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?
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.