The Next Generation of At-Home Fitness

On a few mornings during the work week, I wake up to a 5:45 am alarm with the intention of going to a spin class at my gym that I signed up for the night before. Undoubtedly, the first thought that goes through my mind is: “I should cancel my spot and get some more sleep,” promising myself that I’ll go the next morning instead. However, I am usually able to muster enough willpower to ignore the temptation of going back to bed (a move that is heavily influenced by the fact that my monthly Equinox membership isn’t cheap and hitting the snooze button wouldn’t exactly be a smart financial decision). Once I have successfully convinced myself not to hit the snooze button, I grab everything I need for that day and start the 15 minute walk to the gym. There have been some mornings (especially during the winter) where I’ve spent those 15 minutes wondering if it would be easier to workout at home. I wouldn’t need to rush to class if I oversleep by a few minutes (which happens more often than I would like to admit), I wouldn’t have to wait in line for a shower to become available after the class, and I wouldn’t have to lug my gym bag around with me all day. I have found through a lot of trial-and-error that spin is my favorite method of cardio, so if I’m not going to a class at a gym or boutique studio, how can I bring it into my home?

Enter Peloton.

Peloton was founded in 2012 with the goal of bringing an on-demand world-class indoor cycling studio experience into people’s homes. It has been referred to as the “Netflix of fitness,” and in August 2018 the company announced it has raised $550 million in funding. That brings the total equity raised by Peloton to almost $1 billion, with a reported valuation of about $4 billion. There has also been speculation that a Peloton IPO may be in the cards for 2019.


Peloton is most known for their stationary bike, which is equipped with a 22 inch HD screen and can be purchased for $1,995 plus an additional $39 per month to stream classes. Peloton launched their second product in 2018 – a treadmill called the Peloton Tread that works just like the stationary bike, with a 32 inch HD screen that users can stream classes from. The treadmill is currently on the market for $3,995, plus the $39 monthly subscription. The streaming technology across Peloton’s products is what makes them so high-tech and sets them apart from traditional at-home fitness equipment. When a user streams a class live, their username is added to a leaderboard on the screen, giving the instructor an opportunity to shout out the user’s name to motivate them and bringing some of those personal elements from a studio class into someone’s home. In both live and on-demand classes, the leaderboard allows users to see where they rank while they ride, providing an element of friendly competition. Additionally, there is a social element that allows users to connect with fellow riders outside of the Peloton network – many users (including instructors) end up following each other on other social media platforms and strike up friendships that way. In this way, Peloton has been able to leverage technology and a social platform in order to bridge the gap between the convenience of working out at home and the community feel of being in a class with others.

With all of that said, I recognize that the virtual class experience isn’t for everyone – some people feel it is important to have an instructor available to correct your form if needed, and for others there really is no substitute for working out next to an actual person. However, I do think Peloton is onto something and their success has fueled an increase in the number of start-ups bringing their own products to market in this space.

As an example, I noticed on my way to work one day last fall that a new pop-up shop called “Hydrow” was opening in Copley Place. A Google search (and subsequent opening of the store) taught me that Hydrow is a virtual rowing machine that operates just like a Peloton bike. It was launched right across the river in Cambridge and brings a virtual rowing experience to your home with rides that are filmed on different bodies of water, including the Charles River. Just like Peloton, the rowing machine comes with a premium price tag – $1,299 for the machine plus a monthly subscription for content – but it promises inspiration from engaging trainers (including athletes training for the US National Rowing Team), live streamed classes from the water, and an in-class leaderboard so you can see where you rank among other users.

These companies (along with several other newcomers) have capitalized on the increasing trend of fitness in the digital age, and they recognize that people (at least in metropolitan areas) are willing to pay a premium for high-quality products.

So, am I going to ditch my gym membership and make an investment in the high-tech at-home equipment craze? Probably not anytime soon. Although the cost of my monthly gym membership would eventually catch up to (and exceed) the total cost of a Peloton bike, it would be tough to justify the need for such a piece of equipment while I’m living in a 700 square foot apartment and I also like having access to other types of classes when spin doesn’t work with my schedule. Maybe in another season of life my need for convenience will be greater (and by then, who knows how many more start-ups will have entered the market), but for now I’ll stick with my traditional gym routine.

8 comments

  1. I have the same exact routine and have spent time weighing these other advanced options. Should I pull the trigger and purchase a Peloton or a Hydrow? The biggest dilemma I face is missing the social interaction of others working out around me who are also practicing the art of waking up early and being diligent about making the ultimate sacrifice. Again, back to your point, it is strictly individual and as we continue to weigh these options, time is the biggest asset in my mind.

