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Just Another Fitness Hype?

Every now and then there seems to pop up a hype around fitness. Everyone wants to get fit and lean and look good in their tights.


This often happens around January, after a December full of feasting and drinking and well-meant New Years resolutions. In February and March the huge peak is slowing down and people remember again that fitness is annoying and time-consuming and -as the last four weeks have not transformed their bodies into a lean-muscle-packed power bank- useless. The fitness studios don't care about the people staying away as they usually managed to get the folks sign up for a one-years contract that is about to renew once next years New-Years resolutions jump in. Win-win for all.


Well, there is a new kid in town trying to disrupt the market and get their fair share of fitness-enthusiasts subscribed to their contracts. It's a well-known kid to be fair. However, one you wouldn't think of in the first place, but hey - let's not discriminate.


It is Apple. You know, the same Apple that manufactures your iPhone and Mac. Let's have a closer look at their idea.


The Apples Fitness+ Service

As the name Fitness+ suggests, the new service is an additional layer on the existing fitness app. The fitness app is no longer just a tool to track activity upon request but offering guided training sessions, motivational trainers, and a connected fitness experience in a decent number of offerings that keep the users engage. Every week Apple uploads new content and new workouts for new experiences.


The Fitness+ offering is tightly connected to an Apple Watch. With this, there is a promise for a seamless connected fitness experience by using multiple devices and being able to share results and trainings with family and friends.


While thinking about the idea of Fitness+, it makes more and more sense to me. Both from a usability perspective for Apple Watch holders as well as a business perspective to get people lean deeper into the Apple world. As you know: Opting in to the Fitness+ usage requires not only an Apple Watch but an extra subscription.


Discourse: What is an Apple Watch?

The Apple Watch is a Smart Watch manufactured by Apple. It provides its owner besides regular features of a smart watch with a wide range of health metrics and fitness options. From the Apple Watch you can start activities like running, hiking, cycling and a ton of other sport-variants and measure your performance while sporting, see you heart rate during the training and track your activity in general. The offering is decent and well-integrated into the Apple health app where you can get a sophisticated overview about your body status.


After Apple initially started with a small number of English-speaking countries in the last year, they now released their Fitness+ offerings to additional 15 countries.


As Germany is one of those new countries the service has been enrolled to, I got aware of it as Apple was offering a free trial for their new service within their Fitness app that is most likely used by a lot of Apple Watch folks already.


So, when seeing this offering, I thought: Uhhh - interesting 👀


I accepted the four weeks of trialing their Fitness+ service for free, and today, I want to share my first experiences.



Trialing Apple Fitness+

Ok - let me tell you that the story started with me noticing a new tab in my Fitness app. Curious as I am, I clicked the new tab in the app and voila - there was it. The trial offer.

It didn't took me long to think about it. One month for free - no obligations. Ok - sounds good. Opt in.


The story continued with me browsing the new Fitness+ area that was conveniently integrated in the app that I was using for all my activities already.


I quickly found out that Apple is offering 11 workout types ranging from Meditation, HIIT, Yoga, Core, to cycling, and even treadmill training (the last more made me especially excited as I have a treadmill at home).

To give you a better understanding about the look and feel and the difference training types, I created a short video:




When clicking on one of the training types, you can choose from different sessions with different instructors, music styles and length.

As this can be overwhelming, you can set filters for trainers, the length and music to only select from your favourites. Ok - that's nice.


The decision to go to the treadmill part and set a filter for 10 minutes wasn't too difficult for me as I wanted to start slowly and check out what this is.


From the suggested trainings based on the filter I picked one randomly as I didn't know any of the trainers either. (I choose Sam if you're interested.)


A positive surprise hit me right away: After picking a training, you get to a kind of a pre-view page that provides you with some info around the training as well as the music being played.


And the best part: You can choose whether you want to run or walk on your treadmill.


I wasn't expecting that and I think that´s genius.


I don't know why, but I was kind of assuming that the trainings designed for "treadmills" were for running only. But Apple shows to be inclusive and offers their training also for those who prefer to walk for whatever reason. Nicely done, Apple!



Ok - after choosing to walk, I was ready to start and was on the one hand curious what was about to happen but honestly, I didn't expected anything special.


Look and Feel

In case you never did a training, here is a short explanation of how is goes: After selecting what training you want to tackle, you bring your iPhone in landscape mode and press a Play Button on the screen.

The training is a video that's being played e.g. on your iPhone and additionally, an activity is being started on your Apple Watch automatically. Depending on what training you choose, the appropriate activity is started of course.


First thing to notice, the video is not just a video or a replay. It is a smart hybrid that plays a video of the training you choose plus live-information of your health metrics and fitness ring progress.

I made a screenshot during my training and interestingly, the video part is not being captured, but my personal health metric on the left and my fitness rings on the right.

Well, below you see how it looks. Just imaging having a video where you now only see the black background. (I added a small description to the metrics so that it is clear what they stand for. Those are not visible on the video itself).


On this image you see how the screen looks during a Fitness+ Training. However the video itself has not been captured, only the personal health metics.
Treadmill Fitness+ Training in Action

The First Training

If you expect to see someone sweating in front of you, you are at least half right.


There is your trainer who is doing the same exercise as you are doing. However, s/he is accompanied by two other people who will participate. And at least for the treadmill training, one will run and the other will walk. So whatever you choose, you will have one role model you can follow or one friend on the stage.


I'd say there are 4-5 different camera angles between they switch, so that you not only see the trainer in front. And as the screenshot above partly shows, you see a video of the trainer running with you, but also a timer, your current heart rate, your active calories burnt, what music is playing and your rings. The music is not shown all the time - only when a new song starts.


Ok - so my first ever Apple Fitness+ Training started.

But uhhhh - what a surprise. The trainer was nice and actually motivated me.


I honestly didn't expected that, but ok. Noted. Let's keep on walking.


Throughout the training, the main trainer Sam was talking a lot. Some might say it is a typical American motivation setup, but it wasn't annoying - it was rather kind of fun to listen as she was also running and becoming a bit breathless. It just made her more human and someone it is nice to do sport with as it's not a machine that is not exhausted during a run.


Sam was not just running and talking mindlessly 10 minutes but actually using story-telling to make it interesting. Within the training she integrated multiple changes of speed and incline. As my treadmill can't change the incline, I was simply upping or lowering the speed accordingly. With this, I was experiencing a challenging 10-minute workout.


For each speed-phase or hill-phase there is an additional timer on the screen and the trainer tries to push you to give it all to get "on the other side" of the timer. Hihi - funny, but hey, it worked. I did it! I made it together with Sam through a couple of speed-phases and at the end I was proud of myself.


To summarize the first experience: Those 10-minutes were well spent and I was open to do more sessions and actually utilise the trial I started. And I did.


There is a number of other trainers doing treadmill session and there are always two other runners/walkers on the stage. As far as I can tell those are trainers for other sport types such as HIIT, cycling and the like. Naturally, you will like some trainers more than others and here comes again the filter option into play: As soon as you found your 2-3 favourites, you can simply search for their sessions specifically.


Music

The music was good. Nothing special, not too loud, not too low. Just fitting. And as mentioned earlier: the screen shows you what music is currently playing.


If you remember my video from above showing the pre-view page: This page is showing which music is being played. If you ever come across a song you like, you can look it up again later or directly jump to the song (and playlist of the training) on Apple Music.


If you are like me and enjoy some kind of music more than other, you can use the filter to make sure the music style fits your preferences.


And if you're really picky, you can check the songs being played already before starting the training. Then, if there is one you absolutely dislike, you can switch to another session directly.


The extra mile

There was one thing I absolutely loved during the training sessions I took. All trainers I saw were using sign language in the beginning and at the end of the sessions.


For example, they used it when thanking the audience for showing up and wishing them a great day, and sending a reminder to close their ring.


This is not usual, and it felt to me like something so remarkable that I couldn't be anything else but happy to see it.


What I also noticed was the fact that the trainer team is divers reflecting beautifully the wide range of people in real life: Men and women of different ages, background, color and fitness level as well as there are also trainers with disabilities. I saw e.g. one running trainer with a leg prosthesis.



Summary

After my first training session, I was more curious and after some more sessions I was pretty much hooked by the Fitness+ offering and now I am afraid, Apple is very close of getting a new subscriber 😅


What I like is

  • I do not need to buy equipment (like a Peloton bike) to use the Fitness+ service

  • the subscription fee is just a fraction than what I paid for my real-life fitness studio plan

  • I can do the training on demand whenever I have time to do it. There is no pre-set schedule I need to follow

  • The content is being expanded ongoingly so that I can always do new trainings

  • I can choose from 11 different training types

  • It is all synced with my Apple Watch and Apple Health information

  • I can share my subscription with my family

  • Inclusive and divers training team and spirit

  • I can do a small but powerful training in between other tasks

  • Especially in the dark and cold winter months when I am less motivated to go outside for a walk, I have a work-around for staying fit


What I dislike is

  • So far the content has been produced in an American style that might not always attract me

  • Currently, the content is in English only (while the app has been translated)

  • The Fitness+ offering is only available as a single subscription or as part of the most expensive premium plan Apple One. The bundling could be more individual.

That's it for today - I´ll head to a small training now.

Thanks for reading 🤗


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