You can literally choose your own adventure. For an hour, you’re absorbed in something outside of your own head or life. 

What’s new at SELF?
What’s not new at SELF?! Following our relaunch of the magazine in the fall, we just unveiled our homepage redesign. We can interact even more with our readership—a new of generation of Instagram-and SoulCycle-obsessed women. I felt like there was a void out there—it was so specific—and now we own it. There’s a set of core values and attitude that we just inherently understand. We are our readers. We’ve focused on this SELF-made woman and giving her everything she needs to stay motivated in all aspects of her life; it’s a very tight focus and mission. What makes me most proud is that we aren’t crowding the ball and following the pack—we’ve gone our own way. We have our own look, our own voice, and it’s completely unique to us.

What are you proudest of accomplishing during your stint as EIC thus far?  
What’s most rewarding is how people are responding—from designers, photographers, models, celebrities, athletes to fellow editors—the support has been tremendous. Everywhere we go, whether the White House, the Clinton Foundation, nonprofits or big brands, the alignment of goals is totally organic—we are here to do good for women and their health. What;s most important is the response I get from readers on social media and those who stop me at an exercise class to tell me that they feel we are a magazine that really speaks to them and inspires them.

Do editors from other Condé mags ever pop by SELF‘s floor for fitness tips, green juices, and the ilk?
We used to share a floor with Bon Appétit at 4TS. When I first got there, Adam Rapoport gave me a standing invite to come to his office for a bourbon, and he had one to come to mine for green juice. Christine Muhlke, BA‘s executive editor, and I have traded some healthy eating and not-so-healthy eating emails. I wouldn’t say as editors we do a lot of popping around to each other’s floors. But Linda Wells and I share a love of The Ranch. And Stefano Tonchi recently revealed many behind-the-scenes SELF secrets from his days as creative director there many moons ago. I’m considering a Stefano-inspired issue… It will be very envelope-pushing.  

How do you feel about the new Conde caf? Is it SELF-approved?
The quinoa bowl is. But that’s the only thing I’ve had so far!

You’re a big dance cardio fan. Did you dabble in dance as a kid?
I took ballet for several years as a kid and a little jazz and tap. Nothing serious. I just like dancing. I love that the time flies and you’re in a zone of choreography and music. I don’t realize how hard I’m working. I dare anyone not to have a good time dancing to fun music for an hour. I also think the best reward for being in good shape is that your body can move freely with control and strength. That’s what dance is. My relationship with my dance cardio trainer, Katia Pryce of KPDanceBody, is my longest fitness relationship. We have been on and off for five years. I just can’t quit her!

Are you more of a solo exerciser or do you like making workouts a social thing?
I do both. Sometimes I need alone time to clear my mind. Sometimes I want to be social. A little workout and coffee or juice after is perfect time spent with a friend. I like introducing new workouts to friends and seeing them experience something new and awesome.

Who are your go-to editor workout pals?
I recently dragged Joanna Coles to aerial yoga. She was skeptical at first, but now wants to hang upside down all the time. I can’t tell you how many editor friends I’ve bullied into cardio dance. [Cosmopolitan‘s fashion director] Aya Kanai is a good dance buddy. Marshall Heyman [of WSJ] is quite light on his feet. He’s got rhythm. 

Good to know! How do you feel about fitness classes as work meetings versus, say, a lunch or breakfast?
I like workout meetings. It’s a great icebreaker and it’s easier to get into a flow of conversation or ideas because your blood is pumping, fresh oxygen is going to your brain, you’re alert and warmed up.

Any tricks to looking semi-presentable mid-sweat with a work contact? 
Sweat is a great equalizer. Everyone sweats. When you’ve sweated together, it’s a bond of sorts. But it’s not right for everyone or for every meeting! Some people are just not meant to sweat together. Lunchtime workouts are hard because it’s midday, though it can be done. I prefer to do it at end of day because you don’t have to return to an office-ready state of hair, makeup, and clothes.

Workout gear has gotten a whole lot chicer in recent years. Which brands and styles are you most impressed by?
I wear a lot of Nike, Stella for Adidas, and Lululemon. They keep innovating. Athleta has the waistband of pants down to a science. But there are so many new cool brands: the Upside, Michi, ALO, Track and Field, Lolë, Monreal and Lucas Hugh are among some of my faves. Sweaty Betty from the U.K. is great. I love shopping on Carbon38 and Net-a-Sporter.

What are your thoughts on the rise of “athleisure” wear? What does this mean culturally—and for SELF?
It’s comfortable, chic, easy. The new high-low mix is a heel with a track pant, a sneaker with a leather pant, a body-con rugby-stripe dress with a flat sandal. It all feels fresh. What’s not to like? I often joke that women are always on the verge of working out at any given moment. They like to preserve that option—and dress accordingly. To me, when I see a woman in cool leggings, chic sneaks, a great coat and bag—that’s power dressing. She’s someone who makes taking care of herself and working out a priority, and is off to the next thing. She’s in control—and she can go anywhere in life. That’s a SELF woman.

Do you spot people reading SELF at the gym often? What goes through your mind when/if you do?
I do. It’s good elliptical reading! I want to focus-group them and ask them a ton of questions. But most of the time, I let them enjoy it. SELF time is precious!

Are you ever recognized at fitness studios, juice bars, Lululemon, or other fitness-centric spots by SELF fans?
I’m by no means famous, but some people know me only by my Instagram name and they’ll say: “joycemarg!”

What are your go-to restaurants these days?
Cafe Clover, Upland, Santina, ABC Kitchen, and Tijuana Picnic. Also, The Mark, because it is across the street from my apartment and they make the best kale salad in the city.

PLUS! Check out SELF’s haute new event debuting this summer: Up & Out Studio will bring a bevy of boutique fitness classes and much more to Spring Studios on June 27 and 28. Buy your tickets on May 1! 


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