Robin Arzón Is Making Sure Daughter Athena Grows Up to 'Witness Her Mother Feeling Strong'

Ahead of the release of Robin Arzón's debut children's book, Strong Mama, the Peloton instructor talks to PEOPLE about motherhood, movement and more

Robin Arzon mother daughter shoot
Photo: Candace Howe from PhotoStory Collections Hair & Makeup by Tiffanie Garrett

Robin Arzón didn't ever expect to write a children's book — but in her final months of pregnancy, while taking a bootcamp workout during her babymoon, the Peloton instructor felt an immediate urge to create something special.

"I came back from an awesome workout in the hotel gym and was talking to the baby, whom we called pequeño at the time, saying: 'We just kicked ass together. We did that.' Then I thought, 'I have to write this because baby experienced that with me,'" says Arzón, whose debut children's book, Strong Mama, hits shelves on Jan. 11. "I felt called to write this."

Throughout her final weeks of pregnancy, Arzón read drafts of Strong Mama to her first-born daughter Athena, now 9 months, "when she was in [her] belly." Says Arzón, "I got really emotional."

Now, the fitness coach is using the book as a tool to teach her daughter about the transformative power of movement.

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Robin Arzon mother daughter shoot
Candace Howe from PhotoStory Collections Hair & Makeup by Tiffanie Garrett

"I see her noticing when I'm doing a workout or when I'm on the [Peloton] Bike. She's absorbing even at a young age what that means and getting curious about when I'm moving. It makes me excited to use that as an entry point of adventure," says Arzón, who shares Athena with her husband of three years, Drew Butler.

"I want her to get curious about her own power through movement. And of course, that's going to start with play," she adds.

Robin Arzon, Strong Mama
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

"I really viewed [Athena] as my training partner throughout pregnancy. When I would do heavy lifting sessions, she would chill, and I would envision her meditating and focusing on lifting with me. Then if I played hip-hop music she would kick and I envisioned her dancing," Arzón remembers. "I was really happy that I was able to stay active while honoring modifications to keep things safe."

Strong Mama illustrates the strength of mothers as the book follows a mom-to-be as she prepares to welcome her baby with fitness and family, in a story quite similar to Arzón's.

Robin Arzon, Strong Mama
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Now, almost a year after giving birth to Athena, Arzón's back to work at Peloton and in her personal fitness journey. She admits it hasn't been easy — "you're literally rebuilding, starting over" — but that makes movement all the more worth it. Read on for Arzón's perspective on motherhood, maintaining a positive mentality and more, below.

PEOPLE: So many new moms feel pressure to 'bounce back' after baby, but you encourage them to be "bouncing forward." How do you tune out the noise of snapback culture?

Robin Arzón: "It's been focusing on what my body can do and going back to basics, honestly. When I first laced up to go running I thought, 'You're not worried about pace. You're not worried about distance. You're literally just going to go out for 10 minutes.' And I wouldn't even let myself go longer than that, even though I thought I could. I had to put my ego in the parking lot. That gave me a lot of peace."

PEOPLE: What workouts were you excited to get back into when you got the clearance from your doctor postpartum?

RA: "Getting back to my strength workouts was huge. I really did a lot of internal core and pelvic floor work, which is super foundational for any birthing person. But for me, picking up weights and putting that barbell on my back again, once I was able to do so safely, was a game-changer. You can't tell me s--- once I've put my own body weight on my back and lifted it! That gives me ammunition to say, 'Yes, I look different. Yes, this feels different. Yes, this is a journey.' But also, I created a whole-ass human and I can do this. I can tap into that power again. It's just going to be maybe slower than I would like."

Robin Arzon mother daughter shoot
Candace Howe from PhotoStory Collections Hair & Makeup by Tiffanie Garrett

PEOPLE: You just ran your 27th marathon at the New York City Marathon in November. How did you give yourself the grace to train for it while also being a new, working mom?

RA: "I decided pretty late into the training cycle that I was going to do New York City and only my husband knew. I didn't want the external pressure. I ran so old school when I trained. I Map Quested my route and didn't use a watch. I didn't want to get caught up in the pace and splits. I completely let go of numbers."

