Peloton Vice President of Fitness Programming and Head Instructor, Robin Arzón, served as the keynote speaker at the Men’s Health x Women’s Health Strength in Diversity Summit held in New York City on July 20, 2021. The summit aimed to support and guide fitness professionals from diverse and underrepresented communities in advancing their careers. Robin shared her career journey, personal insights, and the key to leading an uncommon life.
“We don’t need to tell ourselves a story that it’s a binary choice. I am both a mother and an empire builder. I’m not going to stop being both.”
Inspiring Fitness Professionals
Speaking to a crowd of up-and-coming fitness professionals, Robin recounted her transition from a corporate lawyer to a fitness superstar. In conversation with Men’s Health Fitness Director, Ebenezer Samuel, Robin shared her hardcore workout routines, her mother’s best advice, and the importance of remaining curious.
On telling herself a more empowering story early in her career journey:
“I was starting to fall in love with running. I was petrified of the gym, was petrified of picking up weights. I told myself the story that I was not an athlete. And little by little I started to chip away at that internal monologue and turn can’t into can….We become the stories that we tell ourselves, and I started to tell myself a more empowering story.”
Men’s Health and Women’s Health’s Strength in Diversity Initiative
The summit was part of the Men’s Health and Women’s Health Strength in Diversity (SID) initiative, which supports fitness professionals from marginalized communities in advancing their careers. The SID program aims to provide resources to ensure that more individuals receive the support and guidance necessary to make strides in their career paths.
A Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
The Men’s Health x Women’s Health Strength in Diversity Summit provided attendees with a unique opportunity to network and learn from each other. Attendees included alumni, partners, and current participants in the SID program. The event highlighted the commitment made by Men’s Health and Women’s Health to diversity and inclusion in the fitness industry.
Below are select quotes from Robin Arzón’s keynote conversation at the Men’s Health x Women’s Health Strength In Diversity Summit, with permission to use given by Hearst Magazines.
On how falling in love with running as an adult changed her career trajectory:
“And initially I thought that that was going to be going to law school and having a corporate career. And I realized that I didn’t want to, I wanted to add more life to my years and years to my life. And I started running after a traumatic incident in undergrad, and running became my ability to heal. Movement was medicine for me. And literally I say, not even hyperbolically, that a pair of running shoes saved my life. And once I discovered that, that was part of the superhero toolkit, I wanted to share it with the world. But it took me a few years to be brave enough to turn that little whisper we all have. I’m sure you have it right, that little whisper that’s like, ‘Just try, send the email, sign it for the class, apply for this, right? Put your name in.’ And we’re so filled with doubt and that imposter, and that inner hater, can be really loud. So I made my hustle louder… And ultimately, I continue to ask myself the question, why not me? And that is why I’m sitting here.”
On the importance of “learning the game”:
“I was also very aware that I wanted to widen the aperture of what’s possible. And I was very aware of trying to learn the game so I could start to break the rules, and I guess part of the rules that I started to break were that people like to know what you’re about and box you in. And I just kept making lists in my journal of what I could leverage. I just kept going back to ‘Who are you, what are you about?’ Even if it’s not a traditional athletic background, which it wasn’t. Even if it’s not the fastest marathon time, which it’ll never be. Even if it wasn’t. There were all these things I wasn’t, so I started to pay attention to what I was, and I started to look at what I was and what the opportunity in the space could be, and see where I could build some bridges.”
On being willing and comfortable with taking a step back in order to move forward and “make waves”:
“It’s important to know your worth and what you can leverage, but also, when you’re the new kid on the block, you’re the new kid on the block. I’ll share a really recent example. I just recently was welcomed to Good Morning America as a contributor, and I’m the new kid on the block. There might be people who know me from x, y, z… But I’m definitely needing to put it in my paces, meeting the team, understanding what the new ecosystem looks like and how I fit in. It doesn’t mean you shrink, it doesn’t mean you sit in the corner and say, ‘Oh, okay, I’m just going to do things just how it’s always been done’, because trust me, I’m trying to make waves. But you have to toe that line. The analogy I use from growing up is when to jump into the Double Dutch ropes. It’s like you’re like, ‘Okay, I see it. I’m watching. I got it, I got it, I got it. Now!’”
photo credit: Philip Friedman for Hearst Magazines
On the value of a trusted network:
“And I think the most confident thing somebody can do is be willing to hear feedback. And this next most confident thing someone can do is use a trusted critic to help filter that feedback. Because naturally we’re not always going to have the right point of view. We shouldn’t take it all in gospel, but we should have another ear to lean on that’s not just going to tell you what you want to hear… I keep my wolf pack pretty small, right? So it’s my family, it’s my close friends, it’s fellow instructors, a lot of folks who understand the business needs entertainment side of it, fitness needs, entertainment side of it.”
