Peloton's Tunde Oyeneyin On the Power of Letting Go
Fire up literally any of Tunde Oyeneyin's Peloton classes, and you'll find yourself getting as much of a spiritual and philosophical workout as a physical one. Like all of her colleagues, Oyeneyin isn't shy about pushing riders to their limits, but those ruthless hills and heart-pumping HIIT sections (not to mention those arm segments — yikes!) are accompanied by original bits of wisdom that keep you thinking long after you've unclipped. One prime example from a recent ride: "Reimagine the power of your ability to dream." As of today, Oyeneyin is making her dream a reality by sharing her trademark insights in the pages of her newly released first book, Speak: Find Your Voice, Trust Your Gut, and Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.
"I've said that I wanted to write a book since the third grade — it's one of my oldest memories," the Peloton instructor tells Shape. "And then life happens and you create all these reasons around why you can't do something and impostor syndrome sets in."
Luckily, a candid conversation with a friend and life coach inspired Oyeneyin to let go of her lingering hesitation and write her story. The result is Speak, the title of which represents an acronym that has guided Oyeneyin's pillars for resilience through grief, heartbreak, and uncovering her truest self. It stands for Surrender, Power, Empathy, Authenticity, and Knowledge. "I looked at those words as elements and how they've shown up in my life," explains the newly minted author.
The Meaning of S.P.E.A.K.
"When I 'surrender,' that leads to change that leads to growth — I connect and link my 'power' to my purpose. When I'm living in purpose, on purpose, of purpose, I'm connected to my power," says the Peloton instructor. "I speak to 'empathy' in the book as not only having empathy for others, but for myself; I can't love anybody else until I love myself," she adds. "'Authenticity' is the intersection of truth and trust; when I trust myself enough to show up as I truly am, that's when life starts happening, that's when my world turns on. And 'knowledge' encompasses echoes of the past that inform the future. I can't get to where I'm going without everything I moved through." (Related: Peloton's Selena Samuela On Recovering — and Flourishing — After Unthinkable Heartbreak)
Speak originated as an Instagram Live series in which Oyeneyin interviewed celebrities including Venus Williams, Common, and Allyson Felix about triumphing over adversity. Since then, the meaning of the acronym has guided the public speaker's approach to life outside of the Peloton studio, but it's also informed her perspective on fitness.
How Oyeneyin Developed the Philosophy
"I was an overweight kid, an unconfident kid — low self esteem, all the stuff," she says. "I set out to lose weight and what I gained along my journey was more than what I lost. I gained a connection to my power, my purpose. I gained confidence and friendships," explains Oyeneyin. She decided to focus on how she felt over trying to control what the scale said.
"I know that when I lift weights, I feel like a badass," she says. "When I run an extra mile, I feel like a star. Those are things that are within my control, so I focus on the control-ables and that connects me to my power. In surrendering, I found my power and was able to allow myself grace — and that was empathy. I stepped into my authenticity. It's all synergistic, it's all linked, and it all lives together." (Related: How Tunde Oyeneyin Overcame Self-Doubt and Body Struggles to Become a Peloton Phenomenon)
Oyeneyin's debut book, which is part memoir, part life guide, covers topics of love, loss, body image, connection, and identity. "This book is also a story of friendship. I have such beautiful friends and I'm inspired and motivated by them," she says. "And to be a Black woman telling her story at this time, I don't take that for granted — to be in this space, not only for young Black kids, but for everyone."
Bringing her words to the world also affords Oyeneyin the opportunity to hit the road for a whirlwind book tour, with sold out stops across the country. "I'll be meeting people that I've been connecting with for the last two years...I get to meet these people in real life now," she says. "People are so hungry to feel connected. And so to be able to bring people together for a common cause, I don't take it for granted. It's really incredible."
If you leave Oyeneyin's Peloton classes craving more of her signature inspirational words, pick up a copy of her book, out today. It's filled with more insights on how the pillars of the S.P.E.A.K. acronym have impacted all areas of her life.