Pregnancy and Motherhood Has Taught Peloton's Robin Arzón About the Power of 'No'
Robin Arzón doesn't exactly have a ton of free time on her hands. So it makes sense that during a recent Zoom interview, she's multitasking in the makeup chair, sitting for a glam session as stylist Tiffanie Garrett braids her long locks.
"Time is a non-renewable resource which I'm super aware of having a new human living in my house," says the new mom with a laugh. "I have a new roommate who's six months old."
Much has obviously changed for Peloton's vice president of fitness programming and head instructor in recent months. In March, Arzón and husband Drew Butler announced the birth of their first child, daughter Athena. Over the summer, Arzón made her triumphant return to the Peloton platform for the brand's All For One Music Festival. Now back in the saddle, Arzón has a renewed dedication to prioritizing rest and recovery, all the while pushing herself to new levels. (Related: How Peloton Is Working to Change the Narrative On Prenatal Fitness)
"I'll be honest, I had an amazing pregnancy, and I think it's because I approached it like an endurance event and I really prioritized my own process," says Arzón. "I thought, 'am I treating my body like it's another human's first home?' This is my first baby, but I looked for analogous experiences and skill sets that I could draw on and thought, 'Well, this is how I treated my body when I was training for my first marathon or my first ultra or when I was in a season of teaching a number of Peloton classes as well as doing special projects and lifting heavily.' It's always a perfect storm of physical output — and pregnancy is deeply physical."
Arzón says she approached her pregnancy with an attitude of abundance and tried to shed any preconceived notions of what becoming a mom "should" look like. "I wasn't recreating the wheel; I was drawing on experiences that made me feel good, confident, and strong and figuring out what can I do versus what can't I do," she explains. "I know it already works when I go to bed at 9 p.m. and I know it already works when I'm hydrated enough — I tried to control what I could. I had zero expectations, I put zero pressure on myself, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I could continue to do well into my ninth month."
In fact, Arzón says she tapped into strength she didn't know she had over the course of her pregnancy. She hopes her experience will inspire other expectant parents to stay as active as they want to be during pregnancy, with approval from their doctors, of course. "I was training before pregnancy, too. I didn't pick up a new contact sport or anything — which is not recommended — but I was surprised by how physically strong I was," she says. "I PRed deadlifts." (See: How to Change Your Workouts While You're Pregnant)
That said, anyone admiring Arzón's "snapback" should know she's not a fan of that term, let alone the concept of a swift bounce-back after having a baby. In a June Instagram post, Arzón detailed how the postpartum recovery process involved a lot of "patience," "grace," and time. In fact, Arzón says she had to actively avoid certain activities during and after pregnancy that instilled any shred of self-doubt or comparison. "Listen, the body image stuff is real," she says. "I was on social media a lot less toward the end of my pregnancy because I really did not want to expose myself to anything that felt triggering — even old photos of myself! I was like, 'Am I ever gonna feel like that again, am I ever gonna look like that again?'" (Related: Why Blake Lively Wants the Celebration of the 'Post-Baby Body' to Stop)
Shifting the focus to her internal experience and away from external expectations was instrumental in her journey. "I had to ask myself to focus on how my body felt and what it could still do and what it was doing, which was literally creating life," she says. "And when I was recovering postpartum, I just focused on consistency over intensity. I still haven't weighed myself. They weighed me at my check-in, and I was like, 'don't even tell me, I don't wanna know.' Because that focus is the wrong focus. I needed to focus on rebuilding my core and my pelvic floor and not what the pounds said."
Arzón recommends approaching media consumption the same way we approach food: seeking out nourishing, balanced menu items each and every day. "We're ingesting imagery as well as words, lyrics, conversations with our partners and our people — how are you creating literacy around that conversation, and how is that informing how you speak to yourself?" she says. "I really tuned into that during pregnancy and postpartum, and I've honestly never felt better."
She's had to put a lot of time and effort into curating her literal diet, too. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2014 (which, BTW, occurs when you cannot produce enough insulin, a hormone that allows the body to use glucose for energy), Arzón has had to educate herself on which foods help fuel her everyday life and help her feel her best (a topic she's so passionate about, she devoted an entire segment of her recent Masterclass to it). "I give so much credit to T1D athletes — it's completely possible, it's achievable, but it requires us to think really critically and to be our own best advocates," she says.
"Thankfully, I was already incredibly self-aware, already plant-based, and had an understanding of which foods made me feel which way — I think that's something most people don't even pay attention to. It's not normal to feel like crap and feel more tired after eating a meal – we should be eating things that energize us, whether that's plant-based or not. We should be paying attention to how our bodies are reacting to food," continues Arzón.
