Near the end of her pregnancy, Peloton head instructor Robin Arzón and her husband headed off to a cabin in Connecticut to celebrate their “babymoon,” a trip where expectant parents relax and unwind before the baby’s arrival. There, in what she called “the perfect cozy writing retreat,” Arzón wrote her debut picture book, Strong Mama (Little, Brown, Jan.), which documents her pregnancy and new motherhood for her daughter Athena, born earlier this year.
Given her roles at Peloton and as a fitness influencer with roughly 880,000 Instagram followers, Arzón stayed, unsurprisingly, very active throughout her pregnancy. “I wanted to memorialize that first feeling of two hearts beating in my body, as I do this run, or lift this weight,” she said. “I wanted a time capsule of that moment.”
In Strong Mama, Arzón traces her pregnancy, from the announcement, to the baby’s arrival, to postpartum life, with the help of illustrations by Addy Rivera Sonda. Beyond capturing and commemorating her journey to motherhood, Arzón also hopes to impart the same messages to young readers as she does to the nearly six million members of the Peloton community: the importance of self-care, and how to foster a healthy relationship with exercise.
“I wanted to provide an entry point to visit some of these concepts,” Arzón said, “to introduce self-care as something that should be optimized, especially from a young age.” With its endorsement of fitness as a source of nourishment rather than punishment, she sees the book as one for parents, in addition to their children. “I imagine one day, my daughter will ask me, Why are you going for a run? And I’ll point to this book. I am strong so I can take care of you, as well as myself,” she said.
Arzón published her bestselling primer on running, Shut Up and Run, in 2016, and found the pivot from writing adult nonfiction to keeping the picture book “light but poignant” for laptime reading was a “fun challenge.” And though Strong Mama marks her entry into children’s books, she sees the message of the book, in a way, as an extension of her role at Peloton. “Kids absorb everything,” she said. “Watching a parent work out with us at Peloton is a great way to model self -care and teach them that movement is medicine.”
Looking ahead, Arzón described herself on a “mission” to write books that advocate for self-reliance, and for children to “turn inward” for strength. “I’m teaching my daughter that the queen saves herself,” she said, adding that when she asks for children’s book suggestions with this mantra in mind, many of her friends and Instagram followers suggest Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess, an inverted fairy tale in which the princess rescues the prince, released in 1980. “I do appreciate the message of that book,” Arzón said. “But it’s concerning to me it’s the only one that’s recommended, when I discuss that ethos and paradigm shift. We should have so many books that there’s a laundry list. Teaching kids, and more specifically girls, that they have the power to control their own destiny is the shift we so badly need.”