If you’ve talked to me in the last two years, you know that I’m a little obsessed with my spin studio Peloton. A couple weeks ago I celebrated my birthday by dragging some friends to a class for the second year in a row. It also happened to be my 150th ride there. Both of these things feel surreal to me because I never thought I’d be the person who went to spin class religiously—I didn’t understand the appeal. Christina and I tried SoulCycle once a few years ago and I don’t think either of us has been back since. But months after that first attempt, I tried spinning again at Flywheel and eventually Peloton—which is where I got hooked.
At first going to Peloton was a casual thing I did whenever a class was open on ClassPass, but then I noticed that every time I had a bad day I wanted to get back in the studio. Eventually I started to plan my schedule so that if I had a stressful day coming up at work, I’d book a class on the same day. I joked that if I treated everything in my life like I treated my Peloton classes, I would be much better off. But when I really thought about it, it was true: there are so many good habits I’ve learned from spinning that use every day—both in the gym and outside. So after over 150 rides, here’s what I’ve learned.
1. Be on time (or early)
This is like the most basic, step zero, haven’t-even-done-anything-yet type of lesson, but as someone who has been chronically late since elementary school, this was a big change. Having to get myself to the studio, fight my way through the locker room, setup my bike, and start at a specific time was killer. Admittedly, there have been more that few times that I’ve had to rush into class after it started, but the couple of times I missed a class altogether because I didn’t leave early enough definitely got my ass in gear.
2. Drink more water
If we’re being honest, I’ve probably been at least a little bit dehydrated my whole life. I’ve never liked to drink plain water, but 45 minutes of vigorous exercise will leave you flat on your back if you don’t. So on days when I have a class, I focus on drinking water all day. I keep a cute bottle with me to help remind me (I love S’well bottles—they’re a little pricey, but keep water ice cold all day). I also sometimes use Nuun Hydration tablets to add some flavor when I need extra motivation. When I get to class, I drink water throughout the duration (duh), but then afterward I sit down in the lounge and don’t let myself leave until I’ve finished all of my water from the ride.
3. Think of food as fuel
Until I started spinning regularly, I had a more complicated relationship with food. I mostly thought about it in terms of what tasted good and what didn’t, but also had a lot of fears about eating because my digestive system has been out of wack for the better part of a decade. I would avoid eating lunch until late in the day because I didn’t know what I wanted to eat and I was afraid that anything I ate would upset my stomach. Sadly, I have yet to figure out the cause, but what I have figured out is which foods will help me perform at my best in a spin class.
The structure of the class provides a nearly perfect controlled environment to experiment with this: a single activity for the exact same duration each time and detailed stats captured on the bike. This means instead of having to assess based solely on how I feel, I can look at my total output to help me see which foods worked and which didn’t. I also have to make sure I eat at a certain time so I have enough fuel for class, but also enough time to digest. Eating breakfast makes a HUGE difference—even for classes in the evening—which has given me some motivation to try do that occasionally. Overall it has made me more mindful about how the foods I eat help my body perform instead of focusing solely on my food anxiety.
4. Excuse your excuses
Whenever I consider skipping a workout, I hear Robin Arzon’s voice in my head saying “excuse your excuses!” Most of the time it makes me realize I’m about to sabotage myself for a silly reason (i.e. it’s raining or I feel like lying in bed for 30 more minutes). Instead, I remind myself of why I wanted to do it in the first place and make myself just do the damn thing. Occasionally in those moments I do realize that my body truly needs to rest, in which case I do skip the workout, but most of the time this advice is pretty spot on.
5. Boss up
Boss babe Ally Love is constantly reminding me to boss up. There have been so many moments in class (and in life) when I didn’t think I could push for one more second, but I surprised myself and did it for 30. When I took my first 60 minute class, I was sure I’d feel too exhausted to go on after my usual 45 minutes, but as we crossed the 45 minute mark, I realized I still had enough left in the tank to boss up and climb a few spots on the leaderboard. In real life, this is admittedly a bit more complicated, but I figure if Ally can thrive in approximately 10 different jobs at once, I can boss up and do what I need to do.
6. Trust the process
There have been quite a few days that I got to the studio feeling sleepy/crampy/hungover, but once I got into the groove, I forgot all about those feelings and just put one foot in front of the other. My output may not have been great on those days, but those rides were still important. Without some mediocre days, I’d never have the amazing moments where I set new personal records or hit big milestones. If I stopped going back after one less-than-stellar ride I would only have one ride to my name right now.
