When Apple announced Fitness+ back in September, all I could think about was my 16-year-old self. I grew up in a small Texas town, where the only meaningful fitness options were the high school weight room, a step class at the Y, or grabbing some miles on the open road ahead of me. Fast-forward sixteen years into the future, and technology leaps have divorced the studio fitness experience from geographical constraints. In further proof: With the launch of Apple Fitness+, a full gym’s worth of fitness options gets strapped to your wrist.
Apple Fitness+ is pretty much “ring insurance” because it’s so engaging that you’re actually motivated to move and “make it happen”
Apple Fitness+, which launches today, offers a bevy of modalities, including cycling, running, rowing, dance, yoga, HIIT, strength training, core work, and cool-down exercises, with a particular focus on content geared towards beginners. The whole time I was testing the products, I couldn’t help but think how fun the workouts truly were. Twenty-one trainers have come on board to lead classes. In addition to teaching, they make cameos in other instructor’s workouts to demonstrate modifications. I loved that Apple did this because it hits on something that so many of us feel: While we might have one modality mastered, others can be more intimidating. (For me that’s dance classes.) This thoughtful element encourages users to switch things up and get out of their comfort zones in a no-judgment kind of way.
At the end of the day, exercise should be enjoyable. And Apple Fitness+ is pretty much “ring insurance” because it’s so engaging that you’re motivated to move and “make it happen” (to borrow one of the Watch’s key catchphrases).
The Apple Fitness+ streaming experience
To access Apple Fitness+, you do have to own an Apple Watch, which pairs to either your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV to stream the workouts. Once you select a class, your three rings—caloric burn, time spent active, and standing hours—appear in the top corner of the screen as well as your class-specific metrics like your heart rate and active calories burned within the class.
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A defining feature of Fitness+ is that it allows you to work out with music from your favorite artists, rather than songs that belong in an elevator. (Music licensing restrictions prevent many apps from using top songs, so they have to use stock music). This is a huge value proposition for Apple. Music that gets you into a flow state and makes your workout zoom by is one of the big gripes from fans of the studio.
Apple is also solving for another problem with digital fitness by offering personalized, intelligent recommendations for the next workout you should try. Critics of digital fitness have understandably pointed out that it’s easy to over- or under-train in a given workout modality, but this feature helps you to monitor your choices so that your body can stay healthy over time. And for the competitive blooded out there: There’s a cool feature called the “Burn Bar” that shows you how you’re doing against others who’ve taken the class. New classes drop every Monday, so get ready to sweat it out Apple style.
The Apple Fitness+ workouts
I tried most of the workouts that Apple Fitness+ has to offer in some form or another. Each class begins with an upbeat greeting from a trainer (all have learned American Sign Language to use in their greetings and throughout class as encouragement) and ends with a trainer reminding you to close your rings (easy stuff, nowadays).
Using an at-home spin bike, I configured my phone to the handlebar and flicked on a 45-minute class from Sherica Holman. The ride was heavy on hills and was meant to really get our heart rates up and our sweat on: It didn’t disappoint. Some time about midway through the class, I checked in with myself and was, like, pretty soggy and by the end I was fully exhausted and dripping sweat. I feel like I challenged myself outside my usual comfort zones because of Sherica’s encouragement and feedback.
One night, early in December, I realize my guest room has dimmers, and I decide to have a really moody yoga session and try to unwind some of the stress of the week. Yoga instructor Dustin Brown leads me through a 20-minute vinyasa flow, that heavies up on modified chaturangas, so that my WFC (work from couch) posture gets wrung out in no time.
I don’t currently have a treadmill at my house so despite the fact that running is my favorite modality, I didn’t test out the equipment. I did, however, test out the functionality and the workouts on the tread are really meant for both walkers and runners so when you enter a workout, you get to select which you’ll be doing. Shout out to Emily Fayette, who’s 45-minute Pure Dance class I’ll be taking as soon as I find a tread beneath my feet.
4. Strength training
Every day when I went to the gym after school for cross country, basketball, or track practice, country music was blaring over the football locker room’s speakers so loudly that choruses from so many old classics are permanently pressed into brain. Strength with Kyle, did a quick 10-minute country-music strength workout and it felt like a time machine.
5. Core work
I joined a 10-minute circuit core class with trainer Betina Gozo, where we quickly did plank touches, leg lowers, and some new twists on traditional crunches. I have a really weak core (because I’d rather be running!) and so I always dread these types of classes, but Gozo kept it upbeat and actually had me hooked by the end.
Apologies, Lee Ann Womack. I did not dance. But okay, okay: It looks really fun and I do think that I’ll be hopping around in my living room any day now.
To add-on to a day when I’d done a good amount of running, I wanted a super-fast HIIT workout, so I flicked on a HIIT session with Bakari Williams. We did squat jumps, high knees, jumping jacks in the first block. Then, squat twists, back-and-forth jumping jacks, and cardio foot taps. It was only 10-minutes but was just enough to add on to other activities I’d had throughout the day.
I don’t have a rowing machine, but I did take a chance to scroll through the offerings, and there are a few classes that blend strength and cardio in 10-, 20-, and 30-minute increments depending on what you’re looking for. I’ll be taking Anja Garcia’s classes when I land a rower.
Apple breaks its cooldowns out into their own content category, so that if you’re doing a quick 10- or 20-minute HIIT workout, some of that time isn’t co-opted with active recovery.
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