The Peloton Instructor Healing Her Relationship to Exercise

Photo: Courtesy of Peleton

Growing up in Miami, Camila Mariana Ramón faced pressure to look a certain way. She’d get comments about eating too much at family gatherings, and on trips to Argentina, where she was born, she’d receive praise when she lost weight. In high school and college, Ramón danced competitively, which only heightened the scrutiny on her body. It took a breakdown in 2015 for Ramón to realize she was exercising for the wrong reasons. 

That understanding set her on a new course: In 2016, Ramón became a trainer, and in 2021, Peloton’s first Spanish-speaking cycling instructor. In her classes, which she teaches in both Spanish and English, she helps students celebrate their bodies and live a healthier life. “Athleticism looks different on everybody and every body,” Ramón explains. “It’s not about what it should look like, it’s about what it feels like.” 

Ramón’s relationship with her body now is the best it’s ever been, but being in the public eye at Peloton occasionally challenges that. In November, for example, Ramón found her Instagram feed cluttered with negative comments about her body. The Cut spoke to Ramón about how she handled that moment and how she stays true to herself.

I was wearing a brown Lululemon Align set, with leggings and an asymmetrical bra. I don’t usually wear nylon on-air and I don’t typically go for longline bras, but I was like, I feel great today. I’m going to step out of my comfort zone. I was teaching my Día de Los Muertos cycling class, so I also had my face painted and a flower crown. Before class started, I recorded a video of me dancing and uploaded it to Instagram Stories. I didn’t think twice about it. Two hours later, when I opened my phone, I saw a lot of cute messages like, “I love your energy!” or “I love your vibe.” But I also saw maybe five messages that were like, “OMG, are you pregnant?”

I was just dancing and having a good time on a Tuesday. I wasn’t even talking about my body, but the conversation still came back to it somehow.

Normally, I just brush stuff like this off. I’m not totally impenetrable to these types of comments, but the amount of time they stick to me is a 100th of what it used to be. Still, I can imagine how painful it would be for somebody who was trying to get pregnant to hear that. So I shared what had happened on my Instagram Stories and later on TikTok because of the response I received. I received so many messages from women saying, “I was recovering from an eating disorder and when somebody asked me if I was pregnant, I started hating myself again. Or, I had a miscarriage the week before I went to go see my mother-in-law and she asked me if I was pregnant. I couldn’t hold it together.”

The outpouring was overwhelming, and I was like, Hold on a second, world! What is happening here? We need to have a conversation about this. So I posted a slide show of ten of the messages I received on Instagram. Over 500 people commented on that post, and I got hundreds of DMs. When I hear people are being hurt, it takes me back to little me — how I was feeling in the past and how hard I had to work to get out of there.

I danced throughout high school, and my junior and senior year, I joined the cross-country team. I joined back in middle school because I wanted to be flaca, skinny. While that was a contributing factor in high school, I also enjoyed challenging myself as an athlete. I found training to be extremely healing for me as I discovered the positive effects it had on my anxiety.

I had a good time on the dance team, but it was very appearance based: You stand in a line formation, looking at yourself in the mirror and comparing yourself to your teammates. I couldn’t help but think, Why are my hips wider than theirs? Why aren’t my hips shaped the way they’re supposed to be? The teacher also thought the costumes wouldn’t look right on dancers if they were above a certain weight, so we had weight probation, which terrified the hell out of me. I did everything in my power not to be on it.

When I graduated high school, I joined the college dance team. I kept running just to stay fit for dance, and I started taking fat burners. I was binge-eating, too. I would restrict myself so much during the week, running twice a day, and desperately trying to shrink myself so the costumes would fit me the same as the other girls. In reality it was not my body that needed fixing but my perception of myself.

It wasn’t until a few years after college that I realized I had a horrible relationship with training. One day, I was running on the Key Biscayne Bridge. It was a beautiful Miami day, but inside I was so unhappy. I was just talking shit to myself the entire time, like, You are not fast enough. You haven’t made any progress. You’re a loser. You can’t achieve a simple goal. 

When I got to the top, I had a breakdown. I was crying. I thought, How many people can say that they can run six miles nonstop? Your strong legs brought you here to the top of this bridge. I was like, You need to fix this girl. This is not right. That’s when I leaned into training for having fun, removing anything that had to do with aesthetic pressure, removing anything that had to do with me looking a certain way. I hit up a friend. “Let’s walk and talk to each other, chismosear,” which basically means spill the tea. Then I started taking dance classes, some fitness classes, some barre classes. Then I started running again without any pace goals or distance goals. That’s when I realized that I wanted to do fitness as a career.

The more that I show up as myself, the more it gives other people the space to do so themselves. I’ve had people come up to me and say, “I used to be ashamed of my Latinidad, but because of your classes, I feel like it’s okay for me to be proud and loud.” I never expected anyone to tell me anything like that. Especially in the Latinx community, there’s a big misconception that lean bodies are healthier, and that’s most definitely not the case. But nobody’s talking about that. Nobody’s having these conversations with Latinas. Few people are having them in Spanish.  But at the same time, people are listening. They’re tired of what we’ve been served our whole lives.

Because of my experiences I’m now able to focus on creating these fun, safe, no-pressure spaces where nobody will ever feel worried that they do not fit in or could potentially be singled out for looking a certain way. I’m so proud of the work that we do to bring levity to the world.

People are always going to have opinions and they’re always going to comment. But at the end of the day, my mission is not to worry about them. My mission is to help people develop a positive relationship with exercise so they can do it for life. I’m not too stressed about what people think about my body because I’m so much more than my body.

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The Peloton Instructor Healing Her Relationship to Exercise