Lisa Whitney, a nutritionist in Reno, Nevada, came across the deal of a lifetime about two years ago. A gym went out of business and sold its equipment. She obtained an indoor exercise bike for $ 100.
Mrs. Whitney soon made some additions to the bike. She propped her iPad on the handlebars. She then experimented with online cycling classes streamed on YouTube and in the app for Peloton, an internet-connected exercise machine maker that offers interactive fitness classes.
Ms. Whitney didn't feel like upgrading to one of Peloton's over $ 1,900 luxury exercise bikes, which includes a tablet for streaming classes and sensors that let you track your speed and heart rate. So she further modified her bike to become a home improvement peloton and bought sensors and indoor cycling shoes.
The grand total: approximately $ 300 plus a monthly subscription of $ 13 to the Peloton app. Not cheap, but a significant discount on what she might have paid for.
"I'm happy with my setup," said Ms. Whitney, 42 years old. "I really don't think upgrading would do much."
The pandemic that has forced many gyms to close has led hordes of people to buy luxury items like Pelotons bikes and treadmills so they can work out at home. In response to this trend, Apple released Apple Fitness Plus last year, a fitness app for teachers that is only offered to people who have an Apple Watch that requires an iPhone to work.
But all of this can be expensive. The minimum pricing for an Apple Watch and iPhone is $ 600, and Apple Fitness Plus is $ 10 per month. To stream classes on a big screen TV instead of a phone while you workout, you'll need a streaming device like an Apple TV, which costs around $ 150. The full peloton experience is even more expensive.
In the face of the poor economic climate, many of us are trying to cut our expenses while maintaining our health. So I experimented with ways to minimize the cost of video workouts at home, spoke to hobbyists, and assessed the pros and cons.
Here's what I learned:
The pros and cons of Free
To begin my experiment on exercising at home cheaply, the first question I addressed was whether to subscribe to a fitness app or stream classes from YouTube for free. Both mostly offer videos from instructors to walk you through the workout.
So I bought an $ 8 yoga mat and a $ 70 pair of adjustable dumbbells and turned on my TV, which has the YouTube app on it. I then subscribed to three of the most popular YouTube channels that offer free content for exercising at home: Yoga with Adriene, Fitness Blender, and Holly Dolke.
An immediate downside was almost too much content – often hundreds of videos per YouTuber – which made it difficult to choose a workout. Even when I finally decided on a video, I learned that I had to be prepared for some quality issues.
For example, in the "Yoga with Adriene" channel, I selected the video "Yoga for when you feel dead inside", which felt appropriate for the time we live in. The video looked fine, but sometimes the teacher's voice was muffled.
Production issues were more visible in the Holly Dolke Channel, which contains a collection of intense workouts that you can do without equipment. When I tried the Muffin Top Melter video, one instructor in the background was showing how to do a more challenging version of each exercise, but the other instructor in the foreground kept blocking it.
Then there were the ads. When I was lifting weights after doing a 10-minute fat burning workout from Fitness Blender, YouTube paused the video to play an ad for Dawn Soap. I then held a dumbbell over my neck while waiting for the ad to end.
With these issues aside, I was able to do all of the exercises demonstrated by these YouTubers, and they left me churned and sweaty. For the free cost, I can't fault much. Most importantly, Yoga With Adriene managed to make me feel less dead inside.
What you get when you pay
To compare the free YouTube exercise videos with the paid experience, I subscribed to Peloton and Apple Fitness Plus on my Apple TV set-top box. I've trained with both products for the past two months.
Peloton and Apple Fitness Plus fixed many of the issues affecting the free exercise content.
For one, the workouts were categorized by type of workout, including yoga, strength training, and core, and then by difficulty or duration of the workout. It took little time to choose a workout.
In both Peloton and Apple Fitness Plus, the video and audio quality was very clear, and the workouts were recorded from different angles to give a good overview of the instructors' activities. The bonus of Fitness Plus was that it showed my heart rate and calories burned on both my Apple Watch and the TV screen.
In short, paying for these subscriptions provided convenience and shine, which resulted in a more enjoyable workout. I concluded that Peloton's videos were worth paying $ 13 a month. And $ 10 a month is reasonable for Apple Fitness Plus, but only if you already own an Apple Watch and iPhone.
Creating a D.I.Y. Peloton
So what about exercise machines like spin bikes? If you want the technical bells and whistles of a peloton but don't want to spend on the gear, there have been two main approaches.
To find the cheapest route, you can use an existing bike. Do-it-yourselfers can be particularly clever and resourceful here.
Take Omar Sultan, a manager at the network company Cisco. He modified his racing bike with a couple of add-ons: a bike trainer that secured the rear wheel and bike frame and cost about $ 100; a $ 40 Wahoo cadence sensor that tracked his pedaling effort and speed and sent the data to a smartphone; and a heart rate monitor strapped around his chest, like the $ 90 Polar H10. Then he used a streaming device to watch the Peloton lesson on his television.
"The D.I.Y. The setup is 80 percent on the way, ”said Sultan.
The more expensive option was to buy an indoor exercise bike and use a tablet or phone to stream bike lessons on YouTube or the Peloton app, as Ms. Whitney did. For example, the $ 700 IC7.9 includes a cadence sensor and a mount for your tablet. You could then purchase a heart rate monitor and a pair of $ 100 worth of indoor cycling shoes that snap into the pedals.
However, if you use your own bike or a modified spin bike and try out the Peloton app, you won't be able to participate in the app's so-called leaderboard, which shows a graph of your progress against other Peloton users online.
With a D.I.Y. On a bike it can also be difficult to figure out how to shift gears to simulate when the instructor tells you to increase the resistance – like pretending to be riding up a hill.
Nicole Odya, a Chicago nurse who modified a high-end indoor bike, the Keizer M3i, said the D.I.Y. Route. With her own iPad, she can flexibly choose which fitness apps she wants to use, e.g. B. Zwift and mPaceLine. It also gave her the freedom to customize her bike so she swapped out the stock pedals for better ones.
"I didn't want to be locked into their platform," she said of Peloton.