This is a really well-written piece and, as a disabled person, it makes me want to buy a Peloton, haha. I have cerebral palsy, and while I've seen gyms, classes, and other spaces (slowly) start to accept the idea of health at any size, the concept of health at any ability feels like it lags behind. Nobody really seems to know what to do with you when you just...can't do something or need a modification. It would feel awesome to have confidence in myself when working out and not get the stares and "you're using that machine wrong" comments (thanks, Bradley Gym Bro, I'm aware). This might be a solution to the weird competitive gym culture and the feeling that I can't keep up.

I agree with a previous comment that stories like Sherry's make me feel like I'm not alone. I hope I can use experiences like hers to become more confident and celebrate my progress, too -- even if it looks different.

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Thank you for sharing this beautiful and important essay. My 18-year-old daughter is disabled (she has a rare form of muscular dystrophy that causes hypermobile joints, muscle weakness, pain, and fatigue), and I am happy to hear that Peloton is making an effort to work with disabled people.

A big problem in the fitness industry for disabled people is that the industry is set up for the able-bodied. It encourages us to push ourselves to the limit. The thinking is that muscles grow when they are stressed, and people improve their cardiovascular fitness and endurance when they force themselves to keep going through the pain.

But for disabled people the exact opposite is often the case: muscles, once damaged, may never recover. Disabled people can injure vulnerable joints if they push themselves to exhaustion. And well-meaning coaches, gym teachers, and trainers who ask a disabled person for “just one more rep/lap/try” risk humiliating the people they want to help. Plus it’s frustrating for the disabled person not to have his or her very real effort acknowledged. It might be all s/he can manage just to show up to class that day and stay standing.

I am hoping that we can let go of our gung-ho, workism culture in fitness and recognize that some of us are doing our very best, even if it might not look like it.

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I briefly took up mountain biking a few years ago, It quickly became evident that my experience of the activity was verrrry different from other riders' even though I was in good physical shape. I simply did not have the apparent obliviousness to physical danger that other riders did, which no amount of "skills training" could overcome no matter what anyone said. And I hated my mindbody for not letting me do what so many other people seemingly could do with ease.

A few years later I was diagnosed with autism, at age 53. Over the ensuing years, I've come to understand that my neurophysiological system is different and far more "sensitive" than that of many other autistic people. No wonder I was always terrified. Proprioception, which is frequently a problem for autistic people, isn't so for me in adulthood, but it was as a child.

No more mountain biking although I still have my hybrid bike. I remain an "oddball": in good physical condition and capable of learning new physical skills, but very fearful of physical danger.

In a few months, I'm moving to a new country with "biking groups for all levels." However, I'm not sure that "my level" will be ever manifested in any group of cyclists. And now I understand why, although I still hate it that I can't simply fit in. But with articles like Sherry's being published more frequently, I know I'm not alone.

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I have MS, and I relate so much to this. Pre-MS I was getting into running, and even did a 10k. Last year my Covid purchase was a treadmill, which I use while holding onto at least one side rail for balance. I'm also now at the point of realizing that maybe my previous strategy of "completely ignoring MS and working even harder" isn't sustainable. My reaction upon being diagnosed in 2017 was to book several international trips and sign up for a PhD program. I took the trips, and am finishing the dissertation. But I've just about decided not to apply for a role at work that would be a promotion, because I can't handle the stress of supervising others. It triggers all my physical and emotional reactions, resulting in nerve pain, exhaustion, and the dreaded cog fog. The cognitive effects are particularly scary, and I know they are worse when I'm stressed and tired. So I'm trying to re-think myself into a life that isn't based on blind ambition and earning gold stars. It's...challenging, when you've built a whole former-gifted-kid persona around visible achievement. Thank you for this essay, and for the reminder that some of the biggest wins happen out of sight of the world.

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Thank you for sharing this. As a disabled person, I so rarely see stories of others with "invisible disabilities" outside of my patient groups and disabled circles. Refreshing to be "seen" in the wild.

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This was such a great read. Thank you for sharing your Peloton story, Sherry!! I'm reminded of Christine D'Ercole's exhortation (on every. damn. ride.) that what matters is not WHERE you are on the leaderboard, but the fact that you're on it.

It's a good reminider to me to celebrate all my fellow riders, from the anonymous jumbles of seemingly meaningless letters to the full-name usernames, hashtagged and not, and hope one day one of my random high fives lands on your screen, Sherry.

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Thank you so much, Sherry, for this piece! I relate so much to it and feel like I could have written so much of it!

I'm a 34 year old female with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) and have really struggled with my place in the wellness/fitness industry. "For all abilities" often still means higher than my ability. I've found that there's a gap between physical therapy and the wellness industry. I'll graduate from PT but still not be anywhere strong enough for true beginners classes. If I overdo it, I don't just get sore muscles - I'll be too exhausted to function for two days. And when I say too exhausted, I mean that my body will involuntarily sleep for the overwhelming majority of those two days to recover.

