Current times can't quarantine the hustle of one Long Island-native who continues to embolden thousands of Peloton enthusiasts up the leaderboard.
Senior instructor Alex Toussaint is known for motivating riders with his no-excuses brand born from years of training at a military school. The child of a sailor and nephew of an airman, he exudes the discipline needed to formulate a workout that can help someone PR while entertaining them with a Biggie-versus-Tupac track battle. He tailors each class to be its own individual vibe, whether it's a HIIT ride, intervals & arms, or pays homage to a specific decade — and crafting that experience requires precision when sculpting message, music and song placement.
"Depending on what class it is, the prep can take anywhere from an hour to the entire day, honestly. … I always start with the playlist and that may require me to sit down and be like, how many hills do I want to have in this playlist? How many flat roads; how many recoveries? And that will determine the style and the music that I go for. Once I lock the playlist in, then I have to figure out the transitions and how everything flows because I'm very, very critical of, you can have a 10-song playlist but if song 2 and song 8 are in the wrong placement, the playlist can sound terrible."
Photo courtesy of Military Families Magazine.
Toussaint's meticulous nature was instilled in him at military school in Missouri. His parents enrolled him for grades 6 to 11 in response to behavioral issues he experienced as a kid. He said his dad thought the discipline and structure would be helpful, and in fact, he has leaned on the principles ever since.
After graduation he pursued audio and video production — skills that also proved useful as he climbed the ranks of the fitness industry.
"I was that kid that graduated high school and went to college just to buy time and to please my parents, knowing that wasn't really the general direction I wanted to go. But then again, I had no direction — I had no idea of what I wanted to do. While I was up in school, my car was stolen and I kind of went through this weird, dark depression stage that eventually had me come back to East Hampton," he said.
He was introduced to the bike when he started working as a maintenance worker at an indoor cycling studio. Toussaint says he approached the owner about an opportunity to audition.
"I would listen to the instructors teaching through the door and literally get inspiration based off their playlist and based off what they were saying. At the time, I was never even on a cycling bike. So, I walked into work and asked the owner, who is now my life mentor, I asked him, 'hey, can I be an instructor?'" Toussaint said.
Photo courtesy of Military Families Magazine.
The combination of training from military school and years in the marching band made him proficient at formulating a script for classes, attributes he said would tie all of his capabilities into one useful package.
"I literally went from one week mopping floors to the next week teaching a class," he added.
That was in 2013 and he has since taught around the U.S. and opened a studio in Dubai before landing at Peloton. And now he finds himself among an elite group of instructors pushing onlookers through the current COVID-19 pandemic. As people were forced into isolation, Peloton became a gathering place for novice and advanced riders to bond over a common need for connection. The company also offers yoga, meditation, and boot camp, among other classes.
"Honestly, it's that discipline over distraction mindset. It's that military mindset which has honestly pushed me through this. It's essentially the people who are on the frontlines — medical workers, police officers, things like that who are on the frontline right now — I kind of view what we're doing as a service to the people. Because everybody's at home, I feel like I'm obligated as an instructor and as a person in a position that can provide light to others, that I must," he said.
Though Peloton is structured as an in-home program, instructors logistically perform workouts from studios in New York and the United Kingdom. That is until the coronavirus impacted operations and its team had to get creative on how to deliver its live programming. Toussaint and his fellow instructors are now offering classes live from their own homes, or through a pivot he would describe as adapting and overcoming.
"Throughout these tough days there's absolutely light at the end of the tunnel. We're going to get through this together. We just have to stick together as a family, as a unit, and I think that right now, more than ever, you just have to really have hope. The support from one another will be a strong enough foundation to make sure we get through this. We will come out stronger on the opposite side," Toussaint said.