"I really prioritized one long run, one speed workout and one other endurance workout, in addition to my strength training. For me, it was very much scaled back. Mom guilt is real so I am really proud that I was able to prioritize my training. I wanted to show myself, my family and Athena that I'm still going to claim my finish lines because that's going to make me stronger for the family."

PEOPLE: What went through your mind when you saw Athena cheering you on towards the end of the race?

RA: "That was jet fuel to me. It blew my mind. I was like, 'I can't believe nine months ago, you were in my body and now you exist as a human clapping.' Literally, she was clapping at mile 23. She had just learned how to clap that week. It was poignant and emotional and the energy was palpable. It felt like a dream sequence in a movie. Those last few miles were probably the most special I have ever ran in my life."

PEOPLE: Sometimes it's hard to find the motivation to move. Do you ever struggle to get yourself to a workout?'

RA: "I have to admit, most days, I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, are we doing this again? Okay, we're doing this again. S---.' There are going to be moments of discomfort and doubt. But motivation is temporary. Internal drive and internal pride are self-generated. That mental game and that piece of forward momentum are literally what my life is about. When I schedule my workouts, I show up to them. For me, it is a foundational character-building moment. It's like, 'When I say I am going to do something, I do it. I am the person who shows up.' When we break our promises I really do feel like our spirit knows."

PEOPLE: What advice do you have for other new moms trying to get back into exercise?

RA: "Sleep deprivation is real. You can't kind of add a lot of intensity to something that is already a little bit fragile. Be realistic about how much movement you can add to that foundation. Once baby is sleeping through the night you're able to rebuild your fitness practice. I say start small. Ten minutes a few times a day amounts to a lot and is actually what I did for those initial workouts postpartum. Give yourself grace for smaller workouts. It doesn't have to be a 60-minute all-out workout to 'count.' Put the baby down for a nap and do five minutes of core or try a walk around the block. Consistency over intensity."

Robin Arzon mother daughter shoot
Candace Howe from PhotoStory Collections Hair & Makeup by Tiffanie Garrett

PEOPLE: You exude so much positivity. How do you hold your head up on hard days?

RA: "We're all human, right? For me, movement is medicine. One of the key pieces of it is mental health. We can really turn our inner hater into an inner advocate by micro wins in a workout. It's a safe space where we can pay attention to how we talk to ourselves. That is the most important conversation we have all day. I think about how I am talking to myself in the toughest parts of a workout. As a former lawyer, I think about transcripts a lot. So I try to become the champion for myself that I would be for my husband, my best friend, my sister or my mom."

"Then, I write down victories and confidence-building moments in my journal. When I have a day when the inner hater gets very loud, I go back to it. It's like a movie reel starring yourself. It's kind of weird because as a woman we are made to feel like when we champion ourselves, it is too 'braggadocious'. I call BS on that. The first thing we forget is what we achieved yesterday. If you earned your finish line, write it down, proclaim it on social media, put it in your journal or tell a friend. All of it!"

PEOPLE: What lessons do you want to teach Athena?

RA: "I'm proud that my girl is able to witness her mother feeling strong. I do feel most beautiful after a workout — sweat is my best accessory! In so many ways, women are encouraged to shrink. I plan on expanding and stepping into the vastness of who I am so my daughter can step into the vastness of who she is."

Robin Arzon mother daughter shoot
Candace Howe from PhotoStory Collections Hair & Makeup by Tiffanie Garrett

"I also want to teach Athena that she is able to define what beauty is. There are lots of different entry points to that feeling. Whether it's covered in paint and playing with dolls or somewhere in between, I want her to feel the freedom to paint that picture of beauty herself. The character-building moments of falling down and getting back up are actually the most beautiful. I want her to kind of know that and learn that through her own journey."

PEOPLE: Where do you see yourself in the next few years?

RA: "I think about my future self and I champion her. I show up to my workouts and I'm literally thinking about Robin in 2025 looking back being like, 'Yes, bitch, you did that!' I think about her every day. Every milestone, every victory, I am getting closer to the future version of myself I am so proud of. She's on the way."

Strong Mama hits shelves on Jan. 11.

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