Expect to hear “is the wig still awwwwwn?” at least once a class…
By Christopher Turner
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen demand for at-home fitness explode, as gyms and fitness studios have been locked down or had their attendance severely limited to adhere to strict safety protocols intended to curtail virus transmission. Leading the interactive fitness craze is Peloton, the fitness platform that aims to bring the energy and benefits of a studio-style workout to the comfort of your own home, thanks, in part, to the brand’s band of hard-bodied fitness instructors.
Cody Rigsby is one of those instructors. The 33-year-old out and proud instructor is a former professional dancer and one of the most popular, infectious instructors on the platform. He’s good-looking, of course, with his perfectly coiffed hair and bulging frame, but it’s more than looks. Riding with Rigsby is like hanging out with your besties, except you’re sweating buckets.
Rigsby is mostly on the exercise bike (although you will also find him leading quick meditation classes, cool-downs, and hybrid workouts that incorporate off-the-bike strength training), and talks constantly to the camera with his Madonna-style headset mic. He throws out pop culture quips and feel-good exhortations in between instructions telling you to up your resistance, projecting a newfound confidence onto unsuspecting riders. His rides are deceivingly challenging, but they are always fun and flirty, with more than a dash of pop music blaring.
“You are Joey Fatone in the ‘Pop’ video. You didn’t give up till your knee busted. That’s how hard Joey Fatone was dancing in this video, y’all. He hurt his knee! Wade Robinson had to bring his ass in and be a stunt double for Joey Fatone. That’s how hard we’re working today!”
Those were the wise words Rigsby said to the screen in a recent “30 Minute Pop Ride” that actually pushed me to hit a personal best on the leaderboard. No joke.
Ready to get your life together? IN caught up with Rigsby recently and chatted about everything from how he started with Peloton, to how he picks the music for his classes, to living his life authentically, to activism and social media. Oh…and, of course, Britney.
Let’s talk Peloton! How did you start with the company?
I was a professional dancer for five years, which is what initially brought me to fitness. I was always into fitness. It’s such an integral part of being a dancer, so dance was really the catalyst for me taking fitness even more seriously. I was introduced to Peloton by a choreographer I knew who told me about the company and shared that they were looking for performers with a passion for fitness. I sent my headshot and resumé, had a 30-minute interview and then I was hired.
How would you describe a Cody Rigsby class? You know…for someone who has never ridden with you.
My classes are a place where everyone belongs and can find something that challenges them – no matter their fitness level. But, most importantly, my classes are all about music, culture and having a blast, while getting a great workout in.
Anyone who has taken one (or tons) of your classes knows you’re wildly entertaining, love pop music (hiiieee Britney), love your mom (hiiieee Cindy), and always have an inspirational push to get riders to the end of class. How did you develop your coaching style?
I developed my coaching style by intentionally wanting to be the antithesis of what I’d seen in other boutique fitness classes, where, to me, it felt inauthentic. I wanted to create and carve a space where I could truly be myself authentically…which is messy. When members see someone else being messy, they see that as not so threatening, so I like to show my flaws in class but also reach into my strengths and empower people with my lived experiences, to show that they are resilient and can get through anything. When teaching, I am vulnerable and raw, but I think that’s a good reminder that we can be messy and get through anything.
Did COVID-19 change how you teach your classes?
When we entered the pandemic, we shut down our New York and London studios to the public, which took out the element of live riders physically in class. Live riders were a big source of energy for instructors, so we had to shift gears and figure out how to give that same energy without people in the studio. It was uncomfortable at first, but it forced me to develop more of a connection with the camera and with home riders, who we’re constantly engaging with. It made me a better instructor because it enabled me to connect with the camera more and bring my energy up. For instance, I quickly learned that I needed more stories, to better virtually engage. It helps that we have amazing members who share their stories. That’s what gives me the motivation to show up on days when I don’t feel like I’m at my best.
How do you pick the music you play in your classes?
It really depends on the ride. On the fitness-focused rides like HIIT & Hills or Intervals classes, I like to use really high-energy music like house remixes so there’s that constant drive. For the music-driven classes like Pop Rides, I like to create a theme or go with what my mood is. I love nostalgia and to feel good, so that influences my music choices. But it really just depends on the particular class.
You used to be a dancer. How does your past experience change your approach to fitness now?
All of your life experiences culminate into a moment that allows you to be ready for the next step. Having a background in fashion and dance, I gained skills from both that have shaped my approach as a Peloton instructor. Dancing helped me learn to perform, know how to engage with a camera and how to use musicality to create an experience that people connect to. I have a business minor and worked in fashion, so that has helped me be a great production partner and helped me build my own brand.
The thing is, no matter how big I get or Peloton gets, remaining grounded in gratitude and staying humble is so important. My past experiences, such as working in the service industry and coming from humble beginnings, will always remind me to hang on to staying grounded.
