In “The Level Up,” changemakers in the fitness and wellness industries tell us how they’re making an impact in their communities, from pushing for inclusivity to promoting body acceptance and so much more. Here, Peloton’s Hannah Frankson talks about the power of music and making fitness for everyone.
“Oh my gosh! Why would you do that?” laughs Hannah Frankson on Zoom from her home in East London. She’s not talking to her kittens, Wray and Snoh, who shimmy across the screen and pounce on her keyboard playfully over the course of our conversation. No, she’s horrified at the thought of having to choose between drum’n’bass and dancehall. Music – and these specific genres of British music, along with grime and dubstep – is at the heart of her Peloton experience, and success.
“I'm not going to lie, as a new instructor, it felt like a bit of a risk,” she says of her now popular Dancehall Rides. “I was worried that I'd be cancelling people out of my rides, just by doing the UK thing. But, I love that music because it's got energy like nothing else, and makes you just want to hit that beat every time. It’s what I would want to ride to if I were doing a class, so I thought, why not?”
Her mood-lifting, sweat-inducing Dancehall rides have grown in popularity ever since. Even Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt – a personal hero for Frankson, as a former athletics pro herself – has joined in, along with 40,000 others Peloton users. Her EDM rides, too, are peppered with the beats of Mabel, Rudimental, MNEK, Estelle, Tinie Tempah, and Des’ree. And, there’s also the themed rides: her Turn It Up: Carnival special clocked over 30,000 rides, while the Sean Paul special had over 50,000 riders.
Most recently, Frankson has put together two more rides to mark Black History Month: a BHM Icons ride (think Billy Ocean, Sade, and Aswad), and a Future Stars ride (featuring Burna Boy, Celeste, and FKA Twigs). The rides coincide with Peloton’s ongoing partnership with Sporting Equals, which aims to make sport and fitness more accessible in ethnically diverse communities. It is a mission that the Essex-born instructor cares deeply about.
Here, Frankson discusses the importance of balance, cultivating energy, and her dream future collaborations.
What do you hope to change in the fitness world?
I want exercise (and what I do) to be as inclusive as possible. I want everyone to know they're welcome; whether you’re at the front, at the back, no matter the colour of your skin, your ability, or anything else. A lot of us get told that exercise is to deal with weight, but fitness is for everyone. I just hope I bring more people into this arena who maybe thought exercise wasn't for them, that spin wasn't for them, or cycling was never their thing. I want to show them that it's a laugh, that it can be fun. It doesn’t have to be so serious.
What does health and wellness mean to you?
I’m not sure when wellness even became a word or a thing, but health for me is about balance. Coming from an athletics background, exercise was quite rigid, and things had to be done just so. Looking back, I think that wasn’t very healthy. Obviously, I did it for a very specific purpose, but I was sacrificing big things in order to reach that target. Now, if I ever feel that I can't go without going to the gym, I ask: How's my mental health? Why do I feel that way? Because, for me, that’s a sign of something going from physical to mental. I think being healthy is having a balance, and having those two work together.
I hope to bring more people into this arena who maybe thought exercise wasn't for them & show that it can be fun.
How do you relax and wind down after a high-energy ride?
I stroke my cats. [Laughing] I still really love going out – I love to connect with people. I think I’m a massive extrovert. Even when I’m having a quiet night at home, I can enjoy it, but I know that I’m ready to go out at any moment.
Lockdown must have been hard then.
It was, but I’m an only child so I am used to being on my own. I’m lucky that where I live, in Hackney, I could go out for walks along the canal. Even though we weren’t connecting in the same way, just being around people gave me energy. I always think that there is something really beautiful about crying on the tube – even when it is really sad, I love that feeling of connection, being around people living their own life.
Who would you like to team up with next?
Kano! It makes my heart beat faster just thinking about it. Stormzy, of course, because he’s absolutely smashing it. Little Simz, too; she’s so special. I love highlighting artists that people might not know.
In terms of who I’d love to join me on a ride, I know that a lot of the Spice Girls have [Peloton] bikes, so having Mel B – who was so life-affirming for me as a little girl; seeing someone who looked like me on TV – do my ride... That would blow my mind.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.