Welcome to I Tried It Month, where we'll be publishing a new fashion, beauty, or wellness article every day in January that features a first-person account of shaking up an old habit, pushing beyond a comfort zone, or simply trying something new. Follow along for 31 days of storytelling, including everything from going without a cellphone for 40 days to trying the polarizing low-rise pants trend.
Like many people in these quarantine times, I've had my ups and downs with staying active. I'm not just talking about working out regularly—I mean just getting up from the couch or my bed. I've definitely had days where 80% of the day was spent sitting on my butt or lying down, with the 20% of time left spent getting up to go to the bathroom or get a snack. They were lazy times that I don't fully regret (because we're in a stressful pandemic!), but I also feel slightly guilty about them.
In the early months of quarantine, I was really excited about trying all the new-to-me online fitness programs. Everything seemed shiny, new, and different since I normally attended at studio classes. Plus, trying new workouts helped keep my mind off COVID-19 worries. We even had a weekly at-home workout with THE/THIRTY and Who What Wear editors for a bit.
But after a while, the novelty wore off, we stopped doing group workouts, and I started to feel lazy. There were a couple of months where I would work out once a week at most.
I hit an exercise slump for the whole summer until… Plot twist: I got a Peloton bike. After hearing my friends raving about theirs, I decided to hop on the trend and splurge on a bike. My reasoning was that I knew from past experience that a lot of my fitness motivation could be jump-started when money was involved. When I was a ClassPass member, using up my credits so I didn't waste money was an obsession. The same can be said when I would book a class at SoulCycle and it was too late to cancel—I'd force myself to get into leggings and head to the studio to not throw away any cash. So if I spent over $2000 on a stationary bike, I was going to use the heck out of it.
Well, I was definitely correct about that. My bike came in October, and I've been working out every day ever since. I've varied my workouts, too, and added in some active recovery days, so it's not all just indoor cycling workouts. I've been doing HIIT, strength, and yoga classes. Over three months later, I'm feeling good and noticing toned muscles. As someone who has never been athletically inclined, I'm pretty sure this is the fittest I've ever been.
So when I heard about the new Apple Fitness+ workout service, I knew I had to give it a whirl. I'm on a fitness kick right now, so why not add something else to my routine? Plus, the whole service is built around the Apple Watch, and I'm pretty attached to mine both physically (because it's on my wrist during all waking hours) and emotionally. When you don't have much to do in quarantine, focusing on hitting your daily goals is something that makes life a little bit more exciting.
A few weeks after it launched, I gave it a try and tested a bunch of different types of workouts. Here's what I thought.
What Is Apple Fitness+?
Photo:Courtesy of Apple
First things first, we have to talk about the service in case you're not familiar. As I mentioned above, the service is built around the Apple Watch, so if you don't have one, unfortunately, you won't be able to do the workouts. That's because the Watch metrics—the Activity rings (move, exercise, and stand goals), heart rate, and calories burned—are integrated into the workout experience. You'll see all of these stats on the screen to track your progress along with timers for intervals. And if you "close" an Activity ring (i.e., reach a goal) during a class, you'll see a little celebration on screen.
For pricing, you can subscribe for $9.99 a month or $79.99 per year with one month free. There's also the ability to share your subscription with other family members who have an Apple Watch—up to six people total can use it.
As for the classes themselves, there are a variety of options, such as HIIT, yoga, core, strength, and dance. If you have gym machines at home, you can also tune into cycling, rowing, and treadmill classes. There are workout durations of five-, 10-, 20-, 30-, and 45-minute classes. Once you do a couple of classes, the service will use that algorithm to suggest similar workouts or might even recommend you try a totally new one. And it's okay if you're just getting started or haven't worked out in a while. There are workouts at both beginner and advanced levels.
Unlike other fitness apps, Apple Fitness+ classes are strictly on demand. There are no live classes. There's also no "leaderboard" where you're competing against other users. In fact, you can't see which other users are taking classes at the same time as you.
The service does have a "Burn Bar" metric for HIIT, cycling, rowing, and treadmill classes. The feature is based on calories burned and gives you an idea of how you compare to other users who have taken the class previously, so you could be in the "middle of the pack" or at the "head" of it, depending on your effort. I found the metric to be a helpful guide, showing me if I needed to push myself more or if I was doing okay, but I also didn't feel super pressured or stressed about not being at a certain point on the bar. It's a nice option if you like just a little taste of competition to get you motivated.
