No, I’m not a yogi, nor do I play one on TV. However, I’ve had some issues with my back and I figure yoga is likely the best way for me to strengthen my core and back with low impact and relatively slow movements. This seemed like a good time to test out Peloton’s digital app and Apple’s entrance to the at-home fitness world, Fitness+.

What I’ve done is used Fitness+, for a few days and compared that to Peloton’s offering on their app for a couple days.

  • Note: Fitness+ requires an Apple Watch, Peloton’s app doesn’t require any hardware.

My history with fitness is a bit scattered. I’ve done a few workouts (some from Beachbody, some from YouTube, plenty of sports, and a lot of swimming) over the years and since working out with the Apple Watch I’ve always had a few annoyances:

  • remembering to start a workout
  • remembering to end a workout
  • reporting of heart rate was spotty

Aside from remembering to start and stop the workout, there’s little to be done on those two fronts – especially when doing something like yoga that doesn’t generally elevate your heart rate (at least how I’m doing yoga, my beats per minute (BPM) didn’t go above 115)… I can see the argument for automatic activity detection to be somewhat useful if I were to be running or doing another activity that has a steady set of motions or elevates my heart rate to a BPM of 150+. However, my yoga doesn’t generally get me there, at least not yet.

What I can do about the heart rate reporting is wear a chest strap, so enter my first “augmentation” to my Watch fitness. I bought a Polar chest strap and put it on before I start each workout. This is less difficult to remember to do as it’s a single action and can be done pretty much anytime prior to the workout, as long as you do it. Compare that to starting a workout, which needs to be done right before you start. Then when you stop a workout… the stopping of the workout needs to be done. I can take off my chest strap at any time after the workout, it doesn’t have to be done right after and there’s no muddying of the data.

I then started using the Peloton app when I heard about their outdoor running feature. Think of this like having a pre-recorded trainer in your ear, training you on each portion of your run with a dedicated set of tracks particularly chosen for the run and vibe of that trainer. There are sessions for metal, rock, pop, etc. The thing I enjoyed about this is two fold: it gets me outdoors and gets me focused on my run from a trainer.

Then I tweaked my back, which got me thinking about yoga again.

Enter Fitness+.

I test drove Fitness+ on my iPad Pro, Apple Watch, and AirPods Pro. They’re tightly integrated (don’t worry, I’m not surprised by this either) in some lovely ways:

  • Watch tracks heart rate and move ring
  • AirPods Pro has the audio covered and in-sync with the on-screen coaches
  • iPad Pro is showing the coaches and my rings are updating live on-screen

The app feels right at home with the rest of the Fitness app on iPhone and has the similar interaction paradigm that other Apple apps have, no surprise there.

The courses have three (3) coaches: beginner, standard, and advanced. Each coach has classes within their own expertise, but they show up in each others classes and that’s rad. You might get someone with expertise in the core training that doesn’t know anything about yoga, they’ll show up in the yoga class doing the beginner coach work.

With Fitness+, something that really made me smile were the personalities from the coaches. I’m happy to see Apple chose to let the coaches express themselves on-screen.

With Peloton, something that I knew was going to happen, but my goodness did it surprise me, were the call outs to usernames (read: not people’s first/last names, but their usernames (e.g. “funnycat1998” or whatever) during a yoga session. Yoga is generally something calming/soothing, but when the instructor starts congratulating people for their 100th session and/or their birthdays for “celebrating their birthday with us on the mat”, this was really off putting and I nearly turned off the session. Instead, I got out of my head, stopped listening, and focused on my breath at that time. Thinking about it again while writing this gave me the same feeling as I had while in the session. This surprised me as this wasn’t something that happened on the pre-recorded outdoor runs, but did happen on the recorded live sessions and posted for on-demand viewing.

The wild card in this post that I’ve been trying is the Whoop strap, something I’ll post about at another time. My biggest gripe about that hardware/software is it doesn’t integrate with Apple’s ecosystem. If I could have the Whoop strap’s data pipe into Apple Health for my BPM, HRV, etc., it’d be a no brainer. I’d wear my Apple Watch and Whoop strap and likely never think about it again.

A thought experiment came to mind when I was finishing my experiment: If Apple is to Nike, and I think it is, Peloton is to Lululemon. This goes from products to marketing, employees to the customers, and even the stores. This is likely not a new idea, but it felt right to me. If you fall into the Nike camp, you’re likely going to find the Apple Fitness+ way of doing things better; and if you are in the Lululemon camp, the Peloton way. Neither is wrong, but it’s up to you to decide which camp you’re in.

Where does this leave me? I’m in camp Nike with Fitness+. The personalities of coaches, the different levels of coaches in the video, integration with the Watch (start/stop workout, HR tracking, etc.), and the polished nature of the classes… all are right up my alley. Peloton’s app/service felt less polished, more cumbersome, and I wasn’t excited to use it.