<pre><pre>The future of fitness is together, but alone

Nikolas and Brittany Loecher spent their anniversary in Napa Valley, where they drank wine, enjoyed the warm spring days away from their home in Colorado, and made a trip to San Francisco to visit a showroom. After seeing advertisements for the on-screen power training machine connected to the internet, they wanted to see it in person before they could make the $ 3,000 plus $ 50 a month bet.

The Tonal would be their third – technically fourth if you measure the FightCamp interactive punching bag they tried but returned – alongside their affiliated home gym. It all started in 2017 when the Loechers bought their Peloton bike as a way to work on the excess weight that they had gained over the years. Brittany was pregnant with their first child and Nikolas had put some extra pounds aside. "In solidarity," he jokes.

But shortly after the birth of their son, the Loechers received devastating news. Brittany was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and should undergo chemotherapy. "The news changed my whole life," says Brittany, a former athlete. The chemo caused her heart rate to rise at rest, which she thought prevented her from training as much as possible as before. "I was afraid that I would die by exercising. I also gained more weight from all the steroids I had to take." Nikolas, on the other hand, won 90 pounds by eating stress from his wife's cancer treatments.

Years after Brittany received a clean bill, the couple wanted to be more serious about prioritizing their health, but had to figure out how to do this with a young, growing family. The Peloton bike felt like the solution. For the new parents it felt like a game change to be able to jump on a bike and stream on-demand lessons after their two young sons fell asleep. The two soon became so addicted to adjusting the Platoon to their schedule that when the company announced a treadmill in 2018, they pre-ordered it as soon as the site went live.


The Loechers are just two of the hundreds of thousands of people who have bought an a connected fitness equipment in recent years. The category is growing rapidly, with a variety of devices following home workout solutions where users stare at screens for guided instructions instead of a personal fitness trainer. It was creepy at first, Brittany admits. "But everyone is constantly on the phone and society is continuing", which ultimately outweighs the ease with its initial setback.

"This is the future of fitness," says Nikolas. "I can train whenever I want, I don't have to worry about driving to the gym, I can keep track of my fitness goals and I still have time to spend with my family."

After spending more than $ 10,000 on their linked fitness equipment, the couple is now preparing to literally invest in connected fitness. When news about submitting the IPO from Peloton broke, Nikolas immediately took the opportunity, intending to do everything needed to add it to his portfolio. "We called our stock broker and said we will get those shares!" Says Brittany. "I believe in this company, the product and this future."

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Connected fitness refers to workout apps and fitness trackers, but Peloton has added a new category when it combined both on a training machine with the launch of its bike in 2014. It is actually an indoor bike with its own workout-specific Netflix: you can choose live or on-demand lessons based on music genre, low or high impact, length of the training or the coach of which you enjoy the teaching style the most.

Today, there are a handful of mimics who have strayed from the Pelotons concept – Hydrow for rowing, FightCamp for boxing, Mirror for cardio exercises, and Show for weight training – everything with the aim of bringing the boutique-studio practice experience home. There are also copycats of the Peloton equipment itself; Echelon, a stationary bike that allows you to stream a class from the touchscreen in the same way, is offered as a cheaper alternative for $ 999 for $ 1,999 for Peloton. Traditional fitness equipment that NordicTrack has had rework his collection, also to offer on-demand lessons on bicycles, cross trainers and treadmills to compete with the Peloton range.


Even luxury gyms such as Equinox had to revise their membership strategies to prevent them from losing customers to private labels. Equinox opened one in June public walking studio it features custom-made treadmills and software designed to make the experience feel personalized like these new fitness machines do at home.

The cardio fitness machines from The Mirror.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Group fitness has been part of American culture for decades, but it really became part of pop culture around the 1960s, when the term aerobics was coined. Doctor Kenneth Cooper is the author of a book that uses scientifically substantiated evidence to explain why personal fitness benefits your health, changing the perception that exercising was primarily for cosmetic reasons.

