The popular fitness instructor and 'Dancing with the Stars' alum shares why LGBTQIA+ people should be particularly mindful of their well-being this Pride season.
- Pride month is a time of celebration for many LGBTQIA+ people and their allies.
- It can also be mentally and emotionally taxing for some, as it might dredge up triggering, upsetting memories of coming out, tackling adversity, or coming to terms with one’s identity.
- Peloton fitness instructor Cody Rigsby shares how he prioritizes his mental and physical health during the celebratory season.
Peloton instructor Cody Rigsby, is one of the fitness app’s most prominent personalities. Every day, millions of users around the world tune in for his popular home cycling and workout classes.
It’s a big platform, and for Rigsby — who identifies as gay — it’s been important to create a safe space that validates and centers the identities of those who take his rides, especially those who are part of the greater LGBTQIA+ community.
It’s particularly important to him during the month of June, which he says always “feels like the holiday season.”
That’s because Pride is his “favorite time of year.”
“It’s rooted in such great history, of great action of trans women of color, of our gay ancestors who really went to battle for our rights. It’s always rooted in that,” Rigsby said, explaining the basis of the season that celebrates LGBTQIA+ visibility, activism, and history.
While Rigsby said that there are many reasons to celebrate Pride month and it can be a joyful time of year, he pointed out that “it can also be mentally and emotionally a challenging time because we are reminded of how much more we have to do and how many rights are very fragile right now.”
He understands that with the celebration that can come with Pride, there’s also the potential for a lot of stress. That’s why he says it’s important for LGBTQIA+ people and their allies to be mindful of their mental health and wellness during the season.
Rigsby sat down with Healthline and spoke about how to stay calm and centered during Pride, ways to embrace physical activity (even if you don’t normally have a regular fitness routine), and what you can expect to see him fire up on the grill for healthy, festive food options this season.
Rigsby said that Pride can be “mentally and emotionally exhausting” for you depending on how you celebrate the season.
If Pride is defined by political action for you, if you have a feeling that “there is a lot to be done, that you have a lot of work to do,” then it might be particularly taxing.
If it’s a period of socializing and connecting with friends and community, the dizzying string of events, parades, and parties can potentially leave you feeling exhausted and socially overwhelmed.
If it’s a moment of personal reflection, it might dredge up triggering, upsetting memories of coming out, tackling adversity, or coming to terms with one’s identity.
When asked how to process the complex emotions that can come with Pride season, Rigsby suggested that a good place to start is by making sure you take a little time each day for yourself.
“Have time throughout this month where you are not only celebrating, but taking care of yourself. Maybe that’s meditating, maybe that’s movement, maybe that’s not big-scale celebrations but spending time with people that really matter,” Rigsby explained.
“In those moments, you do want to celebrate, you do want to be your best, so I think: Movement, meditation, and [finding] things to nourish yourself,” he added.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done.
If you’re having difficulty fitting in health and wellness activities to stay calm and focused during Pride, Rigsby said one of his go-to options is a simple daily meditation.
He emphasized that his days always start with 10 minutes of meditation. He makes sure to stay off his phone and avoid those constant distractions of Instagram and TikTok, which can “suck you in and then you forgot about the things to do to take care of yourself.”
Of course, “give yourself a bit of grace,” he stressed, noting it’s important not to put too much pressure on yourself.
For example, he explained that if you like to work out and you’re used to a 30-minute-to-an-hour-long daily fitness regimen but can only fit in a short 15-20 minutes because your schedule is full, that’s okay. Cut yourself some slack.
“Don’t let ‘perfect’ be the enemy of good. Try to find stackable bite-size workouts you can do,” Rigsby said.
He pointed out that there are a number of shorter workouts available on the Peloton app, which he not only enjoys facilitating but also taking himself.
“A short amount goes a long way when you have a busy schedule, and if you aren’t moving or taking care of yourself as much as you usually do, don’t beat yourself up, give yourself a little grace and find out when you can,” he said.
Dr. Anuradha Seshadri, an internal medicine and pediatric physician at UCLA Health, told Healthline that prioritizing physical and mental health during Pride season is important for LGBTQIA+ people because “physical health and mental health work hand in hand, hence the term ‘psychosomatic.’ “
Seshadri, who is not affiliated with Rigsby or Peloton, said most of our days involve “sitting down in front of a computer and being immobile.” This can have a domino effect on our overall health and our sense of how we feel about ourselves.
