Watch CBS News

How Peloton's Robin Arzón faced stunning obstacles, then used them as fuel for greatness

Norah O'Donnell interviews Robin Arzón
Person to Person: Norah O'Donnell interviews Peloton instructor and author Robin Arzón 23:49

"Person to Person" airs Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. ET on CBS News streaming. Download the CBS News app on your cellphone or connected TV to watch live or on-demand.

If you've ever taken a Peloton class with Robin Arzón, you've probably heard her say things like, "I never met a strong person with an easy past." "You've been through 100 percent of your bad days." "Around here, the queen saves herself."

And those mantras aren't rooted in imagination. They were born out of a life filled with obstacles, and rather than stopping her, Arzón has used it as fuel for greatness.

Many people know, for example, that Arzón practiced corporate law for seven years before deciding to completely alter the direction of her life and enter the fitness industry instead. Many people also know that, growing up, she didn't consider herself an athlete

What you might not know is that when she was 20 years old and attending college in New York City, Arzón went out to an East Village wine bar for a night with her girlfriends and the bar was held up at gunpoint. The gunman, who was armed with three pistols and a 30-inch sword, doused the bar's patrons in kerosene. When a team of heavily armed police officers arrived to engage him in a hostage negotiation, the gunman grabbed Arzón by the hair and held a lighter to her head as he used her as a line of communication with police.

That sort of traumatic incident would be enough to define anyone, but it is how it has defined her that makes Arzón such an inspiration to so many.

"Every day when we wake up after something that has happened to us, we have a choice," Arzón tells CBS News' Norah O'Donnell in an intimate new episode of "Person to Person." "We can be a victim or we can be victorious. And I chose to be the latter. I chose to be the hero in my own story."

"You know, as we develop our skill sets and our superhero toolkit, then we have different ways to access our agency, our power. And it was through a pair of running shoes where I really started to run through the pain," she says. "And ultimately pain becomes power."

"Talk about that," O'Donnell responds. "How did running help you become victorious?"

"I was able to go from a feeling of powerlessness to powerful," Arzón explains. "And little by little, those 'nibbles of hustle' I call them, I was able to string together enough moments of confidence building through the discomfort, through the pain. I realized I've survived 100 percent of my worst days, and I'm still here. So try me. And now, a mantra that I use a lot is: Turn 'why me' into 'try me.' It's like, I'm gonna just keep taking one step forward, because I've been through worse."

There was also a type one diabetes diagnosis that shook her world.

"I mean, there's a before and then there's an after," Arzón says. "When my doctor said, 'Your pancreas doesn't produce insulin,' it didn't compute. I was doing marathons and ultramarathons. I was eating a very healthy diet. I was probably the healthiest person that I knew. And yet here we are."

"I live as— with— with type one diabetes. My pancreas doesn't produce insulin and I'm insulin dependent. And the first question I asked my endocrinologist was, 'How am I gonna run the race I have in three weeks?' I was just so determined to continue living my life unapologetically that it didn't slow me down."

"And did you run that ultramarathon?" O'Donnell asks.

"I sure did," she replies. "I sure did, Norah, yeah."

It's what makes Peloton's head instructor and vice president of fitness program so inspiring. Not that she had an easy life, but that she has faced big obstacles — and has become stronger because of them.

"It all goes back to betting on ourselves," Arzón tells CBS News. "You ask yourself the question, 'Why not me?' And then you prepare. … And for me as an athlete, as a human, as a woman, as an entrepreneur, as a mother, it requires, you know, insulin in my superhero toolkit. But it doesn't mean I'm gonna stop going for finish lines, real and figurative."

Arzón's journey to motherhood wasn't an easy one either. She is open about the fact that she did IVF and froze her embryos. She just penned a New York Times best-selling children's book called "Strong Mama," about working out while pregnant, a topic which has long been shrouded in stigma and fear. And consequently, she has once again become a guiding light for an entirely new population of women.

In 2021, she and her husband Drew welcomed a little girl — the inspiration for that book — whom they named Athena.

On "Person to Person with Norah O'Donnell," the CBS News anchor asked Arzón about that name, how it must have been a deliberate choice.

"Yeah it was," she answered. "I love Greek mythology and we were always drawn to Athena. And I love that she, of course, has goddess energy. And wisdom and war, right? That we can be a lot of things. We can both be both at peace and on fire."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.