I can tell you exactly which of my friends own a Peloton because it’s one of their favorite things to talk about. Favorite rides, power scores, how they stack classes; it has essentially become a new language of sorts. But I can confirm that after a few weeks of trying the app (and even within just a few workouts) I became one of those people—and that’s all without owning even a bike.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard about Peloton, as gyms and studios closed around the country in 2020, people were investing in bikes in droves with sales surging 172 percent. Even if you didn’t buy one of the bikes or treadmills (there are two models of each), you can still access a library of on-demand and live workout classes through a digital membership on the app, available on iOS, Android, Amazon Appstore, and Roku. There’s a free 30-day trial for new users, and after that, it’s $12.99/month.
Within the app, there