The Apple Watch was already the best smartwatch on the market but, with the introduction of Fitness , Apple has just made it the must have device for fitness enthusiasts.
The subscription service ($15 monthly or $120 annually) has been in the works for three years, despite feeling tailor made for 2020. With more people exercising from home, and stores consistently being sold out of home fitness equipment, people are clearly more ready to work out from home than ever before.
In that three years of development, Apple gathered a variety of the peppiest and prettiest trainers, put them in a custom-designed, state-of-the-art fitness studio in Santa Monica, California, and then pointed some high-end cameras at them. The platform has a range of specialties to cover all the popular home exercise disciplines: Yoga, HIIT, Strength, Cycling, Treadmill, Rowing, Dance and Core.
The cast is diverse and wholesome like an American teen drama, and I’ve already picked my favourites after a week (Bettina, Tyrell, Kym, Bakari, Sam, and LeShawn, if you were wondering).
Each workout is led by one head trainer who specialises in that style, and two secondary trainers from other disciplines who learn along with us at home, including one who shows the stepped down option to suit different levels. There’s something for the absolute beginner, including stripped back how-to videos for each key exercise, while the service also has something for hardcore athletes, and everyone in-between.
All videos have incredibly high production values, good editing, and great playlists curated by the Apple Music team, catering to a range of different styles that largely appeal to the American audience. These are the slickest workout videos I have ever seen.
While services like Les Mills On Demand — which I’ve been relying on for exercise during both of Melbourne’s lockdowns — put out around one routine per class type every 2–3 months, Fitness is going to put out a total of 20–25 videos spread across the different disciplines every week. That is a truly impressive pace considering each workout is unique, with a different playlist, different focus, 30-second preview, and fancy editing. They’re working at a faster pace than The Bold And The Beautiful. In comparison, it makes every other workout service look overpriced and poorly made.
In the top left of each video you’ll be able to see your Apple Watch metrics (heart rate, number of kilojoules you’ve burned), the time remaining in the video, and the Burn Bar, which allows you to compare yourself to other people who have done the same workout (averaged for weight and other factors). In the top right of the video you can see your exercise rings, and get a celebratory graphic when you close one of them during a workout.
Because the metrics are taken from your watch, it does mean only one person can get the full experience at a time. That’s fine on the iPhone and iPad, but it would be nice if in a future update the Apple TV was able to display the metrics of two or more people, so all the families who made habits of working out together this year can keep that going without anyone feeling left out.
Fitness only works if you have an Apple Watch, and everything keeps being brought back to the device. Every workout ends with the trainer congratulating you for doing the workout and encouraging you to close your rings. It’s a little cult-like, but also charmingly benign and a nice reminder that you need to keep working throughout the day to achieve your goals. It also means that I’m now more mindful of my rings, like I was when I first got the watch, and it’s so easy to just do a ten-minute yoga workout before bed to close that last ring.
On other services workouts of different lengths tend to just be trimmed from the longer version of that workout, but these are different. Each workout, no matter the length, is designed to make the most of the time. Four 10-minute workouts add up to being much, much more hardcore than one 40-minute workout.
Most of the workout types can be done with no equipment (save for a yoga mat or soft rug), or with just one or two dumbbells. My favourites, though, are the cycling, treadmill and rowing workouts. I have seldom pushed myself harder than I have on those workouts. There’s something about the comradery of the trainers, the timing of the music, and the positioning of the Burn Bar that just makes you want to run that little bit faster and go that little bit further.
As lockdowns roll around the world there will be strong demand for Fitness for the next year. But even without a pandemic, these workouts are amazing and motivating for everyone, whether they just don’t have time to do a class at the gym that day, or they don’t go to a gym with classes.
After using it for just a week, I already feel more motivated to work out, and can see it being something I’ll use at the gym, at home and whenever I’m able to travel again. If you want the best app workout experience, there is no question that it’s now Fitness on the Apple Watch. Nothing else even gets close.
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