It’s hard enough to make it through a cycling class — let alone creating one, taking it live on camera, and coaching millions of viewers through each interval as you do so. But that’s exactly what Peloton instructor Kendall Toole does several times a week.
While that level of stamina requires serious physical strength, Toole says mental fitness is equally important. “When they’re not hand-in-hand, one overtakes the other and you kind of fall out of balance,” she tells Bustle. The cycling pro is often advocating for mental health awareness to her 533,000 Instagram followers, and stresses that you shouldn’t feel the need to be highly functioning every single day.
“I’m excited that through Peloton I get to call that out and say, ‘I know you see me being bubbly and happy all the time, but there are really tough days.’ It’s just part of the human experience,” says Toole, who just joined forces with performance supplement brand X2. It’s why she’s often preaching about not beating your personal record in each workout that you do. “On your low motivation days, don’t expect yourself to go and crush a PR,” she says. “Treat yourself with some kindness and do something like walk around the block with your dog or take 10 minutes to get present. That’s a win.”
Nevertheless, Toole has plenty of advice for kicking ass in a HIIT session on the bike. Here, she chats about her boxing background, tips for staying motivated in fitness, and how she crafts the perfect workout playlist.
You’re known for incorporating boxing into your cycling workouts. How did that come to be?
My background in fitness is actually all boxing. I remember I joined the [Peloton] team and thought, how do I incorporate what I love and give somebody a functional workout at the same time? It made sense to me — I know how to throw punches and combos, so let me just put them in [my workouts].
It also really just came from wanting to empower people — if they get nothing else from what I do, I want people to get off their bikes feeling like the best versions of themselves.
What’s your advice to people who are new to cycling or boxing but want to try it?
Everyone’s a beginner. If you don’t get out of your comfort zone, you can never fully appreciate the growth you’ll have. Give yourself some grace through the process — every win that you have is [going to be] that much more impactful because you honored being new to something.
A killer playlist helps, too. What are your tips for putting together a workout playlist?
A good beat drop and a heavy bass always get it correct. And you’ve got to sprinkle in nostalgia. It just shakes you up — that memory train and those good vibes always come through.
“Taking a mental break is just as important as taking a physical break.”
What’s your favorite nostalgic band or singer?
There are so many but I’d say anything emo. Every time I hear The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ “Face Down,” it just brings me back to middle school and high school — a time when I thought my world was ending. It gives me a chuckle — it’s like, ‘Whoa, I’m actually really proud of how far I’ve come... life gets much harder, but look, I get through it so much easier than I did then.’
You talk a lot on social media and in your classes about the importance of taking care of your mental health. How do you stay motivated when you're having a really down day?
There are easier days and then harder days, and the first thing is level setting that. Allow yourself to not always have to operate [at a high level] all the time. The goal is to have some type of a neutral in-between. That’s when you’re winning: When you have a “blah” day. I’ve learned to love those blah days because it was such a win from where I was for a certain amount of time in my life where things were so down and dark and felt so hopeless.
When you’re not having the motivation, get one small win — whether it’s a 10-minute Pilates class or giving yourself a bubble bath or having a glass of wine. Do what you gotta do, but also remove the shame.
How do you recover so that you’re able to stay so active?
I work with a physical therapist every single week, which is absolutely essential. And having really good sleep hygiene is key.
And it’s tough, but getting off your phone as much as possible and taking a mental break is just as important as taking a physical break. On my rest and recovery days, there’s a lot of meditation. Pilates has been fantastic to unlock areas of my body. Yoga too. Taking the time to do both forms of mindful movement helps me stay mentally and emotionally relaxed. A lot of people think about recovery and only consider the physical aspects of it, when really, the sleep and mental and emotional breaks are also key when it comes to our health and fitness.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.