‘I tried it for a week, here’s what happened’


Apple has launched into the online workout market with Fitness+; a fully integrated Apple Watch program that allows members to use an iPhone, iPad or AppleTV to get fit at home. Journalist Juna Xu put it to the test to see if it’s worth the hype. 

While some splash money on coffee and avocado toast, I’m the kind of millennial who would splash my cash on any and all gym memberships (and then proceed to complain I’m too broke to buy actual life necessities).

From F45 to Barry’s Bootcamp, Barre and reformer Pilates, I had multiple gym memberships simultaneously being used pre-2020 because variety is key to maintaining motivation, right?

But then a tiiiiny dilemma called COVID hit, gyms were forced to shut down and I – along with everyone else – was left gym membership-less.

But I soon realised that I could’ve saved a tonne of money over the years if I knew earlier that all I needed was a phone, tablet or computer, along with a mat and a few weights to get a good workout – all in the comfort of my own home.

Now well-versed with the plethora of online fitness classes available (including Body+Soul’s LIVE @ Home video series), I was able to try out Apple’s new Fitness+ program to see how it compares and if it’s worth the hype. Here’s the full rundown…

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The first question that came to my mind was, ‘how does Apple Fitness+ differ to other online workout programs?’ I mean, access to free online workouts surged when COVID hit, so what’s so intriguing about Apple Fitness+ that would make me want to pay for the membership?

Obviously, it appeals to people who own Apple products. Got an Apple Watch (Series 3 model, or later)? Well, the program has been especially built for this device.

As you move through each workout, your Apple Watch syncs up with your chosen screen device – this could be an iPhone, iPad or Apple TV – so you can see your own, real-time metrics such as your heart rate, activity rings, total calories burned, a burn bar (for the competitive ones) and a timer on the screen. If you’ve tried an Orangetheory Fitness class, the concept is quite similar except you don’t actually need to go to a class with other people (hello, social distancing!).

It also utilises your fitness data to make recommendations for your next workout, which works wonders if you either A: don’t have time to scroll through the large library of workouts; and B: want to try a different type of workout that suits your fitness level, but don’t know where to start looking.

As Apple Fitness+ Dance trainer LaShawn Jones tells Body+Soul, “I always ask myself how can I make what I’m offering something that’s inclusive for all? That’s what Fitness+ is really about — a place where there is something to inspire everyone from the beginner to the advanced.

“We collaborate and work as a trainer team to make sure that what we’re offering is inclusive and well-rounded for everyone.”

How much is an Apple Fitness Plus membership?

Apple Fitness+ is now available as of December 15 and will set you back $14.99 per month, or $119.99 per year.

If you want to save some cash, you can also share your Fitness+ subscription with up to five other people in your family via the Family Sharing feature. If you take advantage of this, you’ll only be paying $24 per year for a gym membership. Crazy cheap.

And if you want to test it out before committing, Apple is giving everyone a one-month FREE trial to the program.

What exercises are offered on Apple Fitness Plus?

The following exercises are offered on Apple Fitness Plus:

  • HIIT
  • Yoga
  • Core
  • Strength
  • Treadmill
  • Cycling
  • Rowing
  • Dance
  • Mindful cooldown

Dance

2020 has been full of surprises, so it was only natural for me to surprise myself – and my two left feet – by selecting a 20-minute dance workout with trainer LaShawn Jones as my first Apple Fitness+ experience. *insert awkward face emoji*

I pressed play on my Apple TV (I did it in my living room so no one could see me make a fool out of myself). My Apple Watch buzzed to tell me I was starting a workout, and then the fun began. From shaking it out to Bruno Mars’ ‘24K Magic’ to ‘Don’t Cha’ by the Pussycat Dolls, my goodness was it the hardest yet most entertaining workout I have ever done.

Despite me only correctly doing about 10 steps within the whole 20 minute workout, I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard this entire year. And did you know laughing uses the same muscles as core exercise? Plus, it reduces cortisol, which is the hormone responsible for storing fat in your midsection? So yes, we shall all be doing more dance workouts from now on to build those abs.

Once the workout concluded, Fitness+ then gave me the option to finish off my workout with an additional Mindful Cooldown. I found this feature incredibly helpful because I’m the kind of person who never stretches or takes time to catch my breath after completing a workout.

Rowing

If it’s not part of a paid class, I would never voluntarily go on a rower. No disrespect to rowers or the machine, but it’s just a little boring and repetitive, right?

But after asking three Fitness+ Plus trainers on what their favourite workout is and having all of them reply “rowing”, I wanted to see what in the world they were talking about. Could I also be converted?

After trying a 20-minute workout with World Champion rower Josh Crosby, that answer is yes. It’s true that having someone guide you on how to properly use a piece of gym equipment so that you’re not doing the same repetitive movement over and over again – at the same pace – can make all the difference.

Treadmill

The same applies to the treadmill workouts, too. Completing a 10-minute treadmill workout with trainer Jamie-Ray Hartshorne surprisingly felt like 5-minutes, even though there were sprints and inclines involved.

Core

These 10-minute muscle-targeted workouts are great as add-ons in a longer workout. Don’t expect to be doing boring sit-ups and mountain climbers. Thank goodness.

Yoga

I was a yoga sceptic until I tried Jessica Skye’s yoga workouts.

