When most people think of fitness, they don’t think of ghost hunters, Back to the future, Transformers, Superman, The lost boys, or Star wars. A person who does? Sam Yo, a fitness instructor for Peloton, you know, that widely talked about fitness brand. Yo uses music and quotes from all of these properties (and more) to make his Peloton lessons nostalgic, unique and engaging. But that’s not a well thought out strategy, it’s just who he is. Speaking on a video call from London, Yo told io9 why this strategy is working.
“We join in at another time and kind of change,” Yo said. “[At first] it’s “It burns, it burns”, but as soon as a song comes out like “The Power of Love” by Back to the future, you go back to when you first heard it and how you felt. It gives you that adrenaline to keep pushing. Yo is Taiwanese and grew up in London, where he fell in love with pop culture. He cites his family’s weekly ritual of going to the video store as a particular influence. “Friday night! The excitement! The news!” he remembered.
Watching tons of movies developed his passion for all genres and media of entertainment, which he later turned into an acting career, appearing in various movies, shows and theatrical productions. From there he spent almost a year as a monk (which is a whole different story), then returned to acting, while getting more and more fit. At the end of 2019, he was hired by platoon and knew his longtime love of pop culture would be a part of it. “It’s good that I can bring this to my teaching style,” he told io9. “[For example], I said it by chance for the first time, but when you pedal, you have to make sure that both legs are nice and regular. So I said, “Make sure you balance the Force … with your pedal strokes.” It came naturally and it’s something I still say now. He is also known to invoke the Power of Grayskull occasionally.
Even if you don’t know any of this about Yo, when you hold on for one of his Squad rides, its fandom is essential very quickly. He wears it on his sleeve, his right arm to be exact, which is almost always facing the camera. He has an important Superman tattoo, which he got on his 18th birthday as part of a pledge he and a friend made years earlier to get the other to get Batman tattoos. “We grew up loving comics, Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica. We were nerds, ”Yo said. In the years that followed, he feels like the ink has become a part of him. “It’s part of my character, it’s part of what I love, and it’s always a good start to a conversation. When I did my first lap in the Peloton, I literally said, ‘Hi. What’s new Peloton? You’re probably wondering who this shaved-headed Briton who speaks like the queen with a Superman tattoo is? Well, those 20 minutes, you’re going to find out.
Talking to Yo, it’s obvious his passion for these things is absolutely pure and genuine. When discussing Superman, he immediately references Red thread like something it deepened his appreciation and love of the character. When asked if he’s more DC or Marvel, he says he prefers current Marvel movies but thinks the shared universe dc animation done many years ago is up to the task. (During a Peloton outing a few months ago, he even mentioned his enthusiasm for the Snyder cut.) During our conversation, he talks about playing the ghost hunters theme song from his birthday parties growing up and obsession with Lego, which isn’t something you’d expect to hear from a man who looks like he can rip your head off. That’s because another thing that most people put around in the 1980s and 1990s are the stereotypes that muscular people are “stupid big jocks” and only pimply-faced nerds read comics. Yo doesn’t believe it at all.
“Everyone has an internal geek when you get to know them,” he said. “It’s like an alter ego, isn’t it?” These two sides, but obviously they are one person. Especially when I teach, I just try to bring who I am. Yo does dozens of rides a month and while not all of them are geeks, when they are, they really are. For example, he took a tour of the 1980s who played the themes of The lost boys, Beverly Hills cop, and St Elmo’s fire back to back to back. Another time he included “The power of love” from Back to the future and “Footloose” by Free of any tie. Earlier this year, it was “Danger zone” of Top Gun, “Fame” of Fame, and “Hearts on Fire” by Rocky IV. Last year, Yo went further with “Don’t You Forget About Me” by The breakfast club, “You are the best” of The Karate Kid, and the theme songs of the title of the two ghost hunters and The never-ending story.
Oh, and Yo doesn’t just do cycling lessons, he also does strength lessons and he tries to keep people motivated the same way in those lessons. It uses music from famous montages in movies and shows like Top Gun, Scarface, Team A, and, of course, all Rocky movies. (If you are a subscriber and are looking to find them: By clicking these connections should do the tower.) “What’s not to like?” Yo said when asked what he liked about editing. “I find when I train, my training playlist is very random, [going] from my musical stuff to pop stuff to rock stuff. Then every time that 1980s montage, you know, Survivor [who did the song “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky III] Come on, it’s just … I don’t know. It just brings you to that place that lifts you up. I feel like I’m running on the beach with Rocky and Apollo.
One ride in particular that Yo calls ultra geek took place on December 14, 2020; he made his introduction to Queen’s Flash Gordon song, played music by Footloose, Famous, Dirty Dancing, Rocky III, and then a real joker. “I put the Transformers theme, “he said.” I said, ‘It’s either genius or madness, but you’re going to laugh and you’re going to push.’ And it was like [goes into singing the song] ” Transformers ! “” (Personal note, after Yo told me this ride existed, I did it myself and got my personal best on a 45 minute ride, so his technique certainly works for me.)
Yo also likes geek platoon leaderboard names and admits that having a catchy one makes him more likely to yell at a runner during a live lesson. During a ride, you’ll see him smile and laugh when he sees a smart one, especially if he’s on a pop culture theme. “The Star warsThese are the ones I would always catch, ”Yo said. “[For example] There was [a Star Wars one] yesterday and I said: “The Force is strong … 500 turns!”
It’s also worth noting that he’s far from the only person with geek interests working for the company; instructor Emma Lovewell has done several Disney-themed rides; Kendall Toole has a whole “Movie Buff” series, which takes the riders on a journey through a specific theme or genre; Robin Arzon took themed walks around Hamilton and The greatest showman; and others like Cody Rigsby, Leanne Hainsby, and Hannah Corbin are also known to put in a movie theme or two. (Not to mention apparently all of the instructors have a great appreciation for pop music from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, which is pretty nostalgic in itself.) And while all of the instructors have access to a huge library of songs that the Peleton’s music department gets rights through the record companies, Yo certainly goes beyond most and takes his obsessions to another level.
During our call, he revealed a house full of autographed posters from films like the Lord of the Rings and Superman. He mentioned that he was running out of room for all of his Lego and jealously admitted that I, not him, had worked in a video store growing up. There is something about him that makes you feel like you could be his best friend, which depending on your interests and personality can be said for almost any instructor on the platform – it does. part of what keeps you coming back for more workouts. “The great thing about Peloton is that all of the instructors showcase our own personalities as individuals,” Yo said. “So if you took a 1980s tour with me and took a 1980s tour with someone else, even though the playlists were exactly the same, the delivery would be a little different. And it’s just from our experiences and what we’ve done… We bring so much of what we did before we were on this platform to the table. And for Sam Yo, that means a kid who grows up watching movies and hoping that one day he could be Superman. Which, let’s face it, is sort of.
To ride with Yo, you must register with Peloton, which you can do this in several ways. Yes, it is very expensive and it is a huge investment, especially the equipment itself, but as a person who found the platform and approach the 500 cycling courses in just over a year, the huge choice of courses, both live and on demand, various instructors and different forms of exercise (plus health tracking, badges monthly and occasional Transformers song) makes the price worth it for me.
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