On not seeking external praise, being her own “fire-starter”, and the hardcore way she keeps pushing:
“It is really crucial to catch yourself when you’re just looking for external praise. It is just simply not helpful. I think that I pride myself in being my own self-generating fire-starter. And once you’re not looking out there, you can spend much more time building what you’re going to ultimately leverage. And then that external stuff will come. But the brand builds itself by [you] consistently showing up ready to slay. The brand will build itself… Today or yesterday celebrated 10 years of Peloton. And for me it’s day one. When I go into teach a class it like I’m auditioning my right to be there. And I tell every other instructor, the day you stop approaching classes like you are auditioning and earning your right to be there, you don’t belong there anymore. And that might feel harsh, but that’s the standard I hold myself to, and I’m still doing to work too.”
Photo credit: Philip Friedman for Hearst Magazines
On facing imposter syndrome and developing her mantra “forward is a pace”:
“The imposter piece was really loud actually when I joined Peloton, I was also diagnosed as a type one diabetic. So my pancreas doesn’t produce insulin. I am on insulin devices that I wear on my arms and my waists, they’re super visible when I teach, in photoshoots, whatever. And that came at a time where I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I think I might have my dream job and now I don’t even know how to move my body in a way that I trusted for so long that I could.’ So that was when it was really loud. You just have to go back to your small victories, and do what you’ve always done, and just continue to put one foot in front of the other. It was around that time that I developed the mantra ‘forward is a pace,’ because for ambitious folks that can sometimes be hard to feel. But there is nuance also to the hustle.
On her mantra “forward is a pace” and applying it to herself postpartum:
“There is nuance also to the hustle. It doesn’t need to be full throttle all the time. There are some days that forward is gonna to be the pace, and that’s okay. Aim for consistency during those times rather than intensity. Postpartum was another big imposter time for me. My very first run after—I have two kids, my daughter Athena is almost three—after having her, during my first run on the West Side highway, I just broke down. I was like, You don’t have it. You have people stopping you on your run, just being really gracious and nice, they’re fans, and inside my mind I was like, You are a fraud. You are fraudulent. You can’t even run x-minute mile. And that was when I had to start to take my own advice and really befriend myself, and I started to befriend myself as I repaired my body and I’m so incredibly proud of that, that I’m more ambitious now than I have ever been. Because I know how to put myself back together like Humpty Dumpty could never.”
On how battling past challenges have helped her develop her “superhero toolkit”:
“It kind of becomes a blueprint. I call it a superhero toolkit, but it’s more nuanced now and I’m really proud of that. That the hustle isn’t one size fits all. That I know when to dip into the superhero toolkit—I need a little sleep, I need a little water, haven’t had a vegetable. We all know what to do, but when we’re in the throes of it—especially when you’re trying to build something—when you are in the beginning of building something, there are sacrifices that are going to be made. I think balance is kind of a harmful concept. When you are in it and it is your chapter to do it, do it. But it doesn’t mean redline, climb somebody’s ladder that isn’t to your destination. So it’s that internal conversation, I think, is always something that we need to be tuned into.”
On continuing to dream big and her mantra “I’m not done yet”:
“That’s what’s interesting…When you have achieved something—anything—that by other people’s estimation that is deemed success, there are going to be people who are more comfortable with you being comfortable. That are going to ask you, ‘Oh but why? You don’t do that other thing. Girl, kick back. Oh, you already have a kid. Oh, you just graduated from the thing. Oh, you already got your boo, chill.’ And it’s like I decide if I’m done. And after having Atlas six months ago, my mantra was ‘I’m not done yet.’ I’m not going to let people tell me when I’m done, because of a certain age, or a certain size, or because I don’t traditionally belong in certain spaces. There were many, many, I’m glad it’s not like as much anymore, but there are many, many spaces where I first woman, the first Latina, for sure. and I’m glad that that’s changing points communities of this.
On the three most important questions that she consistently asks herself:
“The three most important questions that I always consistently ask myself, what is my why? And for me that’s a gut check. Even if an opportunity sounds cool on paper, it might not be for me in that time. Cause my energy is currency, my time is currency, my focus is currency. And I’m only going to spend it and things that are going to improve my bottom line, most importantly, my energetic bottom line. The second question that I ask myself is what decision would I be making if I were twice as strong and twice as confident? Because it’s usually that version of myself that I’m trying to build towards. And the third is why not me? We see success as ‘other,’ especially on IG and TikTok, you scroll two seconds and you are going to see somebody who is better looking than you, thinner, stronger and probably wealthier. You’re gonna see it. So if you are not having that internal conversation, being willing to befriend yourself and be your own fan? I actually think that makes us more generous of spirit, and it’s in that generosity of spirit and befriending ourselves, we can start to really home in on what our goals and definitions of success even look like. And we’ll be the ones to decide when and if we’re done.”
