The pace-setters in the online fitness industry thus far have been primarily hi-tech tools you use on your own, or 1-on-1 personal trainers who give you their full attention via video conference but create a world where you ultimately persist, and exist, on your own.
While those prevailing methods reflect the fact that around 8 million Americans use personal trainers, it neglects the fact that more than 22 million regularly attend group exercise classes.
Now, two newcomers to the field are instead opening up the social and the inspirational aspects of group workouts, and letting those loners at home, or in a quiet corner of the office, join in the excitement. And isn’t excitement supposed to be part of the motivation behind a successful self-improvement process?
One Video Class Fits All
By excitement I mean this: isn’t more exciting to hear a live band while surrounded by thousands of fellow revellers, than to listen to that same band through your smartphone? That live thrill is the dynamic that Peloton and Yogaia are trying to bring to their clients through a live video link… admittedly at two very different speeds.
The former revolves around an exercise bike kitted out with an HD video conferencing screen that lets riders join in with live spin classes beamed out of New York and Chicago.
And the latter offers access to live yoga classes conducted around the globe. While they have some obvious differences, both services are making better use of video conferencing’s potential than have previous fitness apps and live offerings.
Both place you at the heart of a thumping, or meditative, class where your senses get stimulated along with your muscles.
Joining the Peloton Via Video Call
Anyone with even a passing familiarity with world cycling’s great events, such as the Tour de France, will know a peloton is a pack of riders. Elite riders will gather in such groups to conserve energy in the early stages of a race before bursting forward alone to try and win.
And that’s how Peloton the product is supposed to make you feel.
The bike, which will set you back a couple of grand, ships with a 21” full HD screen (sweat proof, apparently), a 1.5Ghz dual core processor, wi-fi, 3 watt stereo speakers, and a 1.3 megapixel camera.
But more than a piece of tech, or a technical piece of gym equipment, it ships with the promise of an experience.
The video conferencing element lets you see and hear all the thudding drama of those aforementioned live classes, and the two-way communication lets your instructor monitor your progress and offer you personal motivation.
You’ll also have access to the in-gym leaderboards that track everyone’s place in the peloton, be they onsite or remote, so you can gauge your race position and time your final big push.
And, if you want to take the tempo down a notch, you can use the video conferencing unit to chat with friends instead as you climb your own personal mountain.
Serenity by Video Conference
Yogaia offers the same immersion in a live class, but here the emphasis is more on person-to-person interaction, rather than getting caught up in the crowd.
You’re still very much a part of the group, and you can see your peers beside you, but the wrinkle here is that only your instructor can see you.
The transportation element with Yogaia allows you to access classes of a range of standards and styles, in a number of languages, from instructors in Helsinki, London, and Hong Kong.
As with the Peloton setup, all the available classes are recorded so you can take them at your leisure, should you miss one or not be brave enough to encounter your remote instructor just yet.
Unlike Peloton, there’s no expensive equipment involved, which means that you’ll have to supply your own video conferencing camera–there are plenty of quality, affordable ones out there–but it also means that access to the app service costs only $12 a month.
The Immersive Future of Fitness
Both these offerings do have one final piece of commonality–they are a glimpse of a future fitness industry where it may be better, not just more convenient, to attend your group workout by video conference. You just need to take what’s already been achieved and push it a little further into the immersive end of things.
For one thing, remote communication gives you access to the best and most innovative instructors in their field, regardless of the location of their home gym.
Secondly, you can tailor all your equipment to suit your personal needs, which means no more fiddling with the settings on a public bike or rowing machine before every class.
And finally, you could take that rowing machine down the Amazon in one class and down the Nile the next, before attempting some white water rapids or an Olympic standard course. Virtual and augmented reality make an immersive, realistic experience like this possible.
Because it’s all digital now.
Your instructor can still be right there with you, and with an entire class of people just like you, but they can now intone over whatever digital projection you’ve got in the center of your video screen.
The fitness world is about to get a lot more exciting.