“Our approach is to present Yoga in a way that is accessible, isn’t intimidating, and has something for everyone to enjoy,” Skye tells Body+Soul.

The Apple Fitness Plus trainers

As much as the actual workout is important, I’ve realised that what makes or breaks a good online workout program depends on the trainer. I mean, do you really want someone you dislike shouting in your ears to drop and do burpees? That’s a strong N-O.

I am quite selective when it comes to trainers, but I think this is where Fitness+ really nailed it on the head.

In each workout there are always three trainers – the head trainer, one who is doing an easier modification, and another who is following the head trainer. It was encouraging to know that if I found a move too hard or I wasn’t feeling my best one day, then I’d just follow the easier modifications.

It was also nice to see familiar trainers appear in other workouts. For example, dance trainer LaShawn also appeared in a few of the yoga workouts I did.

Moreover, if I was sweating, the trainers were sweating. If I was finding it difficult, they were also finding it difficult. Even though I was watching the trainers through a screen, each head trainer was able to converse with me in a way that made it feel as though I was in the same room with all three of them.

But what I loved most about the trainers was the diversity.

“We think we’ve brought together an incredibly diverse and inclusive team of Fitness+ trainers made up of people with their own unique, inspirational story,” Jay Blahnik, Apple’s Senior Director of Fitness for Health Technologies, tells Body+Soul.

“They are experts in their field, and are passionate about helping people achieve their fitness goals. They love to push those who are very fit, but they also have a heart for the beginner, and we think our customers are going to love working out with them.”

It was inspiring doing core workouts with trainer Amir Ekbatani, Former UCLA Offensive Lineman and adaptive athlete who wears a prosthetic leg. And then it was equally as motivating hopping on the rower with Wold Champion rower Josh Crosby. Even just watching trainer LaShawn dance left me gobsmacked someone could contain that much charisma whilst jumping up and down.

Blahnik added: “We were interested in working with trainers who really were passionate about being part of a team. We think having them create the workouts together, rehearse together, and appear in each other’s workouts makes the experience even more curated and special. The trainers really are like a team of integrated experts in fitness. They are each specialists in their craft, but even better together.”

Best Apple Fitness Plus workout

Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to trying every workout category with every trainer, but from what I did try I must admit dancing truly impressed me.

I get it, you might not even think twice about pressing play on a dance workout not only because you’re convinced you can’t dance, but also because you don’t see it as a comparable workout to HIIT or running. But I – a cardio and running junkie – can very much confirm it is. A. Very. Difficult. Workout. That. Will. Leave. You. Breathless.

I would also highly recommend doing a dance workout first thing in the morning to reap the endorphins and leave you feeling absolutely buzzed all day.

Rowing was also equally as impressive. Who would’ve thought 20-minutes would fly by on a rower? Not me, that’s for sure. And I know it sounds incredibly boring, but don’t doubt it till you’ve tried it. The same goes for the treadmill workouts.

How does Apple Fitness Plus use music?

Apple’s taken the hassle out of choosing what playlist to listen to whilst working out, as each workout is accompanied by a customised Apple Music playlist, incorporating a range of music genres. Each track list is put together by the trainer, working in collaboration with an Apple Music DJ.

The playlists are available to all Fitness+ users, regardless if you’re a current Apple Music subscriber or not.

The song title and artist’s name also appears on screen during the workout (so no need to Shazam a track you love), and for Apple Music subscribers each playlist is available to download if you want to take the tunes with you, outside of your workout.

Pros and cons of Apple Fitness Plus

Pros…

1. For a fitness membership that offers a wealth of quality workouts, it’s incredibly cheap.

2. It makes working out seamless. I wasn’t having to quickly coordinate between searching for the activity on my Apple Watch, pressing ‘start’ and then pressing play on another screen. It all just synced up.

3. Seeing my metrics on the screen during the workouts helped motivate me to push through the pain.

4. All workouts were equally as hard, regardless of the duration or type. As Blahnik explains: “Dance workouts are given as much love as HIIT workouts. Where 10-minute workouts are as celebrated as 45-minute workouts… whether you have a lot of time or a little time, whether you are an expert or just getting started, you can always find something to meet you where you are.”

5. You can filter by trainer, duration and music category. For example, if you’re in the mood for a 10-minute treadmill workout led by Jamie-Ray Hartshorne that is accompanied by rock music, there is an exact workout for that.

6. New workouts are added weekly, so you can say goodbye to repetitiveness.

7. You can preview the workout before pressing play.

Cons…

1. You’re definitely limited to what workouts you can do if you don’t have access to a treadmill, rowing machine or exercise bike.

2. While you can filter workouts by trainer, duration and music category, it would also be good if you had the option to filter by equipment such as dumbbells and mat.

3. Unfortunately, you don’t have the option to do a dual workout with a friend or family member. For example, you can’t do the same workout using the same screen with another person. The system was made for it to be used individually.

4. You need to have an Apple Watch (Series 3 or later) for it to actually work – along with either an iPhone, iPad or Apple TV.

5. It would be good to see Barre or Pilates workouts added to the library one day in the future.

Final word

Despite a few minute flaws, would I be signing up to Fitness+? It’s a big yes from me.

Do yourself a favour and give it a shot. If anything, you’ll realise the treadmill really does deserve more love and appreciation. Poor thing.

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