And if you're wondering about the music, you'll be happy with the playlist offerings. Music can make or break a workout for me, so it's nice that I can take a look at the full playlist for each workout and filter workouts by music genre.
Some fitness apps might not be able to play certain artists or songs because of licensing rules, but Apple Fitness+ is powered by Apple Music of course, so the possibilities are endless. If you subscribe to the music service, you can also download and save the workout playlists.
What I Really Thought of Apple Fitness+
I have to say that I really did enjoy the service. Is Apple trying to reinvent the wheel workout-wise here? No. The classes are what you'd expect: challenging and sweat inducing. There aren't new high-tech moves or workout methods. In HIIT classes, you'll do jumping jacks, lunges, high kicks, and mountain climbers. In core classes, you'll do crunches, butterfly kicks, and planks. In yoga, all the traditional poses are there.
But the thing that makes Apple Fitness+ stand out, in my opinion, is the integration of your Watch metrics in each class. Getting all of that information on your screen really pushes you to work harder, and it makes you feel good to see how many calories you're burning. During some workouts, the trainers will highlight or call out certain metrics, like heart rate, pushing you to pay more attention to that. I found it helped me be more mindful and knowledgeable about calories burned and effort levels through heart rate.
Plus, I can't tell you how satisfying it is to see the little swoosh of an Activity ring closing on your screen during a workout. It's a small little burst of pizzazz that makes me feel accomplished. Chances are, if you have an Apple Watch, you're already pretty obsessed with the metrics and stats, so the fact that it's so smartly integrated into the service is exciting.
Photo:Courtesy of Apple
I also thought the variety of trainers was another win for the service. They're all so different, so there's definitely a favorite for everyone. I took a yoga class with Molly, who has been a fitness instructor for four decades and whose Instagram profile says, "Strength at any age." I also took a core class with Amir, who lost his lower left leg in a motorcycle accident. But my favorite trainer so far is Bakari, who teaches HIIT, cycling, and core classes and is literally the most cheerful instructor I have ever come across in my lifetime. He is always smiling, which prompts me to smile during workouts, making the hardest moves a little bit easier to get through.
It's all about the little details, too. In each class, there's the main trainer plus two other trainers who are doing the workout with you and showing modifications. It's fun to see them interact, cheering each other on and kidding around in some classes, so the atmosphere is fun and not too serious.
Apple has also taken steps to make the service more accessible. Trainers have learned a couple of American Sign Language cues to use throughout classes, and all classes have closed captioning.
One other part of the app that I oddly love so much? The Preview option for each class. Each preview gives you a glimpse of what to expect in the workout with the trainer describing what you'll be doing in class. It's like a movie trailer for a fitness class, and I'm obsessed with it. In general, I like surprises (like parties and gifts), but I don't like to be surprised in a workout. Knowing what's coming up helps me get ready for the challenge.
But there are a few drawbacks to the service. For me, I kind of missed the social aspect of a leaderboard or seeing who else is working out at the same time. I get a little kick out of unexpectedly seeing my friends taking the same Peloton classes as me and giving them a virtual high five. Granted, I don't love the social aspect for every single class because some days I just want to hunker down and stay focused, so I can definitely see myself using both fitness services to balance it all out.
And it's not necessarily a con for me since I live in an Apple household, but you do have to be on the Apple train if you want to try the service. You'll need an Apple Watch, of course, and you can stream the workouts on an iPad, iPhone, or Apple TV.
If you're looking to switch up your workout routine and have an Apple Watch, you'll definitely want to give this service a try. Again, the integration of metrics is really cool, and if you already geek out over your Watch stats, you'll feel right at home with Apple Fitness+.
The workouts themselves are fun and challenging, and new classes are added regularly, so you won't ever be at a loss for new things to try. Plus, the variety of trainers doesn't make things boring at all. And for the price, it's on par with other fitness streaming apps and cheaper than a gym.
All in all, I thought this service was perfect for Apple enthusiasts, which makes sense because the whole service was designed around a very popular Apple product. I'll definitely be incorporating it into my current fitness routine so that things stay interesting and don't get old.
And take a look at some of my favorite fitness gear finds for your at-home workouts.