How a Speech Pathologist Balances Teaching CycleBar Classes, 5 AM Wake-Up Calls, and Meeting Friends for Workouts and Smoothies

Main photo by Jay Dixon. All others courtesy of Devyn Brauer.

Welcome to Busy Bodies, where we ask busy Washingtonians how they balance health and fitness while working crazy hours, raising a family, and meeting the demands of the daily hustle. Know someone who’s killing the fitness game while getting it done (maybe it’s you)? Email 

Devyn Brauer is a 28-year-old KIPP DC speech pathologist and an instructor at CycleBar NoMa, where she teaches anywhere from three-to-10 classes a week. On top of her full-time work and fitness instructor side gig, the Navy Yard resident typically works out five-to-six times a week.

“To me, exercise is so much more than a way for me to stay in shape. I view working out as the best form of therapy money can buy,” says Brauer. “No matter what I am dealing with in life, a good workout allows me to reset and think rationally.” 

Here’s how she gets it done.

“If I teach spin at 6 AM, then I fall asleep around 4 AM. I have ‘SAT syndrome’ (as in, the pre-college test), where I truly believe I am going to sleep through my 5 AM alarm. So I wait until the last possible second to actually fall asleep. You can imagine how fantastic I feel when my alarm goes off an hour later. I am up at 5:06 AM and out the door by 5:15 AM. I have mastered the perfect time to wake up in order to get to CycleBar by 5:30 AM. After a morning class and coffee, of course, I shower and head to my ‘big girl’ job (as I refer to it) at KIPP DC.

“I spend my day working with children with speech and language disorders, either alone in my class or in their classrooms. The students often help me make my playlist for my night classes. If I have class at 6 PM, I head to the studio straight from work. If I teach at 7 PM, I try to fit in whatever errands need to get done before class. On nights when I am not too dead, I try to see friends for dinner. I am newly single, so I guess I should start trying to throw dates into the mix as well… (but does it count if I just make them come to my spin class?)

“I have a ClassPass membership, so on days that I do not teach, I try to take a class right after work (usually barre) or go to the November Project on Wednesday mornings at the Lincoln Memorial. Luckily, most of my friends also enjoy taking workout classes, so we get to turn a class into social time, too. Usually, this ends with dinner out, which can negate all the work we did in the workout.

I am definitely pretty repetitive when it comes to food. For the past three years, I have eaten the same foods for breakfast and lunch pretty much every day. I actually abide by the ‘apple-a-day’ rule, so I have one every morning around 8 AM. Around 10:30 or 11 AM I have a yogurt, and around noon I eat the same salad with tons of veggies and usually rotisserie chicken on top. I swear a rotisserie chicken is my best weekly purchase—it can take me through the entire week. I top it off with my poppyseed dressing. Before a workout, I usually have one-to-two, OK, maybe four, scoops of peanut butter. 

“Dinner depends on when I get home. I blame my lack of cooking ability on the plethora of fast casual options Navy Yard has to offer, but in reality, I just don’t love to cook. When I do, I make a lot of spaghetti squash and salmon. Honestly, mixing some veggies and protein in a bowl and tossing it with whatever sauce I can find satisfies me perfectly. Dessert is my favorite meal of the day, and I can rarely go to bed without something sweet. My favorite quick dessert is caramel rice cake (with more peanut butter) topped with frozen chocolate chips.

Lucky for me, I have always loved working out and never really felt the need to motivate myself to do it. I listen to my body, and it is so much happier after a workout than it is if I skip a few days. For me, working out is just as much an emotional and mental release as it is a physical one. No matter how stressed or anxious I may be feeling, I know that after taking some time for myself to just move and push my body, I will walk away feeling so much better. It is also my one time a day to just shut down my brain (if I’m not teaching) and go on autopilot mode. Luckily, all of my friends love to work out or are fitness instructors themselves, so it’s never hard to find someone to go with. Instead of hanging at a bar, I would much rather spend time with people taking a class, then grabbing dinner or smoothies. 

“[My biggest athletic accomplishment] is running a half-marathon. I am the furthest thing from a ‘runner.’ I can go two-to-three miles before I want to die or get bored. In 2014, I signed up for a half-marathon after having serious FOMO that all of my sorority sisters were going to do this cool thing together. So I signed up and followed the training schedule to a T because I was not the person who could wake up that day and be like ‘Hey, let’s just run 13 miles.’ When the day finally came, I was convinced I’d make it to mile seven or eight and then look for the closest Metro stop. My parents tracked my progress on the app, and until this day, my parents tell the story of convincing themselves that I passed out or left the race on mile nine because my tracker just disappeared. I choose to believe it was a technical glitch, not because I sat on the sidewalk for a few minutes. But I finished in 2:08, set myself a PR for life, and will probably never run more than two-to-three miles again. It was just really amazing knowing I could train my body to do something I never saw possible and really didn’t like doing. Mind over matter goes a long way.

“My students are some of the hardest workers I have ever met. I am constantly asking them to do things that are difficult for them, whether it is making a specific speech sound or asking them to speak in front of a crowd. No matter how frustrated they become at themselves or at me, we make sure to frequently state our goals so we understand why we continue to work, even when it is difficult. I hope to carry that over to my classes. I want people to understand that they are coming to my classes to make themselves better in some aspect, whether it is physical, mental, or emotional. Although these goals may not be accomplished as quickly as we wish, constantly reminding ourselves of the long-term goal may make it easier to handle the immediate frustrations.

“I think when I first became an actual fitness professional, the anxieties of will people like me? began to overtake my joy in the activity itself. I became obsessed with making playlists I thought my riders would like and was constantly checking to see how many people were signed up for my classes. When this started, my classes and my riders suffered. I quickly realized that if I just go out there and be my normal self and play music that brings me joy, chances are people are going to like it.”

Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Home & Features Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She’s written for The Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Del Ray.