’m squatting with a dumbbell next to my sofa as a digital sweat drop fills up next to my face on the TV. My instructor Callie — luckily more prominent on the screen than me —tells me to switch to the heavier dumbbells as the ticker passes the 150 kcal mark. Normally I’d put the dumbbells down for a break by now but there’s something motivating about getting credit if I last the full 30 seconds — plus my Strava followers will see how hard I worked. A stats box pops up after the cool-down: apparently my glutes bore the brunt of today’s workout, taking 12 per cent of the strain. Looks like it’s arms day tomorrow then.
It’s a rainy Sunday in London and I’m lucky enough to be one of the first to try Peloton’s first connected strength gadget, the Peloton Guide, a hit new fitness webcam that tracks your at-home weights workouts, checks your form and racks up rewards. Just pair it with your £24-a-month all-access Peloton subscription and connect the camera to your TV to be guided through any of the app’s 10- to 60-minute strength workouts. All you need is a yoga mat and a some weights to get stuck in from your living room and you can filter by instructor, class length, body activity or difficulty, just like with ride classes.
But isn’t Peloton in rocky waters? In many ways, yes. The Rishi Sunak and David Beckham-backed lockdown fitness hero quickly became one of the big winners of the pandemic, but has since struggled to keep up momentum, with profits tumbling, sales forecasts slashed and delays to the opening of its new London studio (it’s been pushed back from September to later this summer). But despite consumers increasingly ditching home workouts to return to the gym, the brand insists its Guide will revolutionise at-home fitness, improving form and boosting motivation. So what’s it like to use? And is it worth the £275 price-tag?
Probably yes, if you’re a weights novice who tends to be prone to gymtimidation (in the often male-dominated strength corner, at least). My housemate was a one-trick Peloton bike pony until the Guide came along: she hates going on runs and feels daunted by the weights area of any gym. Now, thanks to our snazzy new living room device, she does a minimum 20-minute weights workout every other day (watching honed, sexy singles strut in thongs on Love Island each night may or may not have something to do with it).
For those wondering why it took a relatively simple webcam coming along to spur the two of us into action, the answer is that it shouldn’t have had to, really. As a household already forking out £24 every month to Peloton thanks to our spin bike, the brand’s catalogue of strength, yoga and pilates classes were already accessible on our phones — we could’ve rigged up an iPad in the living room, if we’d really wanted to, and recorded each workout on a smartwatch.
But the truth is the same reason behind so many popular convenience devices in our modern age: we didn’t. And the Guide sure as hell makes the whole process more fun, not to mention more 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?
On a serious note, though, we all track our runs, our swims and our cycles — why wouldn’t we want some stats to pour over after our bicep curls, too? Peloton says the features built into the Guide are all about keeping you accountable and that part was certainly true in my case. The Movement Tracker’s credits system encourages you to stick with the movement for the entire time, rather than giving up 10 seconds before the end as I often find myself doing with a YouTube workout (you rack up points as you go and get a badge at the end based on how many your tallied up). The Body Activity feature also helps to see which muscle groups you’ve already worked that week, recommending classes to make sure I mix it up and don’t just do leg-day every day.
There’s also something motivating in the simplicity of seeing yourself on screen. The anonymity of at-home workouts can be comforting, but it can also encourage laziness — watching the camera identify you as a person, clock your body movements and compare them to those of your instructor undoubtedly made me work harder, as classes do when there’s a mirror there in front of me. If you’re worried about the Guide watching you later on the sofa, though: don’t. The device comes with a slick black slider across its front so you can block the camera when you’re done.
And designers have thought of other handy features, too. The Guide also comes with a mic switch, so you don’t have to worry about being listened to; a heart rate band for tracking your heart rate on screen; and a sweat-proof remote that product managers insist you can step on without it breaking. Roll off your plank onto it if you dare.
For those looking to replicate the gym feel even further, there’s a new roster of Live Classes, so you can keep yourself accountable by booking a workout into your diary and comparing yourself to other class members at the same time every week. As with Peloton’s ride classes, the strength-training live feature sees Peloton’s strength Instructors teaching at the same time every week, Monday to Friday, and each one is available on-demand afterwards. For Guide users, there’s also a Strength Roll Call every Friday, featuring the week’s five classes gathered into one programme.
There are other series, too, if you fancy more of a PT-feel. Choose the seven-week, 12-class Floor Bootcamp to boost strength and endurance and pick the seven-week Split Program if you fancy 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 three-times-a-week PT.
Peloton Guide prices start at £275 and Peloton membership must be purchased on top for access to classes, from £24-a-month, onepeloton.co.uk