The most recent national lockdown here in the UK has been bloody tough. Everybody I know is struggling, whether they're an essential worker, a parent homeschooling their kids, someone stuck working inside a one-bedroom flat with their partner, or someone who's been laid off or furloughed. The hours upon hours stuck inside, coupled with cold temperatures and long stretches of gray skies and rain, have taken its toll on our moods and our mental health. One way I've tried to pick myself up is through working out, and more specifically, taking spinning classes with instructor Leanne Hainsby on the Peloton app. Hainsby not only plays amazing music during her rides, but she is also the most positive and cheerful instructor — and her energy is infectious. Every time I enter into her "sparkly fitness bubble" for those 20 or 30 minutes, I leave feeling brighter and happier. But how does one of Peloton's most uplifting teachers take care of her own mental health on a day-to-day basis during the pandemic?
"The biggest thing that helps me, and it's taken me until this lockdown to realise it, is that I need to have some kind of structure," Hainsby told POPSUGAR over Zoom. "I'm always writing myself a little schedule for the day, and even if that is walk to get food, or walk to the shops, if I've then gone, 'OK I'm going to have two hours to chill out," I don't have the pressure on myself that I should be doing something. I think one of the biggest things we can do is take the pressure off [ourselves].
Even though Hainsby is a fitness instructor for a living, making sure that she's exercising for herself regularly has also been key in keeping her mood up. "A big thing for me is keeping up my training, more for my mind than anything else. I have a personal trainer that I'm working with — who I've been working with for years — and we're doing it through the screen, and I'm doing my Peloton classes."
Hainsby also made it a point to check in with herself and look at her daily habits to see what may have been contributing to her feeling low. "I was really trying to understand where my mood was dipping a little bit, and for me, it's in the evenings where I feel like I'm just going to sit down and watch TV again," she explained. "So, instead of watching that extra episode on Netflix, I've been chilling out for a bit and then going on to the Peloton app and doing a slow yoga flow, followed by a meditation before bed, and that's made a massive difference for me. One, I find it much easier to switch off in the evening if I do that; and two, it just feels like I'm being kind to myself before I go to bed. And I've found that it's really helped my sleep, and I wake up feeling a lot calmer. I think the big goal is to feel calm. Definitely for me, when I overthink things, I end up feeling superstressed, and you want to control the things you can't."
Like many of us, Zoom has been a saving grace for Hainsby during lockdown, allowing her to check in with her friends and family each week. "I just try and stay as connected as I can to community, and friends, and family," said Hainsby, highlighting the importance of leaning on those you love and trust during this time. "Knowing that there's one or two good friends or family members that you can be really open and honest with if you're struggling really helps. You have to have those couple of people that are really going to be there when you have a wobble."
Hainsby's also found that her work as a Peloton instructor has helped greatly in staying positive, something she feels incredibly grateful to be able to do. "I feel like I'm very lucky to be able to have these sparkly moments in my day, which is why I feel so strongly about making sure that other people feel that, too," she said. And whilst most of us won't get the experience of motivating thousands of people around the globe, Hainsby believes that helping people on a smaller, more intimate scale can be just as impactful for your mood right now. "I think something that I would suggest for people is, where and when they can, to give back in some way. It makes me feel so good when I see people celebrating milestones [in class] and I can make them feel good. And when I say giving back, maybe that's just messaging a friend and telling them,'You are doing a great job with the homeschooling, or with navigating your way through whatever you're going through.'"
And lastly, the Peloton community in general has been a great way for Hainsby to feel connected and positive during the pandemic — something I think a lot of fans of the app can attest to. "I've been on my own in the Peloton studio since March 2020, and I've never felt lonely in the studio," said Hainsby. "It's so bizarre, I've never felt lonely, because there is such a strong sense of community, and you really feel like you're in it, right? So if you can get that as much as you can in your life outside of doing that, then I think it does make you feel better about yourself."