“We need to find at least around 20 minutes of our day to dedicate to physical health,” she explained. “This is to keep our heart and mind healthy, keep our joints and muscles active and stretched.”
Seshadri added that regular physical activity is tied to reductions in sugar levels, cholesterol, obesity, anxiety, depression, stress, and, as a result, “increased longevity.”
During Pride month, which can be equal parts joyful and triggering for LGBTQIA+ people, she said that exercise can be helpful in that it “releases endorphins and hormones such as dopamine that allow us to ‘feel good.’ “
This can then be used as “a coping mechanism” to reduce your stress, anger, and “feelings of hurt” in a way that is “harmless and neutral.”
“When we feel stressed it can impact our body and can manifest as tension headaches, issues with the gut, fibromyalgia to name a few,” she said. “So, the reverse can be beneficial — take care of the body to help the mind.”
For those who feel apprehensive about the prospect of embracing a fitness regimen, Rigsby suggests finding workouts that have an element of fun and “bring you joy.”
He said this could be something as simple as playing upbeat music during workouts or trying something like a dance cardio class.
“I think when you find the fun in it, that kind of motivates you to dig a little bit deeper, you might start with the fun, and then if you want more of a challenge you will find different ways to work out from there,” he said.
Seshadri echoed those thoughts. She said that you have to understand and believe in the “importance of the role of fitness in your life” can play.
If it’s important to you, “you will ultimately find a way to do it.”
If you feel squeamish about starting or don’t know how to start out, try “to make it of importance mentally.” Find a time in your schedule and make it a routine, she said.
“Just like we brush our teeth or shower, start small and slow. Most people jump into exercising and get fatigued or sore and expect quick results, so it is important to set realistic expectations,” she explained.
Seshadri used the example of just taking a break from your computer work and Zoom calls to get a 10 to 15-minute walk around the block. That could be during a lunch break, or you could wake up a few minutes earlier in your day to do this.
“Then, time depending, you can increase the duration of the walk or increase the intensity and keep the same time. You’re working your way up to a jog and then a run. Make it fun,” she said. “Switch up your routine and have ‘leg days,’ ‘arm days,’ cardio versus resistance training days.”
Seshadri said that holding yourself accountable is a challenge, so it might be helpful to ask a friend or a family member to join you. Sometimes, there’s strength in numbers.
“If you need more help and have the resources, there are plenty of trainers and social media resources available,” she added. “Lastly, make sure that what you are doing is safe — proper technique — so as not to injure yourself or cause repeated ‘wear and tear.’ Also, stay hydrated. It’s important to hydrate to account for the fluid loss via exercise.”
Part of refueling can be embracing healthy food alternatives, which may not always be easy during Pride month, especially if you’re on the go in between celebrations, parades, and protests.
Rigsby is currently partnering with Primal Kitchen, a company that makes non-dairy condiments, dressings, and dips, especially helpful for summer Pride parties and outdoor barbecues.
Nutrition is helpful Rigsby said in that “nourishing your body” properly can help you achieve your goals, whether they be losing weight or achieving a specific body aesthetic. Just as with proper exercise techniques to avoid injury, if you are attempting to achieve a physical aesthetic or alter your diet, doing it safely, while getting the nutrients you need is key.
Rigsby noted that making small changes or substitutions to your diet can make a big difference and it’s important to plan for moments when you can also simply enjoy whatever you want to eat at a get-together.
“I’m the kind of person where, I’m going to enjoy myself. I don’t want to eat the low fat potato salad,” he joked. “I want to enjoy the meal. Whatever your schedule is, prioritize sticking to your nutrition goals and having that moment where you can be guilt-free [about what you’re eating].”
Above all else, Rigsby encourages everyone to remember that Pride is a time to celebrate yourself, and that means who you are right now.
“Right now, you are enough,” he said, pointing out that it can be easy to lose sight of that during Pride season.
“You are worthy of being celebrated, and no matter what your background is or how you look, you are worthy of being celebrated in this moment,” Rigsby said. “The journey you take will get you to that best self, but give yourself grace and celebrate yourself and the people in your life right now.”
This story originally appeared on: Healthline.com - Author:Brian Mastroianni