Growing up in San Diego County in the early ‘90s, Mariana Fernández was always swimming or running or doing some form of exercise.
It helped that she lived in the San Diego area, where the weather was always pleasant enough to run through Rohr Park in Bonita. She also was inspired and motivated by her mother, a lifelong runner who participated in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego, local races like the Arturo Barrios Invitational and races in Mexico. She would attend races with her mom and participate in the shorter children’s races.
Years later, Fernández has turned that passion for health and exercise into a thriving career in the fitness industry, becoming the first Spanish bilingual instructor for Peloton, the popular exercise equipment and online streaming company.
“I feel really lucky to have a job like this because it’s truly fusing all of the passions, athleticism that I’ve had my whole life,” she said.
Her journey started in Tampico, Mexico, where she was born, and continued in Chula Vista and Bonita, where her family lived.
There weren’t too many moments when Fernández was sitting still. When she wasn’t running, she was swimming at the Coronado municipal pool or with a Chula Vista swim team.
“It was always a part of my lifestyle, and that’s very much due to her (mother),” she said. “Very much inspired by her and what she would do. So much so that fitness really became not just wellness for my body, but (when I went through) depression what would help me was to go out for my run, clear my mind, keep myself active. So, I saw the physical and mental health benefits of keeping active.”
She attended Bishop’s School in La Jolla and went to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth to study theater and, later, graduate school in Purdue University. But after taking a yoga class while at Purdue, she decided to get certified to teach yoga.
Her career was off from there. She started teaching part time and helped open one of the first yoga schools in Lafayette, Indiana. She moved to Mexico City in 2013 and began teaching yoga in Spanish, trying to make it more accessible and fun and not just for athletes.
She briefly moved back to San Diego, and then moved to New York and was struck by the lack of diversity in her classes there.
At the time, Peloton was looking to expand. After a yearlong process of interviews, she was hired in November 2020 to become an online instructor and launch Spanish content. These past few weeks, she has been highlighted during Peloton’s recognition of national Hispanic Heritage Month.
On Peloton, Fernández teaches 8 to 10 classes a week, including yoga and meditation, to fans around the world. In the beginning, she taught mostly in Spanish, and about 20% in English. Her classes are often done to a Spanish-language soundtrack, with a playlist that includes top-selling Latino artists like Bad Bunny, Santana and Shakira and the soundtrack from “In the Heights,” the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical about life in a largely Dominican-American neighborhood in New York City.
“There’s a musicality in how we speak, in the cadence of how we instruct,” said Fernández, of her Spanish classes.
Fernández recalled one of her students calling bilingual meditation classes like putting “a blanket over my heart” because of the familiarity of the language.
Fernández encourages more people to carve out time to improve their health.
“It’s never too late,” she said.
Although Fernández lives in New York, she returns to visit San Diego a couple of times a year as her parents still live in Bonita.
She would like to eventually open her own San Diego yoga studio.
“To bring this back to where I grew up,” she said.