  2. I forget that in the real world gym classes are not free, and you can’t just drag yourself over to the Plex for a spin class taught by Christina, the girl from your philosophy class freshmen year. I have a love hate relationship with gyms/workout classes. On one hand do I want to work out with strangers, on the other I know it keeps me on track to have someone tell me what to do. It’s funny my mom still uses at-home workout DVDs (I know old school right). I truly don’t think she misses the social interaction of a gym. Our generation has created this interesting dynamic where the gym is part of our social life. Is Peloton the happy medium? I’m not sure.

  3. I have a friend that loves Peloton but am not sure if having the bike would motivate me to take classes as much as signing up for a spot in soul cycle or other workout studios may. I think the idea of having to show up somewhere at a certain time to workout forces you to get it done and go on with the rest of your day, whereas having the bike at home could lead to more excuses to not get on and ride. While watching TV the other day a commercial came on for something called the Mirror which is a new type of at home fitness helper where an instructor appears on a mirror you hang on the wall. I’m interested to see if it or things like the Hydrow will take on as much backing as Peloton seems to have. Here is the link to the Mirror: https://www.mirror.co/?utm_source=google_ads&utm_medium=primer&utm_campaign=Brand%20-%20Mirror%20-%20Desktop.

  4. I love this topic because it is definitely something that impacts most of our daily lives in a way that a lot of us probably never thought it would. Another concept that I think relates to this is that of the fitness influencer. People like Kayla Itsines and Jen Selter are completely changing the way people look at at-home fitness by inspiring whole new generations of workout geeks with transformation photos, diet plans, workout regiments simply via Instagram. Many people look at this movement as a negative trend, as it sometimes causes certain individuals to become somewhat workout-obsessed, which inevitably initiates an unhealthy lifestyle. For me though, this is something I have come to appreciate because it allows me to stay motivated and even access personal trainer-like workouts on days where I just can’t seem to leave the house.

  5. I am surprised at how successfully Peloton has been despite the initial investment required. While I agree that many gym memberships are expensive and may eventually eclipse the overall price of a bike or treadmill by Peloton, the fact that they also charge a recurring monthly fee makes it harder to justify in my mind. Beyond this, I would find it easier to push off my workout with the idea that I can always do it later. Perhaps for me a traditional class would be better. Either way, this tech seems to be appealing to a wide audience, and offering an excellent alternative to traditional gyms!

  6. I found this topic fascinating. Most successful start-ups thrive due to an unmet need, and Peloton has found a niche for itself within a seemingly saturated market. As Olivia Crowley mentioned, Kayla Itsine and Jen Selter are providing at home fitness tutorials, yet Peloton has convinced their users that not only do you need to pay for the classes, you also need to buy an expensive piece of equipment. I think they cater to an important customer segment. They found a group of individuals that either don’t like the gym or those that want to go but have different reasons preventing them, but still want to exercise. Regardless of the reason, Peloton solves all of these problems. As you said, the virtual class experience isn’t for everyone, but for those who need privacy or are fearful of being judged, this is the perfect solution.

  7. I think there will definitely be a higher rate of adoption for high tech workout machines for home use in the future. Even though I have a gym membership, I don’t go consistently, but every now and then when I see my credit card statement and notice that I am still paying for this, I’m incentivized to make the trip a few times to justify the costs. When it comes to a machine at home for a few thousand dollars, I’m not sure that I’d be motivated to use it all the time. Maybe I’m speaking for myself, but I could just put it off and “get around to it” at a later time. I tend to think about all the money I’ve spent on useless tech in the past, and think that if I were to invest in one of these machines, it’d most likely be that I live in a much colder than than Boston and never want to leave my home! I don’t think that these technology has garnered as much traction as it would have liked but I do think this is the future. If it ultimately saves people time and allows them to clear their minds and stay fit, the subscription model and the start up costs can be overlooked and justified.

  8. This topic is something that I find myself thinking about on a fairly regular basis. Yes, I enjoy going to a workout class, but at the same time feel like getting there can be somewhat of a hassle now and then and have wondered if having something I could do at home would help to alleviate that. Peloton has been extremely successful in creating a product that allows people to reach their fitness goals all while being able to do it at their own convenience and the comfort of their own home. Realistically, it seems like the perfect option for the busy person who still wants to maintain an active lifestyle, but I agree that it probably isn’t ideal for everyone, especially given the hefty price tag. That being said, I think the space for at home fitness technology is one that is going to continue to grow. Looking at my phone, I have several apps for different types of workouts that are either free or run on a subscription basis, like Nike Run Club or 7M Workout, and they’ve come in handy on many occasions. Sometimes you aren’t going to have time to make it to the gym or a class, or you just don’t want to leave your house, and these types of products can give you an easy way to get a workout in, in a way that more easily fits into your schedule.

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