7. Don’t let your crown slip
The moment when I start to get tired is the moment when I want to slump over in fatigue, but that’s the time when I know my form is most important. Now sometimes when I’m stressed at work I remember my form: chest up, booty back, shoulders down—don’t let your crown slip! It doesn’t map exactly to sitting in an office chair, but I still sit up taller, release my shoulders down, and remind myself that I’ve trained for this and I know what to do. I just have to do it.
8. Stuntin’ is a habit
Whenever I see people asking fitness personalities how they get motivated to work out, I realize I don’t really relate to that anymore. Not to sound holier-than-thou, but it’s true! Workouts have just become another thing that I put on my calendar and go to just like any other meetings or appointments. I’m not usually thinking about whether or not I’m motivated to go, I’m just praying that the trains are on my side to get me there. Admittedly, it’s hard when I have to get up before sunrise, but even then there is zero chance I’m turning back. I paid for the class so I’m gonna get up and do it—plus I know I’ll be better for it.
9. Do what makes you proud
Robin says this all the time in class and it’s a good reminder that what makes me proud is not the same as what might make someone else proud. Just because someone else has done 1000 rides doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be proud of my own 150. It’s not a zero sum game.
The simple act of cheering for people’s milestones and letting other people cheer for me has been monumental. It has always been hard to me to recognize my own accomplishments and I used to feel my face getting hot at the idea of anyone else congratulating me. But now, instead of looking down awkwardly when the instructor gives me a shoutout I try to own the moment and feel proud. And when other people are celebrating a milestone I cheer for them as if they’re my family.
10. Come as your full self
I’ve always been very self-conscious for a lot of reasons—my weight chief among them. On top of that, being black in predominantly white spaces can do that to a person. I’ve expended a lot of energy over the years trying to make myself smaller or to avoid being seen because I was scared of what people would think. But in class when I’m pushing myself to my limit, I get so focused on the task at hand that I stop worrying about how my body looks (mostly).
When I first started going to class I sat all the way in the back, hiding in the shadows. These days, though, I’m in the front row more often than not. I even sometimes get messages from home riders saying they see me from their screens at home! It’s a little weird because I forget that people can see me, but I’m not mortified like I might have been a couple years ago. I’m sure I look sweaty and tired, but that’s just how it is. As Robin says, it’s not supposed to be cute!
11. Don’t apologize for your love of Rick Ross
This one is more specific than some of the other lessons, but was still an important one for me. For a long time I lied to myself and said that I mainly listened to indie music and “like occasionally listen to hip hop.” GIRL. That was a lie all along and I knew it, but that’s still what I said whenever people asked me. The reality of the situation is that I probably listen to Rick Ross every single day (with my Last.fm scrobbling off). I know most of his songs are not that good on a lot of levels, but they are addictive! So shoutout to Ally Love for not apologizing for her love of Rick Ross and empowering me to be my full, authentic, Rick Ross-loving self.
12. Smile, it’s not that serious
Sometimes in the middle of a long effort Alex Toussaint will say “smile, it’s not that serious.” In the moment, I’m too tired to make facial expressions, but I appreciate the sentiment. My first few Peloton classes were with Hannah Marie Corbin and her joy kept me coming back even when I wasn’t always into her musical selections. One of the things I love about Peloton is that every instructor radiates joy in their own way—even as they make you feel like you’re about to die. It always reminds me that even if I’m doing something uncomfortable or difficult, staying positive makes it much less harrowing.
13. Come for the workout, stay for the community
One of the most unexpected things about Peloton has been the community. I only ride in the New York studio, but the fact that every class is broadcast to thousands of people riding at home means that the Peloton community rolls DEEP and goes far beyond New York City.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some home riders and studio regulars who cheer each other on, both on and off the bike. I’ve seen people share personal stories of both triumph and loss in the Facebook groups. I’ve watched people support each other in beautiful and unexpected ways, both online and in real life. I’ve joined the Love Squad in organizing a surprise party to celebrate Ally (and got my ass up at dawn to make it there). I’ve received kind messages and immense support for this blog. I’ve met new people I never would have otherwise and even watched basketball with some of them.
But on a more basic level, feeling welcomed by the instructors and staff is part of why I go back (special shoutout to Spenser and Sarah at the front desk). I don’t just go for the workout—I could do that anywhere—I go because now that they know me, I feel like they’ll notice if I’m not there. That might not be true, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the feeling keeps me accountable and makes me want to go back.