Peloton's Adrian Williams On the Importance of Family, Fate, and Rest — and On Taking an Emotional Lap

When the athlete-turned-instructor got a second chance to join the Peloton family, he grabbed it.

Photo: Courtesy of Peloton

If there's one thing Peloton's Adrian Williams is known for (besides a kilowatt smile and general disdain for sleeves), it's his regular implementation of an "emotional lap" during tough workouts.

For those unfamiliar with Williams' strength, running, and signature Thunder 45 boot camp classes, the emotional lap is a moment of zen amidst the chaos; a personal check-in to regain breath and sanity; a brief pause before jumping right back into the fire. It's also quite literally walking a lap around your exercise mat. It's a maneuver that's become so central to Williams' teaching style and coaching mentality, he's even inspired fellow instructor and vice president of fitness programming, Robin Arzón, to adopt it into her routine.

"Sometimes you work out so hard, you don't know if you're going to laugh, cough, throw up — all these things are going on at the same time," says Williams with a laugh. "I used to tell clients, 'if you can't breathe, walk around in a circle.' It's funny because my grandma would always say, 'take a lap,' like, 'go cool off.' It's kind of the same concept — maybe you need to gather your thoughts or you're feeling some sort of way, so just take a quick emotional lap and let out your emotions. People like to keep them in when they're working out and I'm like, 'no, look at it so that you actually get rid of all this toxic energy that you have inside of you. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to scream, scream. Maybe you need to be silent, maybe you need to make funny faces. Walk in a circle and let it all out."

The Early Days

The fact that Williams' trademark move was inspired in part by his grandmother is no surprise. The Bronx, New York native grew up in a tight-knit home and felt a particularly close connection to the matriarch of his family. "I grew up in a very loving household — a very firm household in terms of rules and respect and just treating everyone with kindness," he says. "My grandma was sort of our babysitter while my mom and my dad worked. I always say this in class but pretty much how I am as a human is because of all the lessons I learned [from her]."

That's not to say Williams' upbringing — or even his relationship with his beloved grandma, who passed away a few years ago — wasn't complicated. But watching his family members grapple with their own issues and dynamics encouraged him to thoughtfully consider his own evolution as well, he explains. "My mom was a single parent until I was about six and that's when she met my late, great stepdad who was this amazing man," says Williams. "My dad was an Italian American from the other side of the Bronx. There were a lot of things I experienced at a young age — my grandma didn't accept that my mom was dating a white man, so they didn't speak for a year. I watched her come back and battle that old trauma that she grew up with — she was fine with it, but it wasn't okay where she grew up — and watched her learn to love him." (

Williams says growing up in a biracial household posed challenges outside of the home as well. "Just that experience of walking around as a kid with a white dad and people were staring at me like something was wrong," he says. "I've had a different life when it comes to acceptance and understanding things that are maybe foreign to the average person."

Although Williams was an avid athlete growing up playing football and running track, he says he never considered fitness as a full-time profession — until his stepfather passed away from cancer. "I was taking care of my dad while his health was declining and then watching him in hospice," he says. "There were a few years there I felt like I couldn't focus on anything else but my family. But what I knew was that athletics were something that was near and dear to me and I love making people feel good."

Finding Fitness — and His Peloton Family

Soon, Williams slowly started building a steady rosterof personal training clients and took a job at a West Coast boutique studio for a bit. It was in 2018 when a then little-known startup called Peloton approached him to audition for an instructor role, and he politely declined. "I was very committed to helping the business I was at grow," he says. "I really wanted to see them expand — but I think after being there for a while, what I wanted versus what they wanted were so different, and [I decided that] I just needed to change my environment."

An opportunity for that change came knocking (or, perhaps, knocking again) several months later when Peloton instructor Rebecca Kennedy approached Williams back in New York. "I went into Peloton to check out a treadmill for one of my clients," he says. "Rebecca happened to be there, and she saw the back of me and was like, 'hey, this guy has good running form, he physically looks the part — do you want to audition?' It sounds crazy — what are the chances that I'm going in to try out a treadmill, and then they're like, 'yeah, let's do this again, let's revisit this'? And that's how it started." Right place; right time. (

Since moving back to New York full-time and making a name for himself as one of Peloton's most energetic and inspiring running and strength coaches, Williams has gone through his own fitness evolution. He's learned the importance of rest, recovery, and self-compassion between those tough sessions on the mat and tread. "My workout schedule is a mix of strength, cardio, and conditioning," he says. "I think people like to say, 'I did that,' 'I had the best time,' 'I had the most reps,' 'I lifted the most weight.' But no one's ever like, 'you know what, I moved really well.' And I think people need to focus on that more, especially as we age. I'm 38 now and I feel the best I ever had because I'm so in tune with the things that I do outside of my workout."

