I have to admit that I’m not a fan of the gym. My occasional gym visit consists of using a cardio machine for 20-30 minutes and then wandering around, maybe using a weight machine or two, but mainly people-watching until an acceptable amount of time has passed for me to leave without raising any eyebrows at the front desk. That said, I love working out, and I especially love workout classes. I like having dedicated space and time for exercising, an instructor to tell me what to do, and other people around to motivate me. I’m willing to try pretty much any workout class, whether it’s barre, yoga (hot or not, on land or on a stand up paddle board), pilates, spin, TRX, HIIT, boot camp, rowing, running, or balancing on an indoor surfboard.
Since stay at home orders began in January, most of my workouts have gone outside in the form of daily running or walking, and I’ve tried various online workouts such as YouTube videos, non-spin Peloton classes, Nike Training Club, and group Zoom HIIT classes. My experience with online classes has been uneven at best; when classes are on demand, mentally I know I can do them any time, which inevitably turns into later…or never. And when your makeshift fitness area is a yoga mat that’s five feet from your couch and 10 feet from your kitchen, it’s challenging to get excited about working out.
But as the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, the appeal of online workouts has definitely increased. As a result, I decided to dust off my yoga mat and give online fitness service Obé a try.
What Is Obé?
Obé stands for Our Body Electric, and its name was inspired by a Walt Whitman poem about human physicality, “I Sing the Body Electric.” Co-founders Ashley Mills and Mark Mullett grew up in the ‘80s watching Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons workout videos and wanted to create a brand that combined fitness and fun, or what they call "entertrainment."
The result is an online platform of live and on-demand classes set in a neon pastel studio. There are up to 22 live classes every day, seven days a week, starting at 6 AM EST and ranging from 28-60 minutes. A set number of live classes are in the on-demand library after they air. Obé also has themed live classes, like Sex and the City, Game of Thrones, and '80s aerobics, as well as monthly obéFORWARD classes, which highlight different causes and non-profits.
The on-demand classes span across 15 different types, including barre, dance, cardio boxing, HIIT, Pilates, sculpt, Vinyasa Yoga, and more. You can filter by fitness level (beginner through advanced, as well as pre- and post-natal), class length (between 5-60 minutes), body focus, impact, instructors, and equipment. There are so many options that you could spend longer scrolling through than actually doing a class. To help with any indecision paralysis, there are training programs that will map out a 7-30 day routine depending on your goal.
To get a good sense of what’s available on Obé, I tried a few different types of workouts at varying lengths. I used the mobile app and cast everything to my television to make it feel more like I was in class.
On-Demand 10 Minute Sculpt Abs
Length: 10 minutes
Fitness Level: Advanced
Equipment: Yoga mat, sliders
Sliders are one of the few pieces of fitness equipment I have at home, but never really use. Well, this 10-minute workout definitely changed that. You use the sliders both under your feet and hands to slide your legs and arms out and back, and do mountain climbers and sit-ups with sliders underneath your feet. The sliders increase your range of motion but also make everything much harder. I spent a lot of time concentrating on not letting the sliders escape from under me, but it happened more than once (to be fair, it also happened to the instructor). The 10 minutes went by fast—I actually did the workout while waiting for something in the oven to heat up. I thought it was a good ab workout at the moment, but my sore abs the next morning really confirmed how targeted it was.
I tried a few other 10-minute classes, including Yoga Sculpt Legs and Sculpt Dancer Arms. Ten minutes doesn’t seem like that long, but when those entire 600 seconds are focused solely on one body part, time seems to expand. My legs/butt and arms definitely started to burn in those two workouts, and if you can keep your limbs elevated the whole time during either of them, then you are a stronger person than me. These were all easy enough to squeeze into the day in between meetings or stack on top of a longer class or outdoor run. Considering I spend more than 10 minutes at a time mindlessly scrolling through the internet, this was a far better use of my time.
On-Demand Cardio Boxing
Length: 28 minutes
Fitness Level: Open
Cardio boxing is the type of class I generally love. It moves quickly, you’re constantly mixing up your movements, you get a full-body workout, and, honestly, throwing some punches around is great for stress relief. This 28-minute workout included punch combos, quick feet, and some ab work. It was easy to follow, and if the instructor can talk and have a smile on her face the entire workout, then surely, you can get through it as well. Almost towards the end of the workout, right when you think it’s almost over, she throws in some burpees and switch lunges, which is kind of cruel, but I respect it. I definitely sweat, but the class was fun, fast, and flew by.
