“I feel like I already know you,” I said to, arguably, Peloton’s most famous trainer as we sat down to chat in the Peloton Studios in London.
“I mean, I’m used to that at this point”, Cody Rigsby laughs. He’s warm, charming (“do you do hugs?” he asks as we say hello), and has a calm presence we don’t often see in his rides. He’s also jet-lagged but, ever the professional, he doesn’t mention this until we say goodbye, after talking for 40 minutes about everything from his proudest moments as a Peloton instructor, to the rules of netball (kind of like basketball, but you don’t move your feet).
Listening to Cody reminds me why Peloton just works — users come for the exercise, and leave feeling like they’ve hung out with a friend. It’s why so many of us came to and clung to Peloton during the pandemic. “I still hear a lot of incredible stories about that time,” Cody says, “and how myself and my colleagues were able to help people. I think the pandemic just gave me a much bigger sense of gratitude for fitness being in my life.”
A former professional dancer, Cody’s classes are grounded in having fun. Read on to learn more about the instructor, his go-to mental health practices, and his advice for beginners. Looking to read more about Peloton’s products? Check out our Bike Plus, Bike, Tread, Guide, and Row reviews on Tom’s Guide.
How do you motivate yourself when you don’t want to get out of bed?
Cody Rigsby: Here's my rule with that. There are days that you really can't be bothered and you don’t want to do it. Don't do it. Give yourself a day. If it's really not on the cards for that day, give up, and pack it up. No, we can't do that every day, but sometimes you just need to acknowledge and accept it's not your day and you might need the rest. Give yourself a fresh start tomorrow. Just don’t let it become a habit.
Sometimes, all you need is to show up to the place where the workout is — maybe it's a Peloton bike, maybe it's the gym, maybe it's meeting with a friend. I think once you get there, you start going into the motions. Just show up and you'll figure out the rest. It might not be perfect, it might not be the best workout, but at least you're getting through it.
The right mindset
So how do you get the right mindset to push through?
CR: I was running a lot during the summer, I haven't been running as much in the fall and winter, because I hate it so much. But I really have to be in the right mindset of just like, "Okay, you're going to be uncomfortable for 20 minutes." And that's okay. And you've made it through a bunch of 20-minute runs.
So just sit in the discomfort and get through it. I don’t try to bullshit myself and pretend. I know I’m going to be uncomfortable for 20 minutes, but I know I'll make it through, just like I've made it through the majority of the things life has thrown at me.
Exercise and mental health
How important is exercise to your mental health?
CR: Oh, goodness, it's essential to my mental health. I know when I take too much time away I start feeling the effects physically and mentally. Of course, there’s the science — the hormones that your body releases after a workout just make you feel good. But I also think creating a habit keeps you motivated in other aspects of your life. I think when it comes to mental health, a lot of the time it stems from feeling uncomfortable. When we are uncomfortable with thoughts we're having, with emotions that we're feeling, we can easily jump into things that are toxic.
I think part of my mental health journey is learning how to sit with it and be uncomfortable. And I think workouts and fitness are part of this practice — when you're climbing on the bike for five minutes, it's going to get uncomfortable, it's going to start to burn, you're going to start to think that you can't do it. Yet, when you get through that five-minute climb you're reminded that you absolutely can get through the discomfort and that it's not going to control you.
What do you think the pandemic taught you about exercise?
CR: In a way, exercise was a release for me, because I got to keep going to work. I got to be there for people during a really challenging time, and I'll never forget that. I still hear a lot of incredible stories about how myself and my colleagues were able to help people through that time. I think the pandemic just gave me a much bigger sense of gratitude for fitness being in my life. I’ve tried to keep that attitude now the pandemic is over. I wake up and think wow, I get to go to work. I get to teach a class. I get to go to the gym. A lot of things were taken away from us in that period of time, and it’s left me with so much gratitude.
What are you proudest of as a Peloton instructor?
CR: I'm proudest of being a positive representation of the Queer community. Even though I bring a lot of levity and inappropriate banter to my classes, I think what people are attracted to most about my content is my authenticity, and in a way, my vulnerability. I'm really proud that I get to show up, I get to be as authentic as possible, I get to tell my stories, unfiltered, and that motivates Queer people to live their lives authentically.
It has also changed the minds and the mindsets of people who had the bike but might have had a different attitude toward the LGBTQIA+ community. It's almost like a little bit of a Trojan horse — people bought the bike, they were just here for a workout, they fell in love with my classes, then they felt like they knew a Queer person, then they might have had a better relationship with their gay son or daughter.
The little change that one person makes can have a domino effect within their community, whether that’s standing up for homophobia or transphobia when they spot it. Or I've had a lot of friends in New York who have come up to me on the dance floor and said thank you, because their mom took my class and it has, in a way, been a bridge between their relationship. It's really cool to see.
Favorite workout song
What’s the one song on your Spotify playlist that gets you out the door for a workout?
CR: This one is hard! I really like Trustfall by Pink, I really like that song. I think I’d say I’m Your Baby Tonight by Whitney Houston. It always gets me in the mood — I love a song that makes me want to sway my hips.
Advice for beginners
Finally, what’s your advice for complete beginners?
CR: I think start small. Don't overwhelm yourself. Start with just 10 or 20 minutes a day, three times a week and build up from there. I think if you bite off more than you can chew, you're going to get overwhelmed, and you're going to quit. But also speaking of quitting, when you have those bad days, give yourself a little grace. If you don't do it that day, it's fine. If you don't do it perfectly, it's okay. Allow yourself to fail, allow yourself to not do it right and get back up and keep going.
Then I think like find the joy — maybe it's an instructor, maybe it’s music, maybe it's finding a movement style that you love. Once you've found something that makes you happy, start to challenge yourself, but don’t fall out of love with it.
Looking for more workout inspiration? Here's what 30 minutes on an exercise bike can do for your body, plus, here's more on how to lose weight using an exercise bike.