The Pandemic Took My Group Fitness Classes Away—Until I Tried the Peloton Bike
My main takeaway is this: When it comes to Peloton, there is something for everyone, and everyone is welcome.
Chances are, you’ve heard of the Peloton bike. Someone you know bought one, and it changed their life, cured their every exercise-related issue, provided them with an army of new bike BFFs, gave them a reason to start using the term “journey,” and you filed them away as one of those.
I get it. I used to be like you.
Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I frequented group fitness classes more often than I would like to admit. Much of my waking hours—and non-waking—were built specifically around booking the right spin, pilates, or cardio class with the best instructor at the most optimal time for my schedule. I told myself the exhaustion of waking up at 5 a.m. and trekking nearly an hour to a far-flung pricey boutique bootcamp studio in the snow was worth it—because how else would I get a workout in? I’m gym-jaded, high-strung, and I thrive on the energy and camaraderie of group fitness. The idea of trying at-home workouts didn’t even cross my mind.
Then a pandemic happened. And large, sweaty, intimate indoor group workout classes became one of the highest-risk activities you can do for your personal health and safety (and for the safety of those around you). It wasn’t long before many of us—myself included—started to wonder how we’d manage to stay active without gyms and group fitness. Running is a godsend, weather permitting. But being stuck at home shouldn’t mean we can’t move at home.
One late night, I found myself lurking on the Peloton Facebook group. There are nearly 375,000 people in there, all raving about the near-endless stream of new classes you can take on the Peloton bike, bonding over the challenges of the pandemic, and lifting each other up. The community atmosphere was palpable and inviting.
I weighed my options: it’s pricey, yes, but the pandemic isn’t going away. And clearly, a key part of accepting the New Normal is figuring out new (safe) ways to feel calm, connected, and motivated. I also have type-1 diabetes, a chronic autoimmune disorder in which your pancreas stops producing insulin, and maintaining a consistent workout routine keeps my blood sugar in check. Unstable glucose levels put type-1 diabetics at an even higher risk for illness than we are already. Needless to say, the Peloton bike would be a worthwhile investment.
After a couple of weeks, the bike arrived and my world changed (so what if I’m one of those now?). Upon first inspection, you’ll see that the number of classes is quite literally limitless. Whether you’re looking to do a highly technical hour-long live—yes, as in real-time—interval ride or just want to squeeze in a 10-minute spin dance party before a meeting, you have infinite options. You can have your hand held or your butt kicked; you can spin to the soundtrack of Hamilton or do bicep curls to Beyonce. Competitive class-takers can work to push their name to the top of the Leaderboard—Peloton’s data-ranking system, which tracks all your metrics like resistance, mileage, calories burned, and output—and hope their name gets shouted out during class. More modest cyclists can race against themselves in private or choose to dish out some congratulatory high-fives to fellow riders celebrating milestones (a 100th ride!). The streaming quality on the 22-inch touchscreen tablet and sound system is so crisp that it feels like you’re riding alongside the instructor. Not into spinning? You can run, meditate, stretch, or just breathe with other members of the Peloton pack on the Bike+ or by streaming the app on any smart device. Whatever way you opt to participate, you will leave your class feeling more alive and less alone.
By now, I know which instructor is going to have the perfect playlists (Jess King), who will always manage to make me giggle through a high-resistance hill (Cody Rigsby), and who’s going to push me until I want to puke (Robin Arzon, a fellow type-1 diabetic). Not only have I gained a virtual community of hundreds of thousands of other type-A exercise addicts—I’ve literally gained hours of my life back. I roll out of bed and onto the bike, and by the time I unclip, I feel like a person that isn’t living through one of the worst worldwide pandemics in history (at least until I obsessively sanitize the handlebars and bike seat). For a few minutes, I’m just a member of the pack with an excessive amount of sweat to wipe up from the floor under me.
Is the bike right for you? If you’re motivated by the competitive and community components of group fitness classes and want to recreate an indoor cycling studio vibe at home, then absolutely. Same goes for those who get easily fatigued by doing the same workout every day and love the idea of infinite exercise options—quarantine or otherwise. And though a Peloton will set you back a pretty penny, the Wirecutter reports that “the Peloton ‘pays for itself’ in about five months if you’re someone who is committed to taking about four classes a week at an elite studio.” (Remind me, why I didn’t try it sooner?)
To Buy: From $1,895, onepeloton.com