There are many ways to live a healthy life. The Health Diaries is a weekly series about the habits that keep notable people living well.
Robin Arzón is one of the most famous faces of Peloton, a New York-based startup that sells stationary bikes and treadmills, and streams live workouts onto their screens to users around the world. Arzón’s not only one of the most popular instructors (she’s racked up over 237 thousand Instagram followers), but she’s now the company’s vice president of fitness programming.
Arzón — who used to be a full-time lawyer — teaches classes for Peloton, both digitally and on-site in New York, all while modeling for photoshoots, managing her own brand sponsorships, and helping to direct Peloton’s strategy. Oh, and she still manages to make time to train for and run ultramarathons.
This week, Arzón talks to Elemental about her 17-ingredient smoothie, her passion for excellence as a habit, and how she fits her marathon training miles between meetings during busy work days.
The Type A lawyer in me can’t go to bed without an alarm clock. But even though I set it, I usually don’t need it. I wake up anywhere between 6 to 7:30 a.m. most days. On the weekends, if I’m lucky, I’ll sleep until eight — but I’m usually “up and at ‘em” early.
The first thing I do in the morning is drink an H2O cocktail. It’s lemon, room temperature water, apple cider vinegar, and Himalayan sea salt. I actually drink that before I even brush my teeth, straight out of bed, because I find that it really refreshes and hydrates me. I don’t drink coffee, so I get my energy just by hydrating myself in the morning. Honestly, I think a lot of folks don’t even listen to their bodies in the morning; they go straight for the coffee instead of understanding that there might be non-caffeinated ways to get an energy boost.
The second bedroom of my apartment is “the zen den.” It has a plant wall, meditation cushions, a little library, and really nice light in the morning. I spend at minimum 10 minutes, but ideally 20 to 25 minutes, in there every morning doing a Vedic mantra-style meditation practice.
My go-to breakfast is a smoothie made with 17 ingredients. It keeps me going; I can make it to midday, even after two workouts, by just drinking that smoothie. I’m vegan and plant-based so there’s no dairy in it. It always includes vegan protein powder, and then I put everything in there from magnesium to spinach to bananas, to peanut butter and Athletic Greens, which is a product I like to use. The base of the smoothie is just water; I don’t add juices or fruits of any kind except for the banana. I drink that smoothie every single morning like clockwork.
I take a few supplements every day. Magnesium, B12, and Vitamin D are my three go-tos. I also get blood work done a few times every year to make sure I’m not deficient in something or over-consuming something. I always recommend that folks do that. You’ll often hear stuff like “women need iron,” but not all women need more iron. I think it’s important to find out what your specific body needs.
I eat all the time, almost every hour of the day. My job is so incredibly physical and I live an athletic lifestyle, so I probably eat much more than the average person. I’m also fully plant-based so I eat a lot in terms of volume. I usually use a mixing bowl as my salad bowl for lunch. I’m also not super into calories and macros; I just try to eat unprocessed foods and be mindful of eating healthy fats and proteins. A typical meal for me usually involves beans or legumes, and maybe tempeh, plus every vegetable you can think of.
I became vegan because I wanted to recover faster as an athlete. I’d really started ramping up my miles for ultra-marathon training and discovered a lot of research around anti-inflammatory diets. After changing my diet, I found I could run a marathon and the next day wouldn’t even be sore. Now I see my plant-based diet as what keeps me healthy and injury-free. (Knock on wood, I have never had an injury!)
My days tend to be really tightly scheduled. They’re both cerebral and incredibly physical. Once I leave the house, it feels like a 14-hour sprint. If the morning is the only time I have to do my own workout, I’ll use any time after breakfast for that. But if I’m going to be teaching a lot of classes that day or have time later, I’ll actually do my own personal workout later in the day and spend that first 90 minutes to two hours in the morning doing emails and other things at my computer.
