I Tried Peloton to Come Back From an Injury—And Here’s What Happened

8 min read

In the middle of a spin class I was taking a couple of years ago, the instructor shouted from the front, “Shut your brain off and let your body do all the work.” While her intentions were good, something about it didn’t ring true for me. For the first time in forever, I had been looking forward to exercising daily and was making progress (if you measure strength and growth by external appearance only). But a small voice in the back of my mind wondered if my increasing back pain and discomfort meant I was pushing too hard.

Could I trust myself and find exercise support without having to buy into the no pain, no gain mentality that lurks in the health and fitness world? It would take a new kind of commitment and accessibility to get me to tune in—here’s what happened when I let the Peloton bike + app help me take back my fitness routine.

My Problem: Back Injury, Exercise Hiatus and Fear of Movement

I’d been told (and believed) for a long time that I needed to endure pain to be an athlete and “get strong.” But something was wrong. Eventually, I couldn’t tie my shoes, carry more than a bag of groceries, walk, sit or sleep without a lot of pain. I started questioning what I was doing and hearing. I had bypassed my intuition when it came to my movement, and my body was now screaming at me. 

After months of natural and alternative therapies, I ended up with an MRI and an orthopedic surgeon telling me my only option was “screws and bolts.” Surprisingly, this was my moment of clarity—not defeat—and perhaps the first time my intuition kicked in around movement and trusting what I already knew. My strong “no” (or at least “not yet”) to surgery clarified my need to stop exercising temporarily to see if I could be pain-free with daily activities. And with physical rest and continued work with my natural practitioners, my back pain dissipated—and hasn’t returned. 

Even after months of feeling pain relief, I was hesitant to break a sweat in fear of the injury cycle repeating itself. But what about the benefits of exercise that I missed and loved? The detox of sweating, the feel-good hormones that come during and after training, the strength you feel and know both physically and emotionally. I missed all those positives, but was afraid to try anything beyond gentle cat and cow movements, walking and some upper-body weight lifting.  

Furthermore, why would I sign up and pay for a cycle class only to make it through 15 minutes? Why endure a fitness class geared towards the highest level when inevitably I would try something my body shouldn’t do under the pressure of a group training approach? My fear of trying anything left me doing nothing.

Image courtesy of Peloton.

My Solution: Peloton. The Bike + Digital App 

After doing the math and searching out options, getting a Peloton bike + the digital app was the most economical choice for my whole family. The monthly cost of having a bike was comparable to just one of us getting a spin membership. While I was unsure about whether cycling would cause my back to flare-up, the fact that we could all cycle when we want, as often as we wish and in our own home became a no-brainer. 

The bike arrived within days, along with trained professionals who set it up and explained the adjustments. While I’m not an expert cyclist, this bike is beautiful and the certainly the best piece of equipment I’ve ever worked out on or owned. Need to fit the bike in your small space or  bedroom? No worries—it’s been designed with you and your home in mind. The bike is also so quiet, you could technically ride while someone is sleeping.   

Within minutes of logging into the bike’s computer (complete with a 22-inch sweat-proof HD touch screen and dashboard), my shoes were clipped in for my first ride. I had every option I could think of, with 20 live classes a day to choose from and thousands more on-demand. I could search by class length and take anywhere from a five to 90-minute ride. Did I want low impact, intervals, a climb, power zone, heart-rate zone, rhythm, metrics or a pro cyclist ride? My choice. Also, I could sort by music genre, skill level, top-rated rides, specific instructors and much more.

One of my challenges with working out has always been scheduling and the inconvenience of getting to a gym. With the bike in our basement, there’s no need for me to find childcare, and the only scheduling necessary is sharing the bike. I can work out any time I’m home, and so can my housemates. 

The benefit of going to a studio to cycle can be experiencing the energy in the room and the collective sense of accomplishment with other riders. The best of a boutique or gym class leaves you feeling powerful and wanting to fist bump the instructor and your co-riders as you go.

What Peloton has done is capture that in-studio magic in your home. By filming all the classes live, and with high-quality production, you get the cycle studio vibe. If the social part of a workout is crucial to your motivation, you won’t be alone. Even if you are taking a pre-recorded class, you see a leaderboard and can virtually high-five others taking the class along with you, if that’s your jam. 

If you’re like me and don’t always find it helpful to see the leaderboard of riders, you can turn that element off with one click. Would you prefer not to measure your workout success by calories? Another click, and it’s off. Want to stop a class mid-way through and try something harder or perhaps more gentle? You can quickly move to a different virtual room on your screen and start something new. 

The Peloton app is a library of options that has continually grown since I began. Beyond cycling, they now have outdoor audio training, running, walking, strength, yoga, meditation, boot camp, stretching and cardio floor options. With or without the Peloton bike or treadmill, the digital app is available and accessible to many, not just a few. Memberships can be shared with friends or family, up to three users at a time. 

My Results: Building a New Habit with Confidence and Trust in My Intuition

My first class was a 20-minute beginner ride that I quit halfway through because I could—I was in the comfort of my own basement! Listening to my nudge to stop a ride mid-way has been essential as I figure out new ways to move pain-free without the pressure a group fitness class can sometimes have. While I like knowing other people are in the class, the lighting behind the instructor is dark, so they aren’t in my view. It feels like the instructor is talking to me, so when Ally Love looks at me in the camera and says, “I’ve got you, follow me!” I don’t feel alone because we’re doing it together. And when Robin Arzon preaches, “You are serving your body. You are worth it,” I remember why I’m exercising in the first place. 

This past summer, I spent more than three consecutive weeks traveling, and away from my bike. That gave me a chance to dig into the thousands of options that Peloton Digital has available. I discovered yoga with Anna Greenberg on the floor in my hotel room, and bodyweight strength classes with Jess Sims. With access to a treadmill, I discovered a new favorite activity, a simulated hike up a mountain with Rebecca Kennedy. “I’m so pumped that you’ll be walking up this mountain with me today,”  Rebecca said, and again I felt the virtual invitation.

Another benefit to the studio classes is that each instructor gives modifications that they encourage you to take. I don’t hear messages of slaying and beating yourself up but instead, I get encouragement to try hard things and invitations to breath and listen when you need to adjust. When Anna describes the standing balance called Eagle Pose by saying, “The shape is a really beautiful combination of holding and letting go, finding the right support that allows you to breathe and feel the space inside,” I resonate and want more of that depth in exercise and life.  

Peloton has changed the story I tell myself about movement and what I am capable of today and in the future. I now have a tool that doesn’t override my intuition but encourages it. I can wake up and ask myself what I need today and choose something instead of nothing. The story isn’t that I’m broken. Instead, I can heal and get stronger without the pain, injury and full-stop cycle repeating itself. Like any athlete, when an injury happens, and I have to step back to listen to my body in new ways, there are options for starting again when I am ready. 

Interested in other fitness support? Check out what happened when one writer tried a running coach app to boost her workouts

About The Author

Heather Bursch

Heather Bursch

After teaching first graders for seven years, Heather Bursch went from creating reading lessons to designing dinner parties as a personal chef. She credits her three kids with teaching her how to eat well as they've lived and learned together about how good food makes them feel. Heather believes food is for health and pleasure and works to celebrate both the daily greens and seasonal desserts. She writes at shemadeitshemight.com, WELLinsiders.com and you can find her posting @heatherbursch on Instagram about food, life, cooking classes and all things in between.



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