Cardiovascular exercises became even more popular in the next decade, thanks in part to the 1972 Summer Olympics. The men's marathon had an unexpectedly dramatic finish, in which a scammer in the last kilometer ran onto the track to distract Frank Shorter, the American leader. When Shorter kept his focus on going ahead and winning the gold, he became a household name, with in love spectators running long distances to follow in his footsteps. Across the country, gyms began adding more treadmills and running training to help Americans train in a growing number of races across the country.

Over the next decades, group exercises would be adapted to integrate our TV screens – from VHS tapes and DVDs on traditional televisions to YouTube videos & fitness apps on the go. The Peloton model was a natural evolution of the way we receive content and communicate with other people via the web, with classes offered both live and on-demand to fit viewers' schedules rather than restricting them up to a certain time of the day.

The comfort of training in your own home whenever you want is precisely the reason why affiliated fitness companies hope that their products will become the next must-have gadget, despite the large initial price tag. "The explosion of boutique gyms is because the customer understands that better quality workouts are worth the price," says CEO CEO Brynn Putnam, adding that some gyms realize that home machines are an opportunity for them to give their lessons to new ones . target audiences. "The house will always be the most suitable place to train."


Leading CEO Aly Orady says that similar to smartphones, which were first considered luxury products, math might make more sense if the price of a machine is spread over a few years. "The formula to work at home is the financing program," he says.

Instead of dropping thousands of dollars at a time, he says consumers can view their monthly payments for a Tonal or a Platoon as a direct alternative to the cost of their gym subscription. "The way the mobile phone is funded in the monthly mobile bill is how connected fitness becomes accessible for most of the market."

Almost all affiliated fitness sellers nowadays offer a kind of financing option through the borrowing of startup Affirm (which also handles financial options for other trendy retailers such as Joybird, Warby Parker, DJI and Casper). The most affordable of the couple is FightCamp, which starts for 18 months at $ 60 a month, while Tonal runs $ 199 a month for 24 months. Hydrow does not offer financing plans, but has recently sold its rowing machine through Best Buy, which offers payment plans through its credit card. These devices also charge anywhere from $ 38 to $ 49 per month to subscribe to lesson content that is updated daily or weekly.

With costs that cost at least $ 100 to $ 250 a month, it is certainly higher than traditional gyms Americans cost around $ 60 on average. The monthly costs do not include other accessories, such as clickable cycling shoes, heart rate monitors or floor mats that can add a few hundred dollars to the total package.

However, the Loechers say that the costs outweigh what they have paid since they use their machines more often. "When you started removing CorePower membership, gym membership, the few fitness classes in the boutique, everything is pretty similar," says Nikolas.

FightCamp & # 39; s connected punching bag.

Hydrow & # 39; s interactive rowing machine.


One of the reasons why the Peloton model is so popular is partly due to society's growing interest in self-care and well-being, with people looking for technology hoping to find it easily. It was self-improvement number one app theme last year, while the hashtag #selfcare increased between 5 million and 17 million posts on Instagram August 2018 and July 2019. Now that people are used to finding self-care with a touch of a touch screen, the convenience of connected fitness equipment has also made them more attractive in recent years, ‚ÄĚsays Stephen Intille, associate professor at Northeastern University, specializing in health technology.

"You have a person who tries to motivate you with humor and empathy," says Intille. "And being motivated by a talented person versus a computer – such as a Fitbit that can give you directions but no experience that is just as rich – gives you the feeling of being part of a group."

That encouragement can also be useful for beginners who might be intimidated by setting up a traditional public gym, says Matt Riccio, a behavioral psychology researcher at New York University who specializes in social factors that promote better health.

"Many people struggle to retain the individual, or what is known as intrapersonal, levels of things such as motivation, self-control, self-confidence and self-efficacy. In such cases, belowPersonal support from others – even in this case, when they are not physically present – can be very useful, "he says.

Working with a leading instructor – virtual or otherwise – also disputes the fact that practicing can often be boring. Peloton offers dozens of instructors to meet the needs of its customers, from those who want form-based guidance to others who want to be entertained for just 30 minutes.


