You Can Hit a Wall Riding at Home
Posted January 10, 2018 6:57 p.m. EST
Between living alone and working at home, and food delivery, Netflix and FaceTime, I sometimes feel like a particularly luxe and cheerful agoraphobe. But exercising remains something I have to leave the house for.
Maybe not for long, though. There’s no excuse that applies to trekking to the gym if it’s a few yards from your bed. The exercise world seems to be banking on at-home workouts as the next big thing. Exercise classes at home have long been around — I have a visceral memory of the Jane Fonda VHS tapes my mother had when I was a kid — but this is a new world of fitness brand names and variety.
Beginning early this year, ClassPass will have an option for members to live-stream workouts. Something like yoga that just requires a little space and no equipment would work well, but what about treadmills, boxing classes or spinning?
Indoor cycling classes like SoulCycle and Flywheel are my cardio of choice. You’re in and out in 45 minutes, you sweat, and it’s usually so dark that no one can see me trying to cycle and dance to French Montana at the same time. But if you add the $30-something for a class in New York, and the subway or taxi home, it’s an expensive habit, even if I justify it as healthy. As my father pointed out after I did a 90-minute SoulCycle class on Thanksgiving that cost almost $70, “Couldn’t you just run outside?”
SoulCycle has moved beyond the bike with its SoulAnnex classes, where you can strength-train or stretch or dance. Companies including Peloton are trying to replicate the studio experience at home. That startup, which introduced its at-home indoor cycling bike system in 2013, was valued last year at $1.25 billion. Flywheel Sports jumped into the fray last November with its own at-home program, Fly Anywhere.
I like the idea of being someone who works up a sweat every day, so I decided to try out the Flywheel program. For $1,699, Flywheel will deliver you a bike. For the purpose of testing, I rented mine from the company for two weeks. The bike doesn’t take up a great deal of space — it sits on a mat the size of a large beach towel — but if you don’t have a sprawling home, there’s the matter of where to put it.
I live in a one-bedroom apartment, and kept it between my sofa and a bookshelf, so close that I could reach out with my left hand and touch the Bible in French or a biography of Judy Chicago if I need inspiration. When not in use, the bike was always there, a bit of an eyesore that sometimes served as a laundry rack.
I connected my iPad to the Flywheel app (there is a bike with a built-in screen) and browsed. There are live classes where you can ride along in real time with the New York studio or you can choose an on-demand class, which range from 20 to 60 minutes. There are classic Method classes with cycling and the signature pipe-shaped weights (a two-pound and a four-pound come with the bike). Power is a more intense ride; Beats is rhythm based. You can also take the off-bike workouts like FlyBarre and Stretch & Recover.
What makes Flywheel particularly precise and beloved by a certain Type A fitness freak is the TorqBoard, a screen that shows how hard you’re working in relationship to everyone else in class. You can opt out if you prefer not to know or share, but because of masochistic tendencies, I always keep mine on. It displays real-time data, including your speed and exertion and power. I put on a 30-minute class and started riding. The first song was “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors. Normally this would be the part of class where I begin a long internal monologue about how no one should be spinning to bands that played at the Wetlands in the ‘90s and why aren’t we listening to Beyoncé — but then I remembered that I could turn off the music. Or at least turn it way down. You can modulate how much of the instructor or music you hear, so if it’s a class you’ve taken before, you can adjust toward music; if you hate the music, you can adjust for the instructor and put on your own, as I did.
I would spend many hours taking classes while listening to the Rap Caviar playlist on Spotify, podcasts about true crime, the Clash. Instructors like Dionna Littleton, who quickly became my favorite, would remind me that feelings are not facts. Dionna would suggest pedaling at 100 rpm, but perhaps some of us would like to try 120.
“I don’t know your life,” she was fond of saying. Or, “What if this was your best ride ever?” Alas, it never was.
I reliably ended most classes second to last on the TorqBoard.
At home, distractions are unavoidable. One morning I paused a class 10 minutes in to investigate a strange noise and ended up getting locked out on my fire escape wearing nothing but a sports bra, leggings and socks in 23-degree weather. After one of my neighbors came home and managed to unlock me, I changed my socks and got right back on the bike. If there’s one thing at-home exercise can do, it’s keep you loyal to a routine.
Midway through, I cheated and went to SoulCycle. I missed the energy of other people in the room and the smell of the grapefruit candles, which made the workout seem somehow more fulfilling. A week exercising at home taught me that I really prefer to leave the comforts of my apartment. And I ran into an acquaintance who told me an uplifting anecdote about the great sex she was having with her new boyfriend. That doesn’t happen at home.
And the Wheel Goes Round
Flywheel Sports (flywheelsports.com)
The Bike: Prices start at $1,699 for an at-home bike with ergonomic seating and dual water bottle holders. The same bike with a built-in screen costs $2,099.
The Extras: A monthly class subscription is $39. Flywheel will recommend its spinning shoes, for $128, but any clip-in bike shoe is compatible.
The Vibe: The instructor rides in front of a large blue screen. The room is dark, like a nightclub, and you can catch occasional glimpses of people riding in the studio. Classes alternate between a lot of resistance and a lot of speed, and you’re guaranteed to sweat, even in the shortest 20-minute ones.
The Pros: No commute, you can shower in your own bathroom, and if you do it enough, amortization may justify the investment.
The Cons: How often will you really use it? Will you get bored? Will it make you feel guilty? Also: Having an exercise bike in your living room is not Instagram friendly.