I recently was led to a yoga teacher who has been so life-changing for me. She not only understands my EDS hypermobility issues but will jump in and assist without me asking because she can tell when I'm just being stretchy versus engaging my muscles. Because of covid the class size is small and intimate so she has the ability to jump in and assist everyone; therefore, her assisting me isn't a big deal. She introduces multiple modifications for a lot of poses so it really is for a wide range of levels. Since the class is small and so friendly I felt okay opening up to everyone about my issues, so, for instance, now they don't bat an eye when I accidentally switch poses too quickly and POTS kicks in and I get dizzy and fall down. I also do some poses with a walking stick or a wall for balance.

When I was first diagnosed I didn't want anything to hold me back, but as a result I kept burning out. It was soooooo hard to learn to take it slow because all of the messaging about fitness is "no pain, no gain!" Because I've been private about my journey it doesn't necessarily look slow to the casual observer, but I didn't start running 5Ks overnight - it literally took YEARS of PT before I could even get to a point of doing a couch to 5K type app/program, and even that program I've had to take slow. It's designed to take 12 weeks at three days a week; I've been doing 1-2 days a week, so if I finish in 24 weeks that'll be fast for me.

I have a recumbent bike in my basement that I've been meaning to dust off (I purposely own a recumbent one because my shoulders dislocate easily) and you've inspired me to do so!

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This was such an interesting perspective. Thank you for sharing.

The quote that stuck out for me is this one:

« And really, what is my responsibility for explaining to everyone why I move differently? »

I have two disorders that impact my ability to move smoothly: CMT1A and Ehlers Danlos.

My view: It is not our responsibility to explain our movement to others. It is society’s responsibility to create acceptance. It is my role to do what I need to, to be able to do what I want or what I need. It is society’s role to accept that.

What makes me sad is that we as a society simply aren’t there. We do not accept otherness. Instead we see difference. We do not allow others to adapt. We challenge why others don’t simply go along with the prescribed method, form of approach. And often genuine questions about why we do things differently cause our tribe to just leave, feeling judged. It’s not our issue - it’s deep rooted ableism.

I could go on and on. I’ve done and achieved a lot - beaten my limitations in ways that have not harmed me, learned a sport, raced for my country, had such cool experiences with health and fitness. I was able to do so by adapting and finding the spaces and people that enabled me to adapt. But. THIS HAS NOT BE EASY. And society does not make it so.

My one suggestion for Peleton and all the chains of gyms would be to have adaptive coaches and sessions. Healthy At Every Ability would be so HEALTHY. Not just for those of us with conditions - but for newbies, for those coming back from injury, or those who want a bit more laid back approach to movement in their life. Adaptive and ACCEPTING spaces.

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As someone with invisible disabilities, thank you so much Sherry for this CELEBRATION. I have been trying to find ways to befriend and embody my body again, and appreciate your nuanced reflections and sharing the affirmations from Alex. I've written them down the next time I'm too hard on myself for not pushing beyond what my body used to be able to handle.

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As a Peloton member, I really appreciated reading about your experience. I love the idea of HAEA. Thank you for sharing.

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Thank you so much, being disabled can be such a solitary struggle. I wish there were more opportunities for us to learn from each other.

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Just catching up on missed reading from the week. “We get to do this” sometimes can seem trite, but is something I believe to my core. I’m glad to be a part of your team. #lawboy here. Don’t be a stranger.

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Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I too have a disability (Ehlers-Danlos) that makes exercise difficult, exhausting and painful. As a former athlete I miss the competition and feeling of achievement that comes with exercise. I appreciate you sharing the different modes of exercise you tried before finding one that works for you both physically and mentally. It gives me hope that I can find a modality that will work well for me in the future!

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This was so wonderful to read. I'm so glad to see that while of course there are areas where they can still improve that Peloton is creating a space for Health at Any Ability.

Also as a side note thanks to AHP's other piece of this series I'm about to finish the "discover your power zones" program this week! I can't believe how much I ended up enjoying it and I can't wait to take my zones out of the program and use them in the regular classes. Being freed from a specific cadence and resistance has been legit life changing for me.

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As the daughter of a woman who lived with MS from about age 28 to 90, and who raised 6 children and always did about 200%, of what people thought was possible for her; times were tough. This woman was Margaret Petersen, aunt to Dave Petersen.

She also pursued her passions of art, gardening, and civic and church activities. No Peleton for her, but as with this author, Mom did everything she could, took naps, and did it all over again, most of it well-before ADA was passed. Thank you for presenting us with this wonderful essay. It's about attitude, as much as it is about fitness, and aren't those two usually connected?

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I love this essay. It's so hard sometimes to find a fitness practice that works.

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