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How Peloton's Robin Arzón went from corporate lawyer to fitness phenom

“Too often as women, we feel we should be ‘less’ of something and shrink ourselves for the comfort of others,” Arzón says. “When I laced up my first pair of running shoes years ago, I stepped into my power... and I want others to do the same."
Robin  Arzón, VP of Fitness Programming and a head instructor at Peloton.
Robin Arzón, VP of Fitness Programming and a head instructor at Peloton.Peloton.

Robin Arzón isn’t just a cycling instructor. She’s a life coach.

When the extraordinarily inspiring Arzón teaches a live-streamed indoor cycling class for Peloton, she’s not just talking cadence and resistance. She passionately challenges her thousands of riders to ask themselves “why not me?” She’s not just referring to crushing the workout. She’s talking about their goals off the bike, like getting a dream job, asking for more money or finding love. “The greatness you see in someone else is a mirror of your own potential,” she says.

Arzón wasn’t always a trend-setting fitness icon. She worked for seven years as a corporate lawyer. And during that time, as she contemplated a career change, she essentially asked herself that same question: “why not me?”

Well … why not her? Arzón left law behind in 2012 and created a new life for herself as a running coach, ultramarathoner and cycling instructor. And since teaching her first live class for Peloton in 2014, Arzón has amassed a huge following (her fans refer to her as “The Queen”) and is now a head instructor and vice president of fitness programming.

Know Your Value recently chatted with Arzón , 38, about how a near-death experience led her to fitness, and what pushed her to quit her job in law to work in the industry that she loves. She also shared her advice for women who are considering pivoting their career.

Know Your Value: You have a very intense and serious back story regarding your original impetus to getting more fit. Can you tell us what happened in 2002? What were the most critical takeaways for your personal growth and motivation after trauma?

Robin Arzón : Entering my senior year at NYU, I was out with friends at a wine bar in the East Village when a man entered and held me hostage at gunpoint. Ever since that day, I’ve actually lived every day as my last. The built-up trauma from that experience led me to start running the following year in law school. One day, I just decided to pick up a pair of running shoes and jog to class instead of driving. From there I started to test my ability to run further, and eventually fell in love with running marathons and ultimately ultra-marathons when I was a lawyer. I know strength because I've known deep fear, and it takes a lot of mental strength and resilience to be an athlete, which of course lends itself to every other area of my life.

Know Your Value: Your original career goal was working in law and you were a lawyer for years. What was the big “aha moment” for you when you decided to change direction and go for fitness as a fulltime career? Was it a gradual realization or did it crystallize quickly?

Robin Arzón : I realized that in my law career, I had spent years on something that no longer inspired passion and didn't make me feel like I wanted to pay forward as a warrior of any particular message. There was never really an ‘aha’ moment where I knew I wanted to pursue fitness full time. It was more of a slow burn. When I was a lawyer, I would literally count down the minutes until I could leave the office and go out for a run or do a workout. Eventually I discovered I was living a divorced existence between athletics and law, and it was really important to me to change that and create a new life for myself in the fitness space.

Know Your Value: How did you end up at Peloton and what do you love most about working there?

Robin Arzón : I ended up quitting my job as a corporate litigator two weeks before the 2012 London Olympic Games . I focused on building a new life as a running coach, ultramarathoner, and cycling instructor. I also was freelancing as a fitness writer, social media consultant, and building my personal brand, RobinNYC. During this time, I saw an article in a magazine about Peloton and immediately emailed the CEO, John Foley. Our visions were aligned, and I knew this company would be the future of fitness. A few days later, I auditioned for the core team and had a job as one of the first instructors. The ability to connect with our millions of members, share my story, and inspire them to be the best versions of themselves is why I continue to do what I do.

Know Your Value: You say your life mission is teaching people to pound on their chest and take up more space – can you elaborate on what this means, especially for women?

Robin Arzón : Too often as women, we feel we should be ‘less’ of something and shrink ourselves for the comfort of others. When I laced up my first pair of running shoes years ago, I stepped into my power. I vowed to take up space, and I want others to do the same. ‘Too much’ of anything is your superpower.

Know Your Value: What are your top three pieces of advice for women who want to transition to different careers and/or reinvent themselves? So many women are contemplating career pivots amid COVID-19.

Robin Arzón : Do your research, and evaluate your skill set. Be honest with yourself on what skills you can leverage and what you still need to learn. Tell everyone about your big dream and plant all the seeds but make sure to reciprocate the help. If someone is willing to give their time and advice, you need to offer to be of service in any way you can. But above all else, don’t get in your own way. Say yes before you think you’re ready. Don’t be intimidated to just go for something. Be confident in your abilities, your worth, and figure out the rest along the way.