Peloton Instructor Kendall Toole Prioritizes Her Mental Health on Hard Days: 'I'm Human'

The Peloton coach is partnering with plant-based protein brand Aloha to promote health and well-being from the inside out

Kendall Toole
Photo: Kendall Toole

The sound of clanking chains from a boxing bag caught Kendall Toole's attention at a young age.

"I'd sneak down to the basement as a 7 year old, peek around and watch my dad wail on the heavy bag we had," recalls Toole, best known for her heart-pumping Peloton classes. "Sometimes I would go down and put on his gloves. There was something that always drew me to boxing."

Toole, who's teaming up with plant-based protein brand Aloha for a motivation campaign designed to inspire health and well-being, started throwing punches at a boxing gym as a junior in college when her mental health plummeted.

"Through my darkest points, that was the only way I wanted to move my body," says Toole, 28. "When I'm in the ring, I'm forced to be present, and as someone with anxiety and depression, you're always somewhere else. While boxing, my brain does the least. It's how I get my power back."

Now as a Peloton coach and National Alliance on Mental Illness ambassador, Toole feels a responsibility to use her platform to inspire others to live their healthiest lives. And as someone who admits her mental health journey is far from over — "I'm in the thick of it, I have bad days more often than people consider" — Toole reminds others to accept the low days with grace.

Here are Toole's tips for keeping life balanced, both mentally and physically.

Get Rid Of Food Guilt

As a fitness instructor, Toole pays careful attention to what she eats. But eating healthy doesn't mean giving up indulgences. "There's so much that has been imbued upon society, and young women in particular, about diet culture expectations," Toole says. "They're deeply damaging, especially to mental health."

A self-proclaimed foodie who loves to pair a salad with french fries, Toole says she finds joy in eating when you "get away from the judgment, guilt or shame." She suggests ditching the all-or-nothing labels. "Remove the idea of classifying foods as 'good' or 'bad,'" she says. "Some are more nutritious and some are less nutritious."

After all, she says, "Feeding ourselves is an act of self-love, so we should be feeding ourselves with the level of worth that we deserve."

Come Up with Creative Treats

Make healthy eating a fun experience, Toole says. When she's craving something sweet, she likes to think of a way to incorporate a nutritious element. "Aloha has a chocolate protein and I like to mix it with my oat milk or almond milk. Then I'll heat it up and I put some coconut whipped cream on top. It's like protein hot chocolate!"

When she's looking for dessert, Toole uses the Aloha vanilla protein powder to make her own milkshake. "I mix in dairy-free ice cream and feel proud that I concocted something that promotes my health," she says.

Kendall Toole
Kendall Toole

Toole also recommends stopping by the local farmer's market to pick up whatever produce catches your eye: "Pick a vegetable that looks pretty. Look at it as an adventure and exploration."

Speak Up When You Need Support

Toole, who was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) at age 11 as well as anxiety and depression in college, admits it can be hard to ask for help. But leaning on loved ones when you are going through a rough patch is important.

"We'd rather self-sacrifice than ask for support because we don't want to burden people. I've learned that asking for help is actually an opportunity for someone that loves you to show you that they love you," she says.

She learned to reframe the idea of needing support: "I'm giving my most honest self to somebody else, and they can help me through this. Because we're going to do it together," Toole adds.

Let Yourself Feel Sad Sometimes

Instead of burying sad emotions, Toole says she's learned to give herself the grace to let them run their course. "For a lot of my life I felt very numb. Part of the human experience is feeling less-than, or feeling sad. If we are trying to live our fullest lives, we want to experience every [emotion]. That means I'm human," she says.

To cope with tough days, Toole keeps a mental toolbox of small actions she can take to help her mood. "I will always cook my favorite foods, like a certain chicken my mom makes. Or I'll have a sweet treat like my Aloha milkshake that reminds me of being a kid again," she says. "I also have a sad-day playlist where I allow myself to be there and cry."

She's found these small acts of self-care help her hit the reset button. "Pick out whatever you need to realign and readjust," Toole says. "But first acknowledge that there's humanity in feeling these emotions."

If you or someone you know needs mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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