Great outdoor running and walking classes
Some workout videos can be hard to follow
Most live classes require equipment
How does the Peloton app work?
The Peloton app is available on Android, iOS, and most smart TV platforms. It offers a 30-day free trial; after that, it costs $12.99 a month. (A different version of the app specifically for use with the bike or tread costs $39 a month, which unlocks the competitive leaderboard and other equipment-specific features.) I downloaded the app to my iPhone and was surprised that, unlike some other fitness apps I’ve tested, it didn’t prompt me to take a quiz or even ask my body stats like height and weight when I signed up. It also didn’t suggest any classes or programs (which other apps offer up after you answer a questionnaire), so I was left on my own to toggle through its offerings and add in my height and weight.
Of course, the Peloton app has a lot of classes and some multi-week programs that I thought were easy enough to scroll through and figure out. Peloton offers hundreds of classes, including indoor cycling and treadmill instruction (of course) as well as yoga, strength training, cardio, outdoor running, and boot camp classes. The 10 programs that I saw combine a variety of classes that build on each other over time. The app also has monthly challenges you can opt into, in which you aim to take a certain number of classes or run a set number of miles in that month.
But the Peloton app’s most-touted feature is its live classes, in which a trainer leads a session—usually from a workout studio, but sometimes from their own home—that you can stream onto your phone or device. You can select the live classes you want to take from the schedule tab on the app, which sorts the live offerings by workout category, and sign up for them in advance (which means Peloton sends you a push notification 10 minutes before the class starts) or join at any time it’s airing. When you join a live class, you see the usernames of the other people in the class in a sidebar window, plus a number that shows how many people are there (when you have the equipment, this list functions as the leaderboard, taking your effort expended and ranking you against others who are pedaling or running along with you in real time). The instructors also call out some members if they’re celebrating something, like a class milestone or a birthday. This helps form a sense of endorphin-based camaraderie (when you toggle over the usernames, you can give a virtual high-five to your classmates) that some people have brought into other aspects of their lives, forming Facebook groups and teams to “meet” with fellow Peloton enthusiasts.
What’s great about the Peloton app?
I didn’t try a ton of live classes—the ones I wanted to take almost never seemed to be offered at the times that worked for me—but when I did, it was cool to know that there were other people sweating along in the class with me (I’m a big fan of group fitness classes). I also didn’t find that the experience of pre-recorded classes differs all that much from live ones. The people currently taking the class are displayed no matter what (though those numbers dropped off significantly from the live classes, from 500-plus to under 100) and, if you don’t mind potentially missing an instructor shoutout, you won’t notice the difference. When you finish a class, whether it’s live or not, Peloton gives you a calorie-burn estimate based on your entered height and weight, or you can connect the app with a Bluetooth heart rate monitor for a somewhat more accurate number.
I also found the instructors to be universally charismatic, energetic, and overall fun to exercise with. If you join a Peloton Facebook group, you may see that there are some clear standout favorites among users, but I took classes taught by a variety of instructors in almost every workout category and enjoyed the experience with all of them.
My favorite thing about the Peloton app, though, is its audio-only outdoor running and walking sessions. In these, an instructor guides you through a 20- to 45-minute walk or run, prompting you to accelerate or give yourself a recovery and advising you on how to pace yourself. These are set to music playlists, too—some of my favorites include a 30-minute Y2K fun run and 45-minute hip-hop run. The app also uses your phone’s GPS to track and display your speed, mile splits, elevation gained, and calories burned during the workout, which helped me push myself faster and farther than I typically do during runs.
Peloton adds new workouts daily—mostly by “archiving” the previously aired live workouts—but the non-equipment ones, like those live runs I love, are added less frequently. Still, there were enough for me to pick and choose the workouts I wanted to do without feeling like I didn’t have many options left.
What didn’t I like about the Peloton app?
It’s not hard to use the app without a stationary bike or treadmill—the cardio, yoga, stretching, outdoor running, meditation, and strength training classes are all fair game without one—but I felt envious of the people who own one the whole time I was using it. Peloton favors its cycling and spinning classes, adding up to 10 new live classes to its cycling category every day and two for the treadmill. Peloton’s boot camp-style classes, updated about every other day, also require a treadmill for half of the class.
This makes sense. Peloton sells (pricey) bikes and treadmills, and charges more per month for app access for the equipment owners, so it’s reasonable to cater to the customers that shell out the big bucks. Still, if you start using the Peloton app for access to fitness classes without having a treadmill or stationary bike, you may find yourself more tempted by one (or both) of the machines than you were before you started—which, of course, may just be part of Peloton’s grand plan.
Some other minor complaints: The instructors tend to give clear but brief directions, and the way videos are formatted sometimes made it hard to follow if I wanted to keep an eye on a more complicated move, particularly for yoga classes. On my phone screen, rather than a tablet or TV, the images looked a little squished. Exercise demos were harder to discern, especially in wide-angle camera shots that captured the on-screen class participants as a group.
You are also bound to the music the Peloton instructors pick for the classes—this is great for being exposed to new tunes and working out to something with an appropriate BPM, but not so great if you want to pick your own music or don’t like working out with music at all. You may preview the playlists for all workouts, though, and even with my beloved outdoor running classes, I found myself avoiding some sessions that I otherwise may have enjoyed because I didn’t want to listen to the playlist.
Should you get the Peloton app?
If you have any stationary bike or treadmill, you will surely join the legions of people who worship at the altar of the fitness conglomerate without any sense of irony—even with non-Peloton equipment, you'll be able to explore all the classes at your leisure. As someone without either of those things, I still liked and benefited from the app, but I felt like I wasn’t doing everything that could be done with it (because, well, I wasn’t). On the other hand, if I hadn’t known about the classes I wasn’t able to do, I don’t think I would have missed them, thanks to the variety of other exercise options offered.
The Peloton app has a 30-day free trial before its monthly fee kicks in, so I think it’s worth a try if you are looking for a new way to exercise at home without sinking a ton of money into it at first. Just be warned: If you’re already feeling tempted to order the Peloton bike or treadmill, the app won’t make it any easier to resist.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Sara Hendricks is a staff writer with Reviewed covering emerging categories.
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