Becca L. is first to admit that exercise is her therapy. But even she was surprised to find herself ugly crying so loudly during Sam Yo’s Pride: Broadway Ride that it scared her dogs. “I was in an overall emotional mood due to the music. My dad and close friends all work in the arts, and it scares me that we may lose the arts and local theaters [because of the pandemic],” she says. “I texted friends during the ride to let them know we’ll get through this.”
If you’ve taken a Peloton class hoping for a PR but found yourself with an outpouring of unexpected emotion instead, you’re not alone. “Exercise can act as a reset,” explains Chicago-based psychotherapist and author Kelley Kitley. “It’s a mood enhancer that increases serotonin in the brain and helps us to be present and in the moment.”
Member Kristin W. was recovering from the traumatic birth of her first son as the emotion built up during a ride with Alex Toussaint. “The energy I was creating in my body combined with Alex's strength and determination led me to tears,” she says. “Alex told us to ‘Do whatever you need to get your output as high as possible.’ I cranked up the resistance, got out of the saddle, closed my eyes and just went!”
The result was a full-on ugly cry, something that Kristin now experiences often. “Crying on the Bike is powerful, healing—and confusing,” she adds. “And I love never knowing when it'll happen.”
Having a good cry on a Peloton Bike or Tread feels like relief in the moment, but many Members have also found that a mid-class emotional epiphany helps them once they get off their Bike or Tread too.
Kelly W., for example, was avoiding thinking about her feelings as her mother’s health declined. “I dove into work, my education and regaining my fitness; everything except the emotional work to accept her illness,” she says. That changed during Ally Love’s Whitney Houston Ride, a class dedicated to Kelly’s mom’s absolute favorite singer. Both excited and nervous for the ride, Kelly made it through the first two songs before losing it during “I Have Nothing” and “Greatest Love of All.”
“The connection to this music, Ally’s inspiration and my current situation collided in a powerful way,” she recalls. “It was an all-out, ugly, hard-to-breathe cry.” That ride became a turning point; Afterward, Kelly allowed herself to journal about her mom’s prognosis. “I plan on retaking that ride often as part of my healing process,” she adds. “The goal is to make it either without tears—or with tears of appreciation and joy for the good times with my mom.”
Unexpected emotion can come to the surface during a ride because there’s a “surrendering” during workouts—for tough times, for feelings of gratitude or for tapping into unresolved issues. It’s an “animalistic response,” Kitley says.
That explains why Meridith D. had a “sweat-rag-turned-into-snot-rag type of cry,” during Christine D’Ercole’s P!nk Ride. She connected as Christine opened up about her struggles with fitting in and then finding herself on the Bike. “What Christine said directly tied into my own struggles of not feeling good enough when I was younger to finding myself and my voice as I've gotten older,” Meridith says. “I'm very compartmentalized in my emotions. I don't get overly emotionally in the gym, but I cry with friends—and Christine feels like a friend.”
Ready to let it all out? These workout mantras can help you get through a tough class or a stressful day.