By now we’re all well aware of the Peloton controversy. A holiday-themed commercial sparked outrage. Actors and comedians responded with online parodies. And the company’s stock price took a nosedive (though it has since recovered).
The TV spot is already old news, but the controversy around it continues to obscure a larger and more important point. As an ad agency owner, I can’t defend a tone-deaf spot. But as someone who has used a Peloton bike for seven months, I can tell you this: The company is onto something bigger than any ad. I’m not being paid to say this, but I’m going to say it anyway: My Peloton experience has been absolutely life-changing. It has not only gotten me in better shape; it has made me a better mom, wife, leader and person. My Peloton experience has been absolutely life-changing. It has not only gotten me in better shape; it has made me a better mom, wife, leader and person.
Here’s how it happened …
Three years ago, I bought a Peloton bike for my wife, Pam—not because she needed to lose weight, as people have said about the husband in the TV spot. Far from it. I bought it for her because she’s a world-class athlete and I thought it would be a great way for her to train during long Minnesota winters. She took to it immediately, especially the feature that lets you compete against other Pelotonistas all over the world. (Note: She always places tops on the leaderboard as IronWoman24.)
I was “Peloton curious,” but I didn’t get on Pam’s bike because a) I’ve always hated biking, and b) I didn’t want to affect her rankings. But then I learned that you can log on under a separate account, and I decided to give it a spin, literally.
Like Pam, I’ve always been athletic. I was an elite rugby player, and only a badly timed injury kept me off the U.S. Women’s Bobsled Team in the 2010 Olympic Team. But over time, exercise gradually took a back seat to running my business. Like a lot of people, I was going through the motions, basically using workouts as an excuse to watch my favorite TV shows.
Peloton has changed all that. Now, I look forward to going home and working out. In fact, when I’m on the road, I’ll even book hotels based on whether or not they have a Peloton. I’m not even kidding.
I just completed my 100th Peloton ride, I don’t know how much weight I’ve lost, but I know what I’ve gained as far as strength, positivity and confidence. And here’s the thing: It’s not about the machine; it’s about the relationships with the trainers—in my case, Christine D’Ercole. Like other Peloton personalities, Christine is more than a “trainer,” she’s a potent mix of coach, motivational speaker, cheerleader, therapist and mind-reader. And that’s the real secret sauce.
Because of that unique relationship, my Peloton experience has transcended fitness and taught me three important lessons.
1. Shame is the enemy.
We all know that stereotypical personal trainer who treats every client like they’re trying out for Seal Team Six, challenging their “athleticism” through tactics ranging from criticism to insult. That schtick works on some people, but not many, and never for long. With Peloton, there’s no shame, ever. They push you, but in a purely supportive way. There’s no judgment. You show up as you are. You work as hard as you can. And you don’t feel bad for failing. For me, this has driven home the importance of a “no shame” leadership style. As a business owner, boss, parent or friend, shaming never works. Only support does.
2. Caring is the answer.
The thing about Peloton that’s impossible to understand until you’ve actually experienced it is just how close you feel to your trainer. As someone who’s been in and around the radio business her entire career, I equate it to the closeness people feel with their favorite DJs. Working out at home can be pretty damn lonely. But when your Peloton trainer looks at you, it feels like she’s really looking at you. Recently Christine said, “Add two more points of resistance!” I thought, “I can’t do that.” And then, as if reading my mind, she said, “Yes you can!” This dynamic brings a smile to my face. It also makes me add two more points of resistance, because I sense that she really cares.
3. Getting healthy is about changing your mind, not your body.
Nothing holds people back more than self-doubt. I remember when Christine said the words: “Change Your Chatter.” She pointed out how careful we can be with language in a text to a client or coworker, but how we don’t give ourselves the same courtesy in our self-talk. It’s so true. Most people reading this article probably engage in negative inner dialogue like I often do—that voice that constantly doubts you and cuts you down. Since starting the Peloton, I’ve noticed my inner dialog change as I’ve changed physically. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten on the bike feeling down about myself and gotten off of it an hour later feeling like I can conquer the world. If Peloton has cracked a code, that’s it.
Are these three life lessons worth a $2,000 bike? Absolutely. And that’s why I feel the need to share these thoughts. My experience with Peloton has been the polar opposite of the ad that’s made them a household name. Maybe if the writers had gotten on the bike a few times with Christine as their trainer, they would have written a different script. I’ve certainly been able to write a better one for myself.