On what’s next:
“I’m just getting started and I’m excited to build into fashion, into the lifestyle space more into film and tv, whatever platform or product I align with, it is to light fires in people’s lives. I want people to wake up to the agency that they have each and every day, and I’m going to continue to share my toolkit and continue to build my toolkit.”
On using her position of influence:
“I also firmly believe that when we are in positions of influence—now I do have the privilege to be in conversation to recruit for Peloton, to do things that… I feel a responsibility when I’m at the table to look around and say what are we talking about and who should also be part of this conversation? If they aren’t here, how do we hold space for that? Especially when we’re talking about people of color and underrepresented groups.”
On advice from her mom that still guides her today:
“My mom gave me the best advice I’ve ever received when I was little, I used to get made fun of for the way I ran, and that’s why I was allergic to gym class. I used to forge notes out of gym class. I actually skipped every single swim test, actually learned to swim this year for the first time in my life. That’s my 2024 low key goal. And she told me, ‘Stay weird. Nobody is going to remember normalcy.’ So don’t try to be normal. Don’t do the normal TikTok thing. Yes, learn best practices, learn the game, so you can break the game. That’s what I would leave you with.”
On living “an uncommon life” and being both a mother and an empire builder:
“One of the most impactful things that anyone said to me when I was pregnant with my daughter was ‘You can remain ambitious, but you’re gonna have to get comfortable with someone else loving your kids.’ And in that moment, I was still pregnant and I made a vow. I literally was like, I am making this vow, I’m gonna find the right village and I’m going to trust that other people can love my kids, so I can live an uncommon life. Because I think that it’s my responsibility to live an uncommon life so they know what that looks like for them. And it’s not always easy, right? She’s tugging at my leg, ‘Mommy, where are you going?’ But I zoom out and in zooming out I tell myself the uplifting story. So it is delegating. It’s finding your community. I am very lucky that I have, I had parental leave at peloton, so there are things that I was privileged with in terms of care and gosh don’e get me on our maternal and postpartum care in this country is disgusting… But as someone who moves for a living and holds space for health for a living, I actually also had to learn how to take my own medicine and do that for myself. And I learned that slowing down was also a strength. But from the business side of things, I allowed myself to put the world on pause and I said, all y’all can wait while I’m here healing my body with my baby. And I came up for air a few months later and it was fine. We don’t need to tell ourselves the story that it’s a binary choice. I am both a mother and an empire builder. I’m not going to stop being both.”
On how she wants to be remembered, both personally and professionally:
“I would feel successful, it would be rewarding to me as a parent if my kids want to come home. Like when they’re out of the house, I want them to want to come home. And one of my greatest goals for them– and obviously I want ’em to be safe, feel loved–but one of my greatest goals for them is to feel the spark of passion, and to marry it with an insatiable work ethic. And I think they’re going to watch a lot of what I do and less of what I say. So those are some things that I’m ruminating around a lot as it comes to parenting. And I’m still early in the game, right? There are so many chapters to that story, ask me in 20 years. But my kids coming home willingly and wanting to spend time with my husband and I will be a big win. From the legacy piece, I believe that the legacy is comprised of thousands of tiny, small, consistent decisions. And so who am I to say what that’s going to be? I hope that’s, 50 chapters from now, a bunch of companies on a global scale that give back, that create space and that make no apologies for holding power.”
On being your own biggest advocate and cheerleader:
“So when you don’t see it happening, you are it. You got to be the it. You have to be the one. There are more days than that that I feel like I am standing in a jungle just with a machete cutting down trees and nobody’s telling me I’m doing a good job and nobody cares. And that’s okay. I have gotten comfortable with that. And when you get comfortable with that, that’s when you don’t need somebody else’s definition of success. Yes, we should get paid. Yes, we should have basic standards of living that we need to have boundaries around and our actions set standards. And when we unite, that’s when industries change. But that internal voice saying like, ‘yes b*tch, you slay that.’ That comes from me.”
On the importance of remaining curious:
“I love doing things like this [Strength in Diversity Summit]. I don’t even know what I would’ve done for this kind of thing when I was first entering fitness. So giving back feels amazing, but it’s also protecting your energy enough so you have the capacity to do those things. I will say, I own my no like a sword to protect my yes. But especially when you’re starting out and your hustle is still very green… Remain curious. That doesn’t mean say yes to everything. It doesn’t mean everything that’s free-99, but remain super curious because you never know who could be teaching you something. And when you are in a new environment, that might not be the person at the top. So just remain really, really curious and you’ll go far.”