Before walking away from her job as a successful corporate litigator in Manhattan, sweating was something Robin Arzón did during the hour or so a day she could steal away for a run or a workout. Now, through creativity, hard work and hustle, the 34-year-old has made sweating a career.
Arzón is an RRCA-certified running coach and an NASM-certified personal trainer. She also leads 10 to 12 classes per week as a senior instructor at NYC-based Peloton Cycle. She uses a sliding scale of intensity to incorporate her Peloton, yoga, cycling and boot camp workouts into her training plan. And as if that weren’t enough, she recently released a new book, Shut Up and Run, to share her message of strength through sweat.
“There is nothing more powerful than pushing and pulling your body weight in the world and owning that space,” says Arzón, who believes sweat has the power to change lives, and calls herself a proselytizer of sweat. “I find that inspiring. Thankfully I hear those stories every day and it’s not lost on me that I’m privileged to be part of others’ journeys.”
Arzón, who calls New York City home, claims the marathon as her favorite running distance because she says there is always a point during training and in the race when you have to dig. She’ll run the New York City Marathon for the sixth time this November, but she’s also not afraid to take her blinged-out street style to the trails, with finishes at three 50-milers. Her favorite race, however, is the Keys 100, a 100-mile road race from Key Largo to Key West in Florida. Arzón chose it as her first 100-miler, and ran it this past May.
“I lead with curiosity, that usually takes you to the right place,” says Arzón of what guides her athletic and life choices. “I’ve always been bold, maybe a little naïve too. But I didn’t let what I didn’t know discourage me. I just keep showing up and I think that’s the point.”
But when she was growing up in Philadelphia, Arzón eschewed sports for arts and crafts. She started working out during law school and discovered running by signing up for a 10K on a whim. She was 23 years old when she ran her first mile. Now she’s inspired by the marriage of movement and meaning with running as her art form. To fuel her fire, she surrounds herself with artists and athletes, and is constantly fed by others sharing the stories of their first 5K or other accomplishments.
She traces her journey of self-discovery to her parents. Her mom, a physician, and her dad, an attorney, always told Arzón and her sister to listen to their inner voice.
“As long as we were making the next best decision to keep us safe and largely secure, they supported it,” Arzón says. “When I first left law, it became my ‘Plan B.’ Now it’s my ‘Plan F.’”
One lesson Arzón learned from her mother is that she hails from “resilient stock.” That truth has been put to the test over and over in Arzón’s life. The first was when Arzón, then a senior at New York University, was taken hostage and held at gunpoint in an East Village bar. The inveterate communicator did her best to reason with the perpetrator, while another woman eventually saw an opportunity to tackle him and end the standoff. Throwing herself into law school and fitness were the ways Arzón dealt with the trauma.
Then her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Arzón joined in a cross-country fundraising run for the MS Society to run the equivalent of five marathons in five days, something she said she had no business doing at the time but gritted through anyway. In 2014, Arzón was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She was outfitted with an insulin pump and was determined to not let the disease decide her life. It’s a real thing she has to deal with every day, but between the latest technology and eating an anti-inflammatory, vegan diet, she makes it work.
“I do really believe that most people, when faced with something daunting or harrowing, are going to be stronger than they think,” says Arzón. “There is something primal and beautiful about the instinct to survive. I’m a survivor.”
She’s also busy. Arzón admits she doesn’t take as many rest days as she would recommend for others, saying sleep—up to 10 hours a night—meditation, quiet time, journaling (old-school with pen and paper) and acupuncture help to keep her going.
“To me training, running, cycling are a lifestyle,” she says. “I see races as semicolons, and I want my life to be one long, run-on sentence filled with sweat.”
On occasion Arzón takes one rest day a week. More often than not, she’s fitting upward of four workouts into a day. The result is a continual parade of freshly styled workout looks, with three or four outfit changes a day. Luckily fashion and feeling good about how you look is important to the sweat diva, who usually showers twice a day. She says that in between workouts, spray deodorant, powder and baby wipes go a long way.
“As a lawyer, my suit game was fly,” says Arzón who has a partnership with adidas. “Now I look at Lycra as my business clothes, and being styled makes me feel proud, almost like I’m wearing a cape.”
Arzón’s sweat-filled life overflows with vibrant colors, bold patterns, jewelry (she always races in a gold jaguar ring on her right index finger) and unapologetically on point cat-eye eyeliner, even when crossing a finish line.
“I have perfected how to do a marathon in cat-eye eyeliner,” Arzón says. “Ultimately I believe sweat is my best accessory. I just add some other warrior gear on top to keep it fly.”
This is the real her through and through. Chalk it up to her Puerto Rican and Cuban heritage, and a familial love so fierce she had some of her mom’s pearls of wisdom (Resilient Stock) tattooed on her ribcage.
Even as a self-proclaimed “energizer bunny,” she has low points, admitting there are moments when she feels private and wants to be quiet.
“Sometimes I’m in a mood and that shows,” Arzon says. “I cannot lead a class or do what I do with any amount of artifice. I only know to do one thing and that’s to be myself better and better.”
There are also times when even Arzón gets scared. And she says it’s those moments of boldness that matter. Whether it’s feeling scared at leaving her law career, feeling like a “fake” when she first called herself an athlete or getting a little nervous every time she steps on a track, being epic, to Arzón, is being fearful and doing it anyway. And she sets herself up to have those moments regularly.
Keep Running Interesting
Many weekend warriors run the same routes around work or home to get the training done rather than travel to new routes. And while that makes for an easy run, it can also get boring and get you stuck in a rut. To stay motivated, here are some tips Robin Arzón suggests for keeping your run interesting.
1. Do something with a fartlek.
Fartlek means “speed play” in Swedish and is a type of training run based on undefined intervals (like going back and forth between fast runs and slow runs). My favorite type of fartlek running is to alternate between jogging a block and sprinting a block. Before you know it, the run is over!
2. Hit the trails.
If you’re usually running in a town or city, find a trail through a park or nature preserve and explore. The softer surface will also give the bones and joints in your legs a break.
3. Get some company.
The same route takes on new meaning with a friend, and knowing you have to meet someone will help motivate you.
4. Commute to a new route.
It’s worth the extra five to 20 minutes if your run will be enjoyable. Go to MapMyRun.com to see routes in your area that others have created.
5. Inject speed on your slower days.
The next time you find yourself feeling sluggish, bored or struggling to go on a run, consider injecting a few speed bursts to reboot. Set your watch to 30 seconds and surge. Sometimes this shot of adrenaline is enough to ward off the blues.
6. Expect a little boredom now and then.
We all experience it. The best way to get over a slump is to sign up for a race.
3 Ways to Cope With a Bad Run
1. Grieve it.
It’s OK to mourn a terrible race when your hopes were high, but don’t indulge this feeling for more than a few days. If you’re brooding over a terrible training run, remember that a bad training run is better than a bad race day, and it’s the bad training runs that sometimes help make our best races.
2. Celebrate it.
Seriously. You’re going to be smarter and stronger because of it. What could you have done differently? Did you start too fast? Undertrain? Underfuel? Dissect it with someone you trust (it helps to talk about it). Learn from it, and then move on.
3. Sign up for another race.
There’s always another finish line on the horizon. Dust yourself off and set your sights high. It’s important to think of this race as an entirely separate event, not a do-over of the bad one. If you’re still feeling angry or desperate to prove something, space out the next race to give yourself time to recover.
Extracted with permission from Shut Up and Run: How to Get Up, Lace Up, and
Sweat With Swagger by Robin Arzón (Harper Design, 2016)