Getting Centered

Part of Williams' well-rounded routine includes a focus on mindfulness, which he says helps him be a better coach, athlete, and all-around human. "Meditation is one of my favorite things about Peloton," he says. "I started doing it when I [joined the team] — it's taking a little more time to steady my mind and it's helped me so much throughout my day because I'm able to focus on the task at hand a lot more." (

"I just feel so much more grounded than I ever had before," he continues. "I'm working out less, but I'm definitely faster and stronger because of mindfulness and recovery. I make sure I don't actually work out more than five days a week — I try to hit four on purpose. That way I'm resting in between. Because if you're working out hard seven days a week, your body's constantly at a deficit and a breakdown. You have to really manage how you treat those workouts."

When switching up his routine, Williams — who's one of the instructors doing double duty as a model for the latest adidas x Peloton collection that launched in January — says the right outfit is key. "[Peloton] makes some of the best clothing when it comes to breathability, comfort, fit, and looks," he raves. "I'm a person who likes to look good in the clothes I work out in. Peloton has some of the best [activewear] when it comes to moving your body, and it translates across all modalities — strength training, cycling, yoga, boxing, or if you're sitting on a nice comfortable pillow for meditation." (


I'm working out less, but I'm definitely faster and stronger because of mindfulness and recovery."


Given his more fluid and flexible approach to training since joining Peloton, Williams is also an advocate of shorter workouts — something you'll find within the existing Peloton library, but the brand also expanded upon that offering with its Stacking Stuffer series of 15-minute classes over the holidays. "I was recently in Denver and met this woman who is a [Peloton] member — she's CEO at her company and a mother of three," he says. "She was thanking me for being a coach and allowing her to have that space to work out. I said, 'how do you find the time?' And she said, 'if I have 10 minutes, I have 10 minutes, and I just make sure that I use it wisely.'

A lot of our members are parents, or have full-time jobs, or are students — and some are all three. It's incredible. Sometimes 15 minutes is all they have for themselves that day. I think people really should be a little bit more kind to themselves and understand that it's okay if you only have 15 minutes. I think it's important for people to know they may need a shorter workout and sometimes that's a confidence builder that sets the tone for the rest of the day." (

Harnessing His Motivation

And while Williams may seem like a source of endless energy (see: the height of his jump squats if you need proof), he admits to having "off days" too. So, with a job that requires on-camera enthusiasm, how does he catapult himself out of a funk? "Any time that I don't feel good when I'm going to work, I first remind myself that I know that once I start teaching, it's immediately going to change my mood," he says. "The second thing I do is I put on rough hip hop, house, or rock music in my pre-show [ahead of filming]. Or I put on something that'll make me laugh. Like in my Thunder 45 yesterday, I played 'Hot Stuff' by Donna Summer. I was just laughing to myself because I was like, 'who plays this before a rock boot camp? I do!' We get to curate happy moments and tough moments — [and] music is [a] huge [part of that]." (

When all else fails, Williams says he goes back to his fundamental purpose. "In terms of motivation," he says. "If I don't feel it, or I'm dragging that day, I remember my why — what am I doing this for, why do I want to be successful, and what are people taking away from me teaching these classes?'" he says. "That changes it for me. I know I get to make people feel good every day — amazing. I know that I'd love to make sure my family has the best life that they possibly can — amazing. That way, my intention will never steer in any other direction."

As the Peloton offerings continue to evolve and Williams looks toward the future, he says he hopes to continue fostering a safe space for all athletes, whether they're fitness pros or total newbies.

"I hope everyone who is coming into the community feels welcome and nurtured," he says. "As Peloton becomes bigger and bigger, I think it's easy to get lost or not confident enough to try a class. I just continue to teach people to be forgiving to themselves — we all have to start somewhere. Especially as we get older, I care less about the destination and more about the journey — just focus on the now. I would've never thought I'd get to Peloton. There were times in my life when I was lost and didn't know where I was going. I knew I was taking a step forward, I just didn't know where I was going. If you can just focus on the step ahead of you, you're moving in the right direction."

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