I crouch next to my sofa with a dumbbell as a digital bead of sweat fills up next to my face on the TV. My instructor Callie – luckily more prominent on screen than me – tells me to switch to the heavier dumbbells once the ticker hits the 150 cal mark. Normally I’d put the dumbbells down for a break, but there’s something motivating about sticking through the full 30 seconds – and my Strava followers will see how hard I’ve worked. After the cool down, a stats box will appear: Apparently my glutes took the brunt of today’s workout, taking 12 percent of the load. Looks like tomorrow is gun day.
It’s a rainy Sunday in London and I’m lucky enough to be one of the first to try out Peloton’s first connected strength machine, the Peloton Guide, a brand new fitness webcam that tracks your weight training at home, checks your form and straightens up Reward. Just pair it with your £24 a month Peloton subscription and connect the camera to your TV to be guided through one of the app’s 10- to 60-minute strength workouts. All you need is a yoga mat and some weights to hold on to from your living room, and you can filter by teacher, class length, physical activity, or difficulty, just like driving classes.
But isn’t Peloton in rocky waters? In many ways yes. The lockdown fitness hero, supported by Rishi Sunak and David Beckham, quickly became one of the pandemic’s big winners but has struggled to maintain momentum since, with falling profits, cut sales forecasts and delays in the opening of his new London studio (it’s been launched by postponed until later this summer). But even as consumers increasingly ditch home workouts to return to the gym, the brand insists its guide will revolutionize at-home fitness, improve form and boost motivation. So what’s it like to use it? And is it worth the £275 price tag?
Probably yes, if you’re a weight novice who tends to get intimidated in the gym (at least in the often male-dominated weight corner). My roommate was a one-trick peloton bike pony until the guide showed up: she hates going on runs and feels intimidated by the strength range of any gym. Thanks to our snazzy new living room machine, she now does at least a 20-minute weight workout every other day (it may have something to do with seeing polished, sexy singles in thongs strutting around Love Island every night).
For those wondering why it took a relatively simple webcam to spur us both to action, the answer is that it really didn’t have to be. With one household already spending £24 a month on Peloton thanks to our spinning bike, the brand’s catalog of strength, yoga and Pilates classes was already accessible on our phones – we could have upgraded an iPad in the living room if we’d wanted that I absolutely and recorded every workout on a smartwatch.
But the truth is the same reason behind so many popular convenience gadgets in our modern age: We didn’t. And the guide makes the whole process freaking fun, not to mention motivating. Whisper it, but in today’s world of kudos kicks and like button endorphins, is a workout even a workout if you can’t show it off to your friends afterwards?
But seriously, we all log our runs, our swims, and our cycles – why wouldn’t we want some stats to overflow even after our bicep curls? Peloton says the features built into the guide are all about holding you accountable, and that part was certainly true in my case. The Movement Tracker’s credits system encourages you to stay with the movement the entire time, rather than giving up 10 seconds before the end like I often do with a YouTube workout (you collect points as you go and you get a badge at the end based on how many you totaled). The physical activity feature also helps to see which muscle groups you’ve worked so far this week and recommends classes to make sure I’m doing it with variety and not just doing leg day every day.
There’s also something motivating about seeing yourself on screen. The anonymity of home workouts can be comforting, but it can also encourage laziness – watching the camera identify you as a person, measuring your body movements and comparing them to your trainer’s has undoubtedly made me work harder, as does the class, if there is a mirror there in front of me. If you’re worried about the guide watching you later on the sofa, don’t. The device comes with a sleek black slider on the front so you can block the camera when you’re done.
And designers have also thought of other practical functions. The Guide also comes with a microphone switch so you don’t have to worry about being heard; a heart rate band to track your heart rate on the screen; and a sweat-proof remote that product managers insist you can step on without breaking. Roll onto it from your plank if you dare.
For those who want to emulate that gym feeling even further, there’s a new schedule of live classes, so you can hold yourself accountable by journaling a workout and catching up with other class members at the same time each week to compare. As with Peloton’s horseback riding classes, Peloton’s live strength training features teach strength coaches at the same time each week, Monday through Friday, and everyone is available on-demand thereafter. For Guide users there is also a call to power every Friday with the five classes of the week combined into one program.
There are other series if you’re more into that PT feel. Choose the seven-week, 12-class Floor Bootcamp to increase strength and endurance, and choose the seven-week split program if you’re keen on building muscle. Yes, £275 might sound like a lot for some exercise videos in a cost of living crisis. But it’s certainly a lot cheaper than a PT three times a week.
Peloton Guide prices start at £275 and Peloton membership is an additional purchase to access courses, from £24 per month, onepeloton.co.uk