The at-home fitness industry has been thriving for decades now – long before the pandemic began or Peloton was first conceptualised.
If we take a look back beyond the trend for ‘connected fitness’ – before YouTube’s take on the fitness videos or even the VHS tapes of the 1980s – we can see its modern origins in the first wave of pre-recorded workouts aired on the 16-inch television sets of the 1950s home.
While the resemblance would be clear, that mid-twentieth century scene would seem far removed from the high-adrenaline, heart-racing, almost fanatical world of fitness many of us elect to enter into today.
Particularly now, as the rise of the connected fitness trend – which offers a live, sociable element to the act of following a digital workout – continues to alter the ways in which we exercise from home.
Peloton is widely credited with having originated this trend. Its subscription offers an all-you-can-eat approach to its live and encore classes, which gives subscribers plenty of opportunities to connect with others and have their workout recorded against a global network of like-minded users.
It is, however, no secret that Peloton’s subscription service – not to mention its equipment – come at a price. The brand’s signature stationary bike starts at £1750, while the subscription will wrack up an additional £39 a month.
Still, the company is thriving – even in spite of the slew of competitors chasing in their wake.
The gym is just one of many areas of life to be transformed by the trend toward virtualisation.
From the innumerable stores that have been recreated on the web, to the online casinos that can keep you entertained in lieu of a trip to Macau, and the increasing sway of the digital box office, few areas of life have not been altered by our ability to recreate them within online spaces.
Prior to Peloton’s influence, at-home fitness was not yet a way of accessing the gym remotely – it was simply a replacement for going to the gym.
Peloton’s entrance to the market proved that more could be done to virtualise the gym, and to distinguish between keeping fit at home, and the at-home workout.
Some of the most successful technologies have reached a status of near ubiquity owing to their ability to create convenience and, in so doing, make themselves worthy of the investment.
The most obvious example of this would be the mobile phone, which many of us would consider well-worth the investment price. They are now so central to everyday life that very few of us stop to wonder whether or not we could justify the high price tag.
Peloton stood at the birth of a new era for exercise outside of the gym. It appeals to many of our preoccupations at once: health and fitness, flexibility, privacy, convenience and interconnectedness.
Much like Apple, it was able to create a sense of desirability around their hardware; while the service is available to users who do not own the bike, it is easy to imagine users feeling as though they will only get the most out of their workouts by investing into this bit of kit.
Still, the fact remains that plenty of other exercise bikes offer the same in terms of mechanics, at a much healthier price point.
There is, then, a sense of desirability that ensures Peloton retains its lead in this new industry. There’s an intangible, though highly effectual, draw toward the brand. Many others – in practical terms – are able to offer an almost identical service. But for now at least, Peloton remains at the head of the pack.