Peloton’s Robin Arzon – “Be Ready for Your Finish Line”
By Julia Kenney
Robin Arzon – Peloton’s VP of fitness programming, ultramarathoner, best-selling author, mother, and person living with type 1 diabetes – is working to empower others by “normalizing the everyday superhero.” We spoke with her about her diabetes journey and the tools she uses to manage her health as a fitness professional.
“Being diagnosed with diabetes was a shock,” said Robin Arzon, a renowned Peloton instructor and its vice president of fitness programming. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2012, just three weeks before running her first ultramarathon.
With the event rapidly approaching, Arzon asked her endocrinologist how she could be ready for race day with her new condition. “Looming in the back of my head was severe low blood sugar,” said Arzon. “Am I going to put myself at risk for a pretty serious medical event?”
She said that working closely with her healthcare team to manage her glucose levels and stay on track allowed her to take her diagnosis in stride. She crossed that 50-mile, ultramarathon finish line and then became a patient advocate to help others with diabetes do the same.
While few people are planning to run an ultramarathon anytime soon, Arzon is passionate about helping others, especially those with diabetes, be prepared for whatever goals they have. Whether it’s running a race, getting a new job, or just having a successful and healthy day, she works to empower and motivate. “I want to normalize the idea that superheroes are real,” said Arzon, “and I want folks to be the living embodiment of real life superheroes.”
When asked about her strategies for managing diabetes as a high profile athlete, Arzon said that “I’m always aware of how my body is feeling, how my body is reacting to movement, to food.” Like any person with diabetes, she has highs and lows – sometimes even in the middle of her Peloton classes viewed by millions of followers. “I always have juice with me,” she said, which she uses to treat lows during her workouts.
Finding the motivation to exercise can be difficult, but it is especially daunting for people with diabetes because there’s a risk of going low and experiencing a dangerous hypoglycemic episode. “Diabetes is so unpredictable,” she said, “the fear can be paralyzing.” But Arzon deals with these challenges in her day-to-day fitness routine using the same mindset that most others with diabetes rely on – be prepared, and be ready for lows.
People with diabetes can stay prepared using what Arzon calls a “superhero toolkit” – a collection of glucose tablets, insulin, BGM test strips, CGM sensors, snacks or drinks used to treat lows, or whatever a person needs to stay healthy while being active. While you may need to think ahead more than those exercising without diabetes, being active and reaching your fitness goals are possible. One of the most important tools in Arzon’s exercise kit, she said, is an emergency glucagon auto-injector pen that can be used to treat severe low blood sugar.
“I want folks living with diabetes... to know that in the event of a severe low blood sugar incident, they are armed,” said Arzon, who wants to encourage people with diabetes to stay prepared for whatever life throws at them.
Arzon keeps one of her glucagon pens with her and she gives the other to her husband so that she can have peace of mind that she will be safe if she experiences severe hypoglycemia. There are several differnet glucagon brands available. Baqsimi is a glucagon nasal spray, while the Gvoke HypoPen and Zegalogue, are available as pre-mixed auto-injector pens or as a syringe. All three are available in the US.
In addition to her career as a professional athlete and diabetes patient advocate, Arzon is also a best-selling author and mother to her baby girl, Athena. Arzon continued leading live Peloton classes during her pregnancy, which she said she hoped inspired others who were pregnant or were considering having children.
Pregnancy can be incredibly difficult for people with diabetes, and Arzon wanted to be an example of what’s possible, despite those challenges. Detailing her experience of staying active during her pregnancy, Arzon is releasing her children’s book Strong Mama in January 2022. “This book is a way for caregivers to sit alongside [their] baby and show them that caregivers need time to move [and be active],” said Arzon, “and when we nourish ourselves, we will be able to give more to others.”
Staying active with diabetes does not have to involve ultramarathons or Peloton classes. A regular fitness routine may look different for everyone, and there are unlimited strategies you can use to stay healthy. When you live with diabetes, “there are more opportunities to show strength,” said Arzon.
“We can still dream, the obstacles will not stop us,” she said. When obstacles do arise, “know that our superhero toolkit is there for us and is there for our next finish line, however we define it.”