Kendall Toole tells PEOPLE about her role as a mental health advocate, and why opening up about her own journey has been a "beautiful experience"

By Georgia Slater
June 17, 2021 01:11 PM
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Kendall Toole
Credit: Kendall Toole/Instagram

For Peloton instructor Kendall Toole, hopping on a stationary bike is more than just exercise — it's building a community.

While the 28-year-old is known for her high-energy playlists and empowering workout classes, Toole has battled her own challenges off the bike and is now using her platform to raise awareness about mental health.

Toole, who was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) at age 11 as well as anxiety and depression in her college years, tells PEOPLE that her mental health was a "part of my life I always hid."

"It was something that I felt ashamed of and something that I always felt was the broken part of me or the piece of me that wasn't okay or enough," she says while chatting about her partnership with Pure Leaf Green Tea.

The fitness expert now speaks openly about her mental health both on and off the bike, sharing her journey with fans on social media and even leading an emotional Mental Health Awareness-month ride on Peloton. (It's no wonder her class mantra is "they can knock us down, but they can't knock us out.") 

"It's been a beautiful experience, to get to open up. When you're given a platform and that incredible opportunity, to not be honest when I'm asking people to show up as their best self, it felt counterintuitive," Toole shares. "Being able to speak on mental health and bring it out of the shadows and help end the stigma has been key."

The instructor's candid conversations about mental health reach far beyond the Peloton screen, and Toole says she continues to receive "powerful" messages from members who want to share their stories as well.

"The coolest thing is the acknowledgment, and to get to hear other people be like, 'I thought I was kind of crazy to be feeling this way,' to know that people have felt a point of connection, it's like an exhale," she shares. "It's like we all could take this [breath] and say, 'Oh my God, you too?' "

Toole, who has teamed up with Pure Leaf Green Tea to bring awareness to the importance of prioritizing mental health, hopes to help others alleviate at least some stress by "doing less" and making lists of "absolute priorities."

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"A lot of times, I think we've lived in a world, especially our society, where we think more is better, more is good, more is the expectation," she explains. "More is actually, I think, the counterintuitive. The more you have, the more stress you have, the more responsibilities, the more expectations."

"When you start to make a daily habit of doing less and being mindful when you're in those moments, it helps to alleviate that extra stress as you continue to go," Toole adds.

The fitness mogul also emphasizes the importance of taking time for yourself, which Toole says is the "coolest thing" to be a part of when people choose to take a Peloton class in that moment.

"Hearing that people are using the bike and using movement and physical activity to honor themselves is actually really transformative," Toole shares. "And I'm just happy to be a part of that process."

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.