02:18 - Source: HLN
Is Peloton's ad controversy a marketing win?

Editor’s Note: Lynn Smith is the anchor of “On the Story” on HLN, which airs Monday through Friday from 12 to 2 p.m. ET. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.

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In the past week, a faux controversy has erupted surrounding the Peloton holiday ad, which shows a husband gifting his already thin wife a Peloton stationary bike. She’s thrilled and timidly hops on with a cautious face that’s been the inspiration for countless memes and tweets since the video went viral.

Lynn Smith
Jeremy Freeman
Lynn Smith

Critics have bashed the ad, claiming it’s sexist, relies on marital stereotypes and may even depict spousal abuse. Some people are so angry, and the actor who portrayed the husband shared his concerns about auditioning for commercials in the future, saying he’s been called “a symbol of the patriarchy.” The “Peloton wife,” as she’s been dubbed, is responding as well. Monica Ruiz says she was shocked and overwhelmed by the attention, especially the negative.

Have we really hit such a low point that actors who were likely thrilled to land a paying job receive hurtful direct messages on social media over how some perceived the ad? I guess some people on the internet have forgotten actors are paid to act.

Peloton issued a statement saying it was disappointed in how some interpreted the ad. Let me make a different claim: Critics misinterpreted the ad.

There are a lot of skinny people who don’t work out and a lot of curvy people who work out every day. To assume the message behind the ad was that a husband gifts his skinny wife a Peloton bike in the hopes that she’ll lose weight misses the mark.

I’ve had my Peloton bike for two years and consider myself hooked. Before you dismiss me as an out-of-touch elitist, I got it used for a fraction of the steep price. I pay $39 a month to join some of the best instructors in the world from the comfort of my basement, and that’s cheaper than any gym I could find. I am also a busy working mom so, like many of you, I don’t have much spare time. The idea of me getting to a workout class at a gym that isn’t a flight of stairs away is not realistic.

I know what I’m talking about when I say Peloton is not a weight loss community. If you don’t believe me, take a ride. Instructor Christine D’Ercole, for example, often tells her riders that they’re “greater than a smaller pair of pants” and describes how she was rejected from being a ballerina because of the size of her thighs. But those thighs allowed her to thrive as a professional cyclist, and her story has inspired so many to transcend their own perceived weaknesses. If a rider has a username mocking their own weight, like “Fat boy,” she challenges them to change it.

Peloton’s not about losing weight; it’s about gaining perspective. The mantra of another popular instructor, Cody Rigsby, is: “Grab water, grab towel, get your life together.” He often talks about using his class to escape whatever drama, trauma or controversy you may be dealing with.

That’s why I do it. It’s for my sanity, not vanity. I’m a lifelong athlete. I certainly didn’t play tennis, lacrosse, basketball or soccer as a kid to lose weight; I did it for the discipline, inspiration and camaraderie of a team, and it shaped me as an adult in more ways than one. These days, working out from my basement with thousands of other people who are able to high-five each other during rides from all over the world, I feel the same rush I got when my teammates all said, “Good game,” regardless of whether we won.

I work out to relieve stress and anxiety. I worked out when I was pregnant. I may have been 50 pounds heavier, but I certainly had no goals to lose weight – I was doing it to stay healthy for my babies. Postpartum, I worked out for my sanity. Those 30 minutes were the only time I got to myself, every day. Today, I work out for all of the above. My husband knows that; that’s why he bought me the bike. Thanks, my love.

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At a time when the country is more stressed and divided than ever, I question whether it’s worth tearing each other apart over an ad for a company that peddles this as its mission statement: “to connect the world through fitness, empowering people to be the best version of themselves anywhere, anytime.”