Usually I teach on average two to four Peloton classes a day. I’ll teach a class and have one or two meetings. Then I’ll have a 20-minute window to chow down on some food, followed by my own workout and more meetings. Then I’ll teach another class. Yesterday, for example, I had a two-hour meeting with our senior level folks at Peloton, and then I went to a five-hour photo shoot. Then I had another two-hour meeting with senior level folks, I did my own workout, and had a press interview. I had a meeting with my agent about a brand contract I’m negotiating, too. And I also taught. That’s a typical day.
I get my training miles in by running to and from meetings. That’s how I maintain my base mileage for ultra marathons. When I’m on camera with the Peloton community, I’m obviously getting in a lot of cardio, weight work, and running on the treadmill. So my own training is dedicated to heavy barbell work and some conditioning. And then of course, during marathon season, I’m logging long running miles. There’s no substitute for just being out there for hours. I’ll usually do that on Saturdays or Sundays.
My bad habit is that I incessantly check my email. Honestly, I refresh my emails before they can even populate my inbox. I’m trying to break the habit of being so fragmented that I check my emails and then answer that email immediately. Instead, I want to do what I did when I wrote my book [Shut Up and Run], which was to block out 60 to 90 minutes and just focus on one task and knock it out. I’m a good multitasker but imagine how effective I could be if I broke the habit of checking my email literally every 60 seconds?
Excellence is my most important habit. What most people misunderstand about wellness is this: They think they’ll want to work out most of the time. And the truth is that if you’re working hard enough, you’re probably not going to want to do it all the time. I don’t actually want to do most of my 20-mile runs. I appreciate them and I respect the process, but I don’t want to do them. This is why I think excellence is the most important habit you can curate in life because it requires doing things you don’t want to do and getting uncomfortable on a daily basis. I have a habit of avoiding shortcuts, even if it’s to my detriment, because I have such reverence for the process, for earning that literal and figurative finish line.
I’m going to be completely candid with you: I think work-life balance is bullshit. People who are trying to achieve greatness in their lives do not actually have balance. Do you need to have self care? Of course. Do you need to honor your loved ones and have priorities? Yes. But we only have 24 hours in the day. Do you think Beyoncé or Bill Gates have balance? No. I think we have to be very honest about this “balance” conversation. If your goal is to be home at night with your kids, that’s totally valid and you should go for it, knowing that it’s going to come at some expense. Similarly, training for a marathon is going to come with a sacrifice of time. You’re going to have to say “no” to social engagements. You’re going to have to prioritize the run.
I believe we all need to own our no’s to protect our yes’s. I say “no” to pretty much everything because I know what my priorities are, and I know what my trajectory is. I’m going to say no to anything that distracts me from my north star.
For me, “healthy” means understanding how I want to feel and what it’s going to take to get there. That could mean more sleep, exercising, clean eating, or establishing clear boundaries with your mom. Whatever it is, it’s about how you want to feel, and asking “Who am I with, and what am I doing when I feel my best?” What experiences do you need to curate to keep doing that? Of course we all know that we should eat healthy and put the soda down. But the only way your life is going to work for you is if you identify the moments where you feel your best.
At the end of the day, I crash. I make 99% of my food myself so I come home, cook, and watch something really light on TV. It has to be something that suspends thinking, like 90 Day Fiance or Game of Thrones. I also like to read before bed and basically have to be in bed by 9:30 p.m., lights out at 10 p.m. I don’t mess around with my sleep; I need at least eight or nine hours. And if that means I need to say “no” to most drinks, dinners, and celebratory things, I will.
When you get stuck in a fitness rut, find the thing that makes you want to want to work out. There’s this illusion that we should be endorphin-filled during the very first workout. But when you’re changing your body and starting a new routine, of course your mind is going to be like, “This doesn’t make sense,” so I recommend finding a workout that you would like to like. Eventually, you’ll become proficient enough to appreciate the uncomfortable moments. If you’re in a workout plateau, that’s a launch pad. Consider signing up for that class you said you’d never do.