Live Dance Cardio
Length: 28 minutes
Fitness Level: Moderate
Pre-lockdown, I used to schedule most of my workouts in the morning before work. It forced me to get up early, get my body moving, and I would show up in the office energized and ready for the day. I tried the same with this live dance cardio workout, which was at 7:30am PST (later than when I used to take morning classes, but now early enough since the commute to my desk is ten seconds). The advantage of doing a virtual dance cardio class is that other people can’t see how offbeat you are or watch you grapevine to the left while everyone else is grapevine-ing to the right. The class had two different parts, including a quick abs section. There was a lot of jumping, bouncing, kicking, and some spinning, so ideally you'll have at least some coordination and no downstairs neighbors. The class was high-energy and a great way to start off the day—almost better than my usual morning cup of coffee. Hint: The classes start promptly at the time they say they are going to start, so start the app a few minutes early to avoid being caught in the middle of tying your shoes or waiting for the video to cast to your TV when the class starts.
On-Demand Pilates Mat
Length: 45 Minutes
Fitness Level: Advanced
Equipment: None (I used a yoga mat)
I’ve primarily only gone to Pilates reformer classes, but in general, Pilates was always one of my go-to workouts because I felt like strengthening my core gave me better posture, which is helpful because I sit in front of a computer all day. Since I don’t own a reformer, this 45-minute class was a way to get my core fix in. It goes through all of the best Pilates’ moves, like the "one hundreds", teaser, V-sits, hip bridges, double leg extensions, and enough side leg kicks and circles to make your backside burn. I felt stronger and stretched after finishing the class. The other nice thing about this pilates class is that while you get your strength work in, it’s relatively low impact and you don’t end up a sweaty mess afterward.
On-Demand HAF: Day 9 Athletic HIIT
Length: 60 Minutes
Fitness Level: Advanced
Equipment: Yoga Mat, Resistance Loops
I didn’t realize when I chose this class that I think HAF stands for "Hard AF." After 10 minutes of resistance band work, you go into HIIT circuits. Each circuit has four different exercises that you do for 45 seconds on and 15 seconds off for two rounds, and then 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off for the last round. The exercises include knee drives, plank jumps, lunge kicks, planks, jump squats, tuck jumps, glute bridges, lateral shuffles, and more. Because the class is longer, there are rest periods, though for most of those “rest” periods, I was mainly trying to catch my breath and mentally prepare for the next round. The class finishes with a five-minute descending ladder of butterfly sit ups, Spiderman mountain climbers, high knees, and burpees (because of course there are burpees). I thought this workout, true to its name, was hard AF, but in a good way. If you’re looking for a longer, cardio-heavy workout, this one's for you. Be sure to have a sweat towel nearby.
Half the battle of a workout class is just showing up (or, in the case of an online workout, hitting start on your phone or computer). That’s always been the struggle with me and on-demand workouts, but I found that building them into my calendar kept me more consistent. I would schedule an early morning or late afternoon live workout, and if I had free time in the afternoon, I would block off 15 minutes on my calendar for one or two of the 10-minute classes. Having them planned ahead of time kept me more accountable and focused during that block of time. There are so many different types of classes on Obé, that even if you take two cardio boxing classes back-to-back, you’ll get two different workouts, which is ideal for someone who gets easily bored like me. Having a lot of options for shorter classes also makes it less daunting to get a workout in. I favorited a bunch of different classes and then just worked my way through a couple each day.
For the classes themselves, the pastel color is truly fun and calming. Because the studios are so minimal, you almost feel like you’re inside a fitness studio with nothing to distract you from watching the instructors, who are friendly, give encouraging shoutouts to people, play upbeat music, and make you want to be their friends. But don't let the colorful dance-club vibes make you think you won’t get a good workout. The classes are just as hard as ones I’ve taken in physical studios, and they're high-energy and enjoyable, so I found myself surprisingly motivated even without having other people around. I tend to lean towards the cardio boxing and HIIT classes, but it’s nice to have variety and a huge library that’s constantly changing. The app is easy to use, and you can filter your options to find something new for any mood and day, even if you only have 10 minutes to spare. Some of the workouts require you to have some room to move around, but many don’t need any additional equipment, and they’re accessible for all fitness levels (including kids and seniors!). The live classes are great for keeping you accountable to a schedule, and the lineup changes every day. Overall, I've enjoyed (and sweat during) pretty much every workout I’ve tried so far, and with a little self-discipline, I can see myself incorporating the classes into a daily routine. Plus, it’s almost impossible not to feel happy looking at the cotton-candy hues in front of you, even when you’re sweating through a set of burpees.