I read stories about Peloton with great interest, including the one that came out recently in Elemental, Medium’s new health section. It covered the rise and rise of the at-home-and-digitally-connected exercise bike (and beyond, now that there’s a treadmill and a yoga program, too — and more).
Reading it, I was tempted. I am tempted. The $2,000 bike (with a $39 monthly membership to a library of live and pre-recorded classes) has always seemed insane, like who is doing this? (There’s also now a no-money-down version where the bike is $58 a month for 39 months. Together with the membership, that’s $97 a month.) But something about it seems, now, today, given my already expensive exercise class (I’ve spent more than $7,000 in two and a half years on my barre class, wow I almost wish I hadn’t done the math on that, but also, it’s money well spent, in my opinion, well, let’s move past this) — anyway, it all seems to make slightly more sense.
Also, I loved my group exercise class when I was especially lonely in the rest of my life, and now that I have a job I like and a somewhat more robust social life … could I consider switching to Peloton? I understand the appeal of at-home exercise (I love Yoga With Adriene, although I rarely select the sweat-inducing videos), and I like the idea that it could be cheaper … and save some time …
But it’s a gamble. Could I return the bike if it all proves to be a mistake? If I miss the companionship, if I’m not as motivated as I thought? (There is a 30-day return policy.)
So much of life seems to be aimed at simplicity and optimization, but the exchanges aren’t always obvious. Like exchanging the annoyance of a commute also means exchanging the intangible quality of being out and seen and in the fray. I don’t always want to be alone, even though I often think I want to be alone. With the Peloton, it’s like there’s some kind of social math — do I have enough engagement elsewhere in my life to justify doing another thing at home, alone? Do the costs of doing something AHA (at home, alone) outweigh the benefits? Increasingly they seem hard to quantify.
I’ve gained so much from my in-person exercise class, much of which is also hard to quantify, but which is inherent to its in-person-ness. The feel of an instructor’s hands on my shoulders, gently correcting me (it’s nice). The way my name sounds when they tell me to realign my posture or compliment me (also nice). Occasionally making eye contact with other attendees. The weird peacefulness of watching us all do these repetitive motions in unison in the mirror. It’s all nice! I don’t think I’m able to recognize the full range of these benefits.
Then again, the details about the social aspects of at-home exercise classes, like those offered with the Peloton, are also tempting. As Peloton president William Lynch told Elemental writer Michelle Ruiz, “a new Peloton rider who bonded with other members in the Facebook group might get on the bike and ‘get [virtual] high-fives 2,000 times because everyone knows it’s my first ride.’” I probably wouldn’t get on the Facebook group, but also who knows.
It’s funny to weigh these qualities. The fact that I got into exercise at all, after years of doing nothing, feels like enough of a miracle that I shouldn’t be messing with it, or even thinking about messing with it. Unless it really was a gateway. Or maybe I should just play tennis.