Another way Arzón has honed the art of self-care is by embracing recovery, something she wasn't always a pro at. "Even since signing on as a Hyperice global ambassador, I've become privy to the ways they're taking an even more holistic approach to wellness," she says. In addition to the brand's new Hyperice X device (Buy It, $399, hyperice.com) — a knee sleeve that acts as a sort of high-tech ice pack and heating pad — Arzón is a big fan of Core, the company's newly acquired meditation tool that uses dynamic vibrations and feedback. "Mental wellness and mental fitness have always been a part of my physical fitness," she says. "Meditation is something I started doing when I started running marathons while I was still an attorney and that has completely changed my game." (See: How Meditation Can Make You a Better Athlete)
As a mental health advocate, Arzón was particularly moved to see elite athletes like Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles take a stand this year and draw global attention to the significance of psychological wellness — specifically as it relates to young women. "Watching Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles was so inspiring because any time a queen protects her peace, the world watches and learns how we can create boundaries and use the power of 'no' as a full sentence," says Arzón. "I believe we're now starting to understand that boundaries are sexy! Boundaries enable us to be more efficient and give more energy to the things that matter... Those two examples were on a very public scale in a high-pressure environment with a lot on the line, but what can we take away from that so we're creating a moat around our mental wellness?" (Related: Simone Biles Stepping Away from the Olympics Is Exactly What Makes Her the G.O.A.T.)
Although Arzón protects her peace with meditation, her daily routines have changed since giving birth to daughter Athena, although she's had to alter the timing of her daily practice since giving birth. "I used to meditate first thing in the morning, and now the first thing I do is feed my baby, so my meditation practice has migrated to an evening wind down. I wake up, feed Athena, play with her — the morning playtime with her is so beautiful. She joins me for my glam sessions in the bathroom so I put on music and she's in her little chair and I talk to her like she's my girlfriend. I tell her what I'm doing today — I use that time to introduce her to music as she gets more mobile, she's starting little dances, little shimmies. She gets it!" she says.
While bonding with Athena, Arzón drinks her go-to morning "H20 cocktail" (room temp water mixed with a dash of sea salt, a quarter of a lemon, and a splash of apple cider vinegar), and then she has half of her husband's signature "17-ingredient smoothie," which she details in her Masterclass. In addition to protein powder, magnesium, matcha powder, and a host of other staples, she adds a scoop of Athletic Greens (Buy It, $99, athleticgreens.com), a powder supplement that includes everything from vitamins and minerals to probiotics and plant extracts. "The Athletic Greens pairs really well with any kind of vanilla protein," she adds.
After half a smoothie, Arzón hands Athena off to her husband, Drew, to tackle her first workout of the day (she chugs the other half after). "That is my protected, sacred time," she says of the running, cycling, and powerlifting routines she does before hitting the Peloton studios to teach up to four classes a day. "I'm very proud of getting to this point and feeling super strong and feeling great and thinking I look great, but I also live my life to work out for a living — I am a professional athlete," she says. "I don't want folks to compare themselves to me. Everybody's different, every journey's different, every pregnancy, every birth is different. If it's inspiring for folks, that's amazing, but I never, ever want to be an example of something that is an expectation."
While most casual fitness enthusiasts may not achieve Arzón-level athletic aptitude, she's the first to admit that exercise wasn't always her thing. "I remember as a kid feeling so incredibly self-conscious," she says, adding that classmates would taunt her for the way she ran and threw a ball. "I was like, 'has everyone been in training camp since they were two? Because I don't know how to do any of this shit.'" Arzón shifted away from the playground and gravitated toward art, theater, and academics. It wasn't until a near-death experience in college when she was held hostage at gunpoint, that Arzón dipped her toe in athletic waters. "The love of movement came about out of necessity," she says. "I was really running through trauma when I was entering law school and that became an outlet and because it was a solo pursuit of running, it was just me, myself, and I — for better or for worse. How the run went was on me. I chose not to identify with any kind of external gaze and just go inward instead. I chose to focus on the conversation I was having within."
As Arzón embraces her new life as a mom, she's excited to continue hustling hard at Peloton and take on new roles — one of which is a children's book author. Arzón isn't new to the publishing world (her first book, Shut Up and Run: How to Get Up, Lace Up, and Sweat with Swagger, $20, amazon.com) hit shelves in 2016), but next year's Strong Mama (Buy It, $15, amazon.com) will be her first foray into the family-friendly territory.
"I wrote the book on my babymoon!" she laughs. "Athena was in my belly and I literally narrated the first draft to her and it just felt right. I'm excited to own my ambition and own the fact that I am a mother and also more than a mother. I'm going to continue to be more than a mother and I'm going to continue to explore all the ways that I want to use my voice."