Community is also a big part of maintaining connected fitness equipment; all five companies offer Facebook groups for users to discuss their training sessions and find people with similar goals or statistics to work with digitally. Live scoreboards, a feature that shows where the user stands against other people who have followed the same class, can also challenge people to push themselves further.

"We saw that community engagement increased by 239 percent after we released our leaderboard feature in March," says Fightcamp CEO Khalil Zahar. Peloton has also started organizing annual Homecoming events where customers around the world travel to the base of the company in New York City to meet instructors and other members to attend classes together.

With the Leaderboard from Peloton you can give virtual high-fives to classmates.

Yet Intille warns that scoreboards are not always the best motivation factor, because those who consistently start at the bottom may find it daunting. To combat this, users have started creating their own Facebook groups that merge other agreements, such as the Peloton #ShortieTribe for petite members who are struggling to achieve the output that the larger members can achieve, or Kids or Peloton for younger drivers looking for classes in family-friendly music.

This level of interpersonal connection is the reason why CEO Bruce Smith of Hydrow does not think that connected fitness equipment will have a negative social impact, and that the sense of community that characterizes physical fitness centers will spread more. "Connected fitness is about bringing your body and screen life together," he says. "The more we move to that sense of belonging and the more real it can become, the greater the chance we have of surviving the digital age."

Intille says that in the short term gyms are unlikely to be at risk due to this new wave of equipment. "It's not so different from how people haven't stopped going to movies because they can stream them at home, "he says. But while the Platoons of the world are more interactive and engaging, Intille warns that these devices are still dependent on goals that people set for themselves. Although most people buy fitness equipment to lose weight, they should be considered fitness equipment instead of weight loss equipment, he says.


"If people mainly get these devices to lose weight and they see no results, they will leave it," says Intille, who notes that to lose weight effectively, people need to adjust their diet – something that these machines cannot directly help with .

"Behavioral change is also easier than supporting it," he adds, pointing out that these subscription models are exactly how traditional gyms make money. "The best customers are the ones who pay and don't show up."

Peloton claims to have a one-year retention rate of 96 percent, with the average customer performing nine to ten training sessions per month, but does not offer rates that are longer than one year. Other connected fitness machines were only launched last year, so they do not yet provide information about how consistently members have worked over a long period of time.

Mirror & # 39; s Apple Watch app.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

If the collaboration between Apple Watch and Fitbit with insurance companies such as Aetna, Cigna, Humana and Anthem indicates something about where connected fitness leads, the next wave of growth could be that these equipment companies work together with research centers and health companies to offer incentives for consumers in return for training data. While Tonal & # 39; s Orady and Hydrow & # 39; s Smith say they are not actively pursuing this path, the two have not ruled out this possibility. When pressed, both agree that if their companies were to collaborate with third parties, the choice for customers to share that data should be opt-in.

Mirror & # 39; s Putnam, on the other hand, has ambitions that go beyond fitness. While other affiliated fitness companies focus on their own training lessons, Putnam wants Mirror to be the platform for other companies that want a share of the home market. Traditional studios such as CorePower Yoga, Pure Barre and Physique 57 are now starting to offer on-demand content, and Putnam believes that Mirror could be the go-to platform for customers to access all of these classes. Mirror's latest collaboration includes a dance program with Tracy Anderson, a celebrity trainer.

De Loechers painted a Fisher-Price bicycle that matched their own Peloton | Photograph by Brittany Loecher


"We think that within a year or two years, Mirror will be the platform for the best fitness experience," says Putnam. "In the next 5 to 10 years we see Mirror as a platform in-house to learn by doing." It also provides other trading options, such as eyeglass fitting or virtual clothing repairs at home. "There will certainly be people who will buy multiple devices in the house, but we offer a one-stop shop for experiences you want today and in the future."

For now fitness is the goal, and it is something that the Loechers say they have achieved with the combination of Tonal and Platoon machines at home. They even got a Fisher-Price bike that they've painted to look like a small platoon to encourage their sons to train alongside them.

"This home appliance segment is still in its infancy and has so much room for growth," says Nikolas. And while he waits patiently for the IPO of Peloton, he is already making plans to add one more device to his home gym: whatever Peloton equipment is announced.