Has Peloton helped you work through challenges?
In 2011 I suffered a spinal cord injury during a routine back surgery. I woke up paralyzed from the chest down and the first words I remember hearing from my surgeon were that I would never move, feel or walk again. I never believed these words, but instead pushed hard in physical therapy with my primary goal being to walk again. I fell in love with an adaptive spin bike while at the hospital. It had the power to spin my legs when they could not move in order to train the muscles and nervous system to eventually move again. After several weeks I was moving the pedals on my own and four months later I walked out of the hospital with the use of crutches. I now walk with the use of the cane, living and working in one of the toughest cities in the world, NYC.
Prior to paralysis I was entering my final season as a student-athlete at Oakland University in Michigan. Going from a Division 1 athlete to completely paralyzed can be incredibly defeating. I lost my identity as an athlete and searched for competition. I worked very hard to prove the medical professionals wrong and walk again, but I still found it difficult to find that athletic outlet. When I found Peloton that void was filled. I was finally able to compete on the same playing field as everyone else again. When I am on the bike my disability becomes ability and for 45 minutes I am my old self again. I can compete on the same leaderboard as the rest of the Peloton community and push past the limitations I face off the bike.
In addition to the competition, Peloton provides quite a bit of medical benefits as well. My legs get stronger every ride and the metrics Peloton provides every workout are a direct indication of my progression. Before I rode my first ride with Peloton, I believed that I had plateaued in my recovery. I would never get any stronger or be able to regain anything more. I thought I would walk with a cane for the rest of my life. Since then, I have seen an exponential progression in my Peloton metrics which has been directly reflected in my walking, balance and overall health. I jumped and jogged for the first time in 6 years just a few weeks ago and I only use a cane when walking around the streets of NYC. Peloton has given me a new boost of rehabilitation and shown me that there are no limits and proves that there is no such thing as a “plateau” in this recovery.
How were you first introduced to Peloton?
My mom, Robin, first told me about the Peloton. She bought the bike and was immediately addicted to it. It was all she could talk about. When I went home she had me try it out. I was skeptical because every cardio I had tried to this point required significant adaptation. My spinal cord injury prevented me from being able to hop on the treadmill without someone there to watch me or jump on a bike without taping my shoes to the pedals. I had yet to find a cardio workout that I could perform at high intensity, safely and on my own. When I hopped on her Peloton bike I was incredibly surprised. This was a piece of cardio equipment that I could do. For one of the first times since paralysis I felt like my old athletic self again. Robin Arzon was spitting out some crazy one-liners of inspiration, I was competing on the leaderboard, pushing past my limitations and suddenly for 45 minutes I forgot that I had a disability. My girlfriend, Alaina, tried a ride after me and was hooked. Our first rides were all that we needed to get one for ourselves.
What is your favorite part of the workout?
My favorite part of the workout is getting lost in the ride. For 45-60 minutes every day I, move my body and push past limits that so many said I could never overcome, forgetting completely that I have a disability. I look at every ride as an opportunity to turn ‘I can’t’ into ‘I CAN’. And when the music stops and the workout is over I cannot help but have this overwhelming feeling of pride for what I have just accomplished. Every ride I finish is a miracle. Every ride is proof that impossible is nothing. Every pedal stroke is a choice to disable my limits and leave my struggles behind. I was told I would never walk again and now I am conquering massive climbs and high intensity sprints every single day. I was told I would never feel my body again and now I can feel the burn in my quads and hamstrings every day and let me tell you it feels great!
Who is your favorite instructor and why?
My favorite instructor varies day to day based on how I am feeling. That’s the beauty of Peloton. There are so many different personalities and coaching styles that you have the luxury of fulfilling whatever it is you are looking for on any given day. On days when I am feeling in need of a pick me up or some genuine inspiration I prefer to take Christine’s classes because she provides more inspiration with her mantra #iamicaniwillido than I think she really knows. She reminds me to turn “I can’t” into “I can” every single ride and always manages to make me crack a smile during some of the toughest climbs. On days that I am feeling like a boss I take Robin’s rides to get some serious swagger in my life. I honestly do not understand where she pulls some of her phrases from, but they are incredible. I also really enjoy Steven Little’s #HRTribe. This has been a great learning tool for me in understanding how my body and heart work and how to use them in the most efficient ways. Honestly, it is so difficult to choose. All of the instructors are fantastic at what they do!
How has Peloton changed working out for you?
Working out has always been a passion of mine, but since my injury, I have struggled to find a way to push beyond my limits…until Peloton. I have found my competitive and tenacious self again. I have gone from being told I would never walk again to riding Peloton every day. My confidence has sky rocketed and I have pushed myself in so many other areas of fitness as a result. In November 2016 I climbed 103 flights of stairs to the top of the Willis (previously Sears) Tower in Chicago to raise money for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where I spent several months learning to walk again. I am also training for the Paralympics in cycling and wheelchair racing. I had always found myself saying “I wish I could…” or “someday I will be able to…” but Peloton has torn apart my fear of failure and pushed me to stop wishing and start doing.
How would you describe the Peloton community?
When we bought the bike we knew we were getting a world-class spin bike with excellent instructors and classes. What we did not know we would also be getting was a second family. The Peloton community is unlike anything I have ever seen. It is such a safe place of positivity, motivation, and inspiration without judgment.
There is nothing better than seeing how this bike has changed so many lives across the world. Peloton means a group of riders racing together and that is exactly what this community embodies.