This past September, alongside the unveiling of the new Watch Series 6 (and little sib Watch SE), Apple teased the upcoming launch of a new on-demand video workout subscription, Fitness+. And while it seems strategically timed to our ~new reality~ of living room workouts and Zoom-everything, the app—which runs through your Apple Watch and can be streamed on any Apple phone, tablet or smart TV—has actually been in the works for a couple of years.
“It’s taken a lot of ideation and a lot of vision setting and a lot of work,” says Jay Blahnik, Apple’s senior director of fitness for health technologies, over a group video call from the Fitness+ studio in Los Angeles. “And we’re thrilled to bring it to market. There’s a lot to love about it,” he says, highlighting some of the flashy features, like how the integration with the Apple Watch allows for your personalized metrics (think: heart rate, calorie burn, countdown timer) to show up on your screen so that you can track in real time how you’re doing—and when that puke-inducing sprint will end!
“Because the user’s Apple Watch metrics come to life on the screen during the workout at pivotal moments, it’s a really powerful tool for motivation,” says Sam Sanchez, one of the Fitness+ trainers, who designs and teaches the treadmill, core and strength classes. “We love incorporating it into our workout design,” she says, explaining how the software reacts to cues from instructors to highlight certain data on the screen. So, for example, if Sanchez cues an intense burpee set for 45 seconds (SOS!), the timer will automatically blow up on your screen; or if she says she wants you to focus on getting your heart rate up during a treadmill sprint, that data will be highlighted in more detail.
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If you stumbled over the word “treadmill” in the above paragraph, know that’s not a typo. The Fitness+ service is launching with 10 workout categories to start, including cycling, rowing and treadmill classes, rounded out by HIIT, strength, yoga, dance, core and “mindful cool down,” with new classes added weekly.
“Even though people are really focused on home fitness today, our inspiration for Fitness+ was to be able to use it anywhere, any time,” explains Blahnik. “And the reason we included modalities that use big workout equipment like treadmills and bikes and rowers—sure, we know some people have those at home—but we also believed one of the great ways to use Fitness+ would be at the gym. It’s designed to be really flexible.”
Which actually sounds kind of perfect for when things finally settle down into a “new normal”—being able to alternate home workouts with gym visits, even being able to bring your favourite workout classes and instructors with you when you travel (remember travel??) feels like the right amount of variety to suit what will likely be a much more dynamic schedule than we were used to pre-pandemic.
Fitness+ launches on December 14, and costs $12.99 per month, which includes up to five family members. Here’s a closer look at three ways you can use it, no matter your workout preferences, fitness level or home set-up.
If you have absolutely zero equipment
If you let go of your gym membership this year and don’t have any immediate plans to sign a new contract in 2021, there are tons of workouts you can do with Fitness+ at home, many with little or no equipment needed.
“For most Fitness+ workouts, you don’t need anything other than yourself, your Apple Watch and your Apple screen of choice,” says Jessica Skye, a trainer from London, U.K. who teaches the yoga and cool down classes. “For yoga, you can just show up, and if you’ve got a flat, safe surface to practice on, you’re all set.” Same goes for the dance, strength, core and HIIT classes: While having a mat and dumbbells is helpful for many of the workouts, there will always be options that can be done with bodyweight only. Additional videos provided with the subscription demonstrate modifications for every exercise, whether you need to adjust for your space or for your fitness level.
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“There’s no prerequisite with Fitness+,” Skye says. “Everyone’s going to be coming from a different place, and everyone is welcome here.”
If you spent all of quarantine setting up a killer home gym
For those who were lucky enough to score some workout equipment for their home set-ups before everything sold out (apparently stationary bike sales tripled in the U.S. alone this year!), there are some really cool ways that Fitness+ can enhance your experience, and make you feel like you’re back in your favourite studio.
The Apple Watch can be used to connect to any GymKit-compatible machines, such as treadmills, bikes and rowers, and metrics will be synched to the selected Fitness+ class, so you’ll get a personalized, accurate reading of exactly what you’re achieving in your workout. The Fitness+ trainer will be there on your screen to guide you—and push you—just like in an IRL experience.
According to Tyrell Désean, a former dancer and SoulCycle instructor in New York and Toronto who now designs and leads Fitness+ cycling classes, music is a huge part of that experience, and the curated playlists for each class make the workout really come to life. “I use music in my workouts to inspire and motivate people to work harder and last longer than they ever thought they could,” he says. “When we’re climbing a steep, heavy hill on the bike, and you hear the beat drop, you know something is coming and you can feel the energy just come off the screen. Music, combined with the metrics from Apple Watch that display on screen, is a really unique way to help get you through the workout.”
Need even more of a push? An optional “Burn Bar” metric can be displayed on your screen to show you how your workout compares to others who have already completed it—the virtual sub for trying to outpace that random stranger on the bike next to you.
If you prefer getting your sweat on outdoors
And, of course, because it’s designed to be portable and adaptable to so many different settings, many Fitness+ classes—and those curated playlists—can also be taken outside come spring (because, let’s face it, we’re all getting a little sick of our living rooms). Grab your wireless headphones, set up your iPad in a park, and start your own personal outdoor bootcamp. If you’ve ever felt self-conscious about doing a park workout, having a high-energy instructor and great tunes is a guaranteed way to get over potential embarrassment.
Another great way you can stretch your membership is by exporting the class playlists to your music library, so you can use them even when you want to take a break from your screen. Every playlist can be easily downloaded to Apple Music, so you can bring the energy of the Fitness+ treadmill and cycling classes with you on your outdoor run or bike ride. “It’s a great way to explore new music,” says Blahnik. “For those days that I just want to go out for a walk or a run, I’m going to have so much better music in my library now.”
You really get quite a lot with this subscription, and at $12.99 a month (provided you already have an Apple Watch and at least one Apple device to stream it on—otherwise, you’ll need to factor those into your cost) it’s affordable enough to use in addition to other classes from your favourite local studios that you may already be devoted to. You can really use it in whatever ways work best for you—and after a year of so many restrictions, what could be better than that?