We all know you love Britney…so, fave Brit live performance?
“Oops I Did It Again” from the Dream Within a Dream Tour, which is also the intro to the Live From Las Vegas DVD. She is so fierce!
What does your personal workout routine look like?
I get an amazing cardio workout from being on the Peloton bike, and I love Peloton’s strength classes when I’m on the go, but I also have a trainer in Brooklyn, NY, that I work with. He’s amazing! We do a lot of bodybuilding, strength circuits and conditioning. Put short: I like to lift heavy things and put them down.
What are you up to when you are not teaching?
It depends on the week, day and my mood. Sometimes I love to be lazy and hang out on the couch, because I put so much energy out that I just need to reset and recharge. That means being on the couch with my boyfriend watching reruns of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’ve seen every season nine times and all of the international drag races – shout-out to Priyanka, Canada’s first Drag Race star. In a pre-COVID world, I loved to go out dancing with friends and being packed in rooms full of shirtless men dancing – I found release in that.
You were pretty vocal through the recent US elections, encouraging people to get out and register to vote, and you regularly talk about the LGBTQ community or Black Lives Matter. What is activism to you and why is it important for you to use your voice and your platform right now?
Activism sometimes is me just showing up and living my life authentically in a public space as a gay man, but it’s also being vocal about causes and principles that I believe in. I do believe that Black lives matter, and I believe I need to use my privilege to speak up and be an ally to those who are still marginalized. As a gay man, I am an advocate for the trans community by being vocal about the things that still matter to them and the inequalities they still face. I try to do that in simple ways like living authentically on the [Peloton] bike to change the hearts and minds of people who don’t know a gay or queer person. But I also do the right thing when I see things that are done that are wrong, which means being vocal on my platforms and showing up the best I can.
As Peloton instructors, so much of our job is to be vulnerable and speak our truth. In turn, that allows our members, who are on the other side of the screen, to develop the courage to do the same. Everyone is on their own journey. So many Peloton members have reached out to me telling me I’ve inspired them to make courageous steps to live their truth or speak about their own identity in uncomfortable spaces, whether that be with friends or family or in the workplace. I take that responsibility with honour. I know the impact that I can have has an effect and a purpose. Those are then put to action, and that action ultimately has results.
You recently talked about taking a social media break. Can you talk about why that was the right choice for you and what you are doing for your own mental health during these unprecedented times?
I always tell my boyfriend how much he’s on his phone, yet I’m constantly on my phone, too. I feel that social media can be an energy time suck that takes you away from the real world and from making connections with loved ones. That’s something that’s been heavy on my heart, so I wanted to take time away. I was already feeling this way, and then I watched The Social Dilemma documentary, which pushed me to a place to actually take action.
I live somewhat extremely, so I decided to delete my Facebook, since it became such an argumentative space about politics. So I downloaded my photos from my page and then deleted it. I also could feel myself in the hole of Instagram and constantly refreshing my feed. Instagram is where I connect with members so I didn’t want to fully disconnect. Instead, now I go on social media only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and I don’t beat myself up about the time I spend with it on those days. This process gives me the rest of my week back, and I’ve noticed a huge difference in my mental health on the days I’m on social media vs. off.
Trying to disconnect has been one thing for my mental health, but other things I do are seeing my therapist every week, meditating every day, and I journal. Journalling might seem cliché, but it’s a great place – almost like therapy – where you write down your thoughts and you get to see them and label them in order to figure out how to process them.
What do you want people to know about you that they might not already know?
I’m a pretty open book, but a few things: I don’t have it all figured out and no one does – if you think someone has it all together, they don’t. Oftentimes when members see me out in public, they are nervous and scared to approach me, but I am always excited to see members, so no one should ever be afraid to say hi. Canadians, don’t be mad at me, but I’ve never had poutine! I’m working on being a baker. There is this vision that instructors have a perfect diet, but that is not me. I eat Cheetos and talk about that all the time. I can have really messy eating days.
What’s next for you?
I hope many more years at Peloton to continue inspiring people to be their best selves and finding new ways to inspire people. I want to continue to use my authentic self and strengths to make a positive impact on the world. I would love to host, write a book, be on a late-night TV show, but we’ll see. What I really want is to have a guest spot on the panel of RuPaul’s Drag Race: if I do that, I’ll know I made it!
If someone could only take one Cody Rigsby ride…which one should it be?
The “XOXO Cody” episode with songs about ass. (From 9/19/20 @ 11:30AM ET)
CHRISTOPHER TURNER acted as guest editor for this issue of IN Magazine. He is a Toronto-based writer, editor and lifelong fashionisto with a passion for pop culture and sneakers. Follow him on social media at @Turnstylin.
– Peloton’s Jess King On Showing Up For The LGBTQ+ Community