👟How Offline Fitness Became Fitter Than Ever & Why It’s Not Cooling Down Anytime Soon!

We feel more comfortable online. It could be because we’re the Tik-Tok generation that’s forever ticking or because we’re spending too much time on Zoom all day when we really should be out in the real world (or classroom, you choose). With real people. Socialising and doing the things we should be doing. But we feel better online. We can’t help it. And it’s this new (online) reality that has spurred on the (offline) fitness revolution. Peloton caught a whiff of it but then it fell of its bike. Several times. Leaving some pretty nasty scars. 

Peloton, the (now infamous?) connected bike maker has had a pretty rough time. From that ad back in 2019, you know, the one accused of being sexist, to profit warnings, slowing subscription growth, cutting production, oh, and it being responsible for the death of fictional character Mr Big in Sex and The City. In the first 39 minutes of the show! After working out on his bike, he died from a heart attack. Yikes!! I think it’s safe to say that this fancy piece of equipment has come under scrutiny. And tons of it. 

Its share price (NASDAQ: PTON) says it all! During the past year alone, it shed 84% of its market cap. Looks like Peloton’s lost too much weight. Time to bulk up I say! And while peloton’s share price performance has not exactly resulted in any muscle-building of sorts; global spending on virtual (at-home) fitness has raced ahead during the pandemic and is expected to grow 10x from $6 billion pre-pandemic (in 2019) to $60 billion by 2027. This industry has clearly got legs and it’s not just peloton-obsessed consumers who are buying into this trend. Companies are, too. And they wouldn’t be doing this unless they thought this was gonna stick. And something tells me it’ll be stickier than we think.

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The New You! 

My friend over in New York is forever raving to me about her SoulCycle classes. She even has a t-shirt imprinted ‘SoulCycle’. Yup, she’s one of ‘em! She tells me how it’s a community. She sees the same faces over and over and there’s a certain camaraderie about it all. You know, giving each other that motivation to keep pushing, to keep going. And I think this is the very thing that gyms lack. They don’t exactly give you the urge to go out and get your workouts done. And, having the place empty is just how they like it. Most gyms can typically only hold 300 guests, yet they take in around 7,000 folk knowing full well that in the first six months, at least 50% of their members will quit. And of those who actually end up staying, more than 50% end up going to the gym less than twice a week! Compare this to Peloton users who use their fancy bike for 20 workouts. Every single month. You see where I’m going with this. One is sticky. The other is, well, not. 

The New Consumer asked people about their fitness plans in the coming year (when this horrid pandemic will well and truly be over) and only 5% of respondents said they’d workout exclusively at the gym/studio while 41% said they’ll be fully working out at home and a whopping 87% said home workouts will account for more than 50% of their workout regime. Pretty fascinating if you ask me. Pre-pandemic, we were doing most of our workouts at the gym or perhaps outdoors if we were feeling adventurous but now the entire thing has been totally switched up. I have a hunch that gyms might end up like our cinemas. A place we go to here and there but still hold onto our Netflix. Gyms aren’t what they used to be. Or maybe we’re realising the other choices are way, way better.

We’ve Become A Little Gym-Shy 

The pandemic has turned us into unsociable creatures. After all, I guess this was bound to happen. With all the lockdowns (lasting for months), we couldn’t leave our home, see people and do the things we’d normally be doing. In our normal, day-to-lives. Remember those? I definitely do not socialise as much as I should and making an arrangement to meet up with a friend seems like a game of ping-pong! We’ve become shy. And gym-shy, too. Habits stick. And maybe our unsociability and uncomfortableness around folk has stuck a little too hard. A November 2021 survey (so not all that long ago) found that 38% of people did not feel ready to go back to the gym, with 20% saying they had purchased exercise equipment to be used at home and a further 20% preferring to exercise outdoors. Put this altogether and it looks like the gym days may very well be over. We’re wanting to spend more time outdoors, or exercising in the comfort of our own homes. Not sweating and all red-faced next to glamorous Sally and Suzie. We want to be working out on our own terms. And often, that means At Home. 

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My friend manages to go to the gym every single day. Without fail. Still don’t know how she does it. But there’s something about windowless rooms and working out next to complete strangers that doesn’t quite fill me with joy. Not to mention the amount of mental energy it takes to schlep ourselves there. Knowing full well that it isn’t going to be the most riveting hour of our lives. Speaking for myself here!

Let’s face it. Gyms aren’t exactly motivational. Stationary rowing machines aren’t motivational. And forcing yourself to go for a 40min run each day certainly isn’t motivational. I seriously can’t think of anything worse than a treadmill. What is motivational though, is your community and your coach that’s waiting for you, right on your screen, at the end of your bike. That’s who’ll be cheering you on. 

Motivating Machine 

I’ve never been one for going to the gym to workout, so I can totally see the appeal of these fancy stationary bikes along with the community (more like cult-following!). But if there’s one thing it does, it’s getting us lazy lot to exercise. The health benefits are known but we all struggle to get a workout in. And it’s not because we don’t have the time. It’s because we lack (or can’t find) the motivation. And connected (at-home) fitness seems to solve this one. 

And I think what’s getting peloton users so excited about the bikes is down to the motivation, and the community that comes with it. This is what connected (online) fitness is all about. It’s about motivating you do become the healthiest version of yourself. To engage in physical activity without it feeling like a chore. For it to become something that you actually look forward to. Gyms don’t exactly have this factor. Not for me anyway. 

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Peloton’s subscribers have grown from 100k in 2017 to 2.5 million last year. iFit (who owns exercise equipment group NordicTrack that you might have hear dof) have also seen a massive increase in its subscriptions, up from 103k in 2017 to over 1.1 million this year. Offline fitness is a thing and it’s becoming bigger the day. But Peloton obviously remains pretty controversial to say the least. Putting their 2019 ad to one side, it’s seen as elitist. But I suppose if anyone’s gonna charge £1,300+ for a bike, they’re gonna be called all sorts of things from snobby to swanky. It comes with the territory. Oh, and then there’s the fact that this fancy bike is practically useless without its monthly subscription fee.

But ardent fans say that totally misses the point! These bikes (and their workouts) are a cure for mental burnout. They’re also massive time-savers and has led to the adoption of healthy habits and actually come to enjoy, and look forward to it! And, perhaps the best thing to come out of all this, is the community feel. There’s even a Peloton Facebook group called “Average Peloton Mums” which has 30k members. These “average Mums” chat about how they don’t feel at all guilty handing their kids iPads so that they can fit in a workout. Community? More like religion! 

Now, while I certainly haven’t brought myself to splurge on this fancy bike (not just yet!) I think it’s time for me to convince my imaginary boyfriend to gift me one. Or better still, maybe I should start saving. My bank account’s gonna love me for that one!

Disclaimer: This blog is not investment or financial advice. It is my opinion only. This blog is not a personal recommendation to buy/sell any security, or to adopt any such investment strategy. Always do your own research before you commit to any investment.