85 Comments
Jun 20, 2021Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I've always had a hypothesis about the physical/mental dynamic of the Peloton experience, and how it becomes addicting: you have a very attractive instructor looking directly at you, telling you how good you are, while you're washing your brain in endorphins. There's got to be something there.

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Jun 20, 2021Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

The first time I was aware of PC was at the mega-Methodist church in Kansas City where the pastor devoted part of his sermon to his friend, who is well known in Peloton World. But this friend is not an instructor -- he's a participant who is very expressive about how much he enjoys riding his Peloton. And he's known for having >> lost a bunch of weight << on Peloton. and gets joy out of riding. Take out the weight loss story, and he's just a goober in the background.

I find it almost impossible to express the joy I feel in running, so I don't. I also don't talk about my times or how it keeps my weight artificially low. Yesterday I ran with a running club for the first time in over a year, a group I hadn't run with before. Lots of older runners, another grandpa, a woman going through a divorce. We ran and yakked for 90 minutes and it was so pleasant because it had no structure no glamor and no purpose other than running -- an activity that was very important to each of us for reasons we did not advertise.

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Jun 20, 2021Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

AHP tysm! I have a big Peloton section in my Master's thesis and i can tell my advisor secretly thinks it's super weird! I think this series will help lot to give us common language hahaha

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Jun 20, 2021Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Well, I never heard of them until the pandemic (though I assume they've been around for awhile?) and I thought Pelotons were just...fancy uncomfortable exercise bikes that were basically another form of, like, Soulcycle or whatever, except also available for super expensive personal purchase and they let you watch instructor videos (or live sessions, maybe?) at home -- so, a way for rich and/or busy people (or people who didn't live anywhere near whatever gym has them) to take a class they otherwise probably wouldn't be able to regularly. But...apparently it's not that At All. (Full disclosure: I still don't get it, though, I think? Like, just in terms of...what they are, if they aren't just take-home versions of a thing that was/is in a gym? Have they always been only take-home and it's kind of a weird group video game situation, sort of. Like, instead of playing Fortnite with a bunch of strangers everyone is trying to do a long exercise bike ride together? I realize I sound very unhip right now...)

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I did my century ride this morning and then gleefully consumed this piece during my post-ride stretch. The irony is not lost on me.

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I have to say I was really apprehensive about this series as I have a probably unhealthy relationship to this bike and tread and the community it has fostered but I think this is a good way of looking at it as a cultural phenomena. I think one of the impressive developments is the zeal of the community that does a lot of the defacto preaching about the bike and experience. I enjoy participating in the peloton Reddit and find it to be one of the more helpful and kind places in that world. I’d love some discussion about how a company that preaches positivity and “good vibes” can let something like their official Facebook page become such a cesspool of toxicity. Also the unsanctioned groups like hardcore on the floor and the short lived peloton closet have sprung up to fill the gaps and the approach the company has taken to these groups. Excited to see this continue!

Also a small nit but I think you meant Ken Doll Ben alldis vs Ben King.

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I am extremely pleased about the mention that many of the adored lifestyle fitness instructors are dancers. My most successful modern dance college classmate is a performer with top NYC companies and also a popular Obé instructor. And of course he is, because do you know what the top 5% of professional dancers are? Still poor like the other 95%.

Dance is the most underfunded art form (besides puppetry I guess lol). It feels like in U.S. culture, almost no one wants to allocate funding to dance or buy tickets to performances but *everyone* is eager to cash in on the very lucrative skills of a theatrical performer who is also an athlete. The value of dance is invisibilized.

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I don’t know what it says about me that I don’t have a single friend or family member that does Peloton. Or at least no one who has made it part of their personality. Well, I do sort of know. My family is mostly working class, and most of my friends are academic types. Somehow I don’t think they and I are Peloton’s target demo.

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I just wanted to pop into the comments and say that this is the thing that finally pushed me over the edge to the paid newsletter subscription. When you mentioned that you were getting ready to explore this subject matter a few weeks ago, I was in the middle of my 6 week wait for the Bike +, and I found myself dreading it. I was really afraid you were going to take apart this thing that I had just financially committed myself to, and that I wasn't even sure about myself...I breathed such a sigh of relief when you said you had one yourself. I'm about a month into actually riding the thing, and I can't believe how much I enjoy it. And now I am fascinated by this subculture that I didn't even know existed. I just wanted a reliable form of class-based exercise I could do at home. I shifted from being a stay-at-home mom to full-time employment about two weeks before the world shut down in 2020, so going to the gym was no longer an option on multiple levels.

Anyway, this was brilliant, and I'm excited to be here and keep reading.

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Okay I have a question: Is there anyone who likes to ride an *outdoor bike* who also likes the Peloton? Because for me, biking indoors sounds like the worst. I am not a Peloton hater, but the main reason I personally would never consider getting one is because I'd soooo much rather be outside. (Yes, winter is an exception.)

I feel the same way about running & treadmills. Being outside is the whole point for me. Perhaps I will understand more as this series unfolds!

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Oh what a phrase…the inconvenience of community. You are onto something here Anne!

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I don’t have a Peleton but I consume it via the app and am very intrigued by this series! One thing I’d love to see you explore is the “social justice” content. I do frequently seek out that content, but after taking one recently (I think it was Chase Tucker’s Black Pride strength class), I said to my husband I bet there are people who walk away from a class like that and think they’ve done a good deed. Like that’s their social justice badge for the day/week/month. Because the instructors can certainly convince you you’re doing something for the greater good! As If this bougie in-home workout I just did blatantly for myself somehow fights homophobia and anti-Black racism…it’s a really fascinating dichotomy. On the one hand, cool that instructors seem to have quite a bit of control

Over their class themes and messaging (emphasis on seem to) in what is otherwise a massive corporate likely white cis dominated environment, but on the other, my planks aren’t solving any pressing world issues…

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As a decade-long, award-winning cycling instructor and, most importantly: body image coach (master's degree in how mass media + interpersonal communication impact female body image), thank you for including the paragraph on lack of any body diversity. I love my peloton, and am grateful to not hear much appearance/weight-loss related language in classes, but the complete lack of any body-size diversity is impactful to riders, psychologically. It's actually a very sneaky body image trigger because it's not said explicitly, but is implied via how the instructors look. It's a very subtle message of, "this is how you should look" that sneaks into our psyche and can cause a whole range of mental health problems related to body image and disordered eating/exercise habits. It widens the gap of how we perceive ourselves to actually be (look) and how we think we should look. And the wider this gap becomes, the bigger the discrepancy, the more body dissatisfaction we experience, the more self-esteem goes down, and ultimately our self-worth takes a hit.

The best move Peloton could make next is to hire an instructor (well, many instructors) with (gasp) fat on their bodies. But this would mean an entire paradigm shift for how they are defining: fitness, inspiration, health, motivation, etc.

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Living for this! Like many things in my life Peloton was one of those things I was NEVER going to do (stationary riding in a dank ass basement? hard no) but now find myself haranguing poor strangers about “exorcising” on my bike (ugh!). Hoping you touch on how Peloton reinforces idea about gender, especially femininity, especially motherhood. While most of the instructors aren’t parents there is something striving and mom-ish and geriatric millennial about the whole thing (from my geriatric millennial mom POV). I know there are many other types of users out there, but it (Peloton) is spreading like a nasty case crabs between EVERY one of my friends (also older millennial moms). And we used to be, and maybe still are, a critical thinking crew? We’ve been distilled to some sort of data point and can no longer resist.

Also, the economics of Peloton is SO fascinating to me. I thing saying “it’s for rich people” is dismissive and misses much of the nuance. Yes, it’s certainly for people sitting a certain economic bracket, but many parents were/are weighing cost of childcare vs ability to work out. In my small New England town it’s 15-20/hr to get a sitter for two kids. My dear old YMCA had free (!) drop off childcare for up to two hours while you worked out but that closed down in March 2020. I spent an evening running numbers thinking about how often I could get a sitter to workout vs having something I could use every other day. The answer became obvious VERY quickly (I’m using the app and iC4).

I’m SO looking forward to reading this!

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I am so excited to read this. I got really into Peloton during quarantine along with two of my college friends. The three of us are spread out across the country and would never have been able to work out together without it, so in a weird way, it has made exercise somehow MORE social than it otherwise would have been during this time? We often do rides at the same time and text during the recoveries, or work out on our own and send each other rides that we think the others will enjoy. And, of course, we're rolling our eyes together at EXACTLY these patterns that you're talking about.

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I've only done a few Jenn Sherman rides but what I got was less mom and more ... well, Staten Island (apparently actually New Jersey, but Staten Island is how her style was first characterized to me and it stuck in my mind), but that's to say there's a different class presentation than most of the other instructors. She is definitely the instructor who came up first in all my friends' "which Peloton instructor might be a Trump supporter" conversations, though the yacht rock ride where she said it was ok if covid took out the White House, but not the NFL, suggests otherwise.

But am I the only one who regularly thinks of Yasmin on Ally Love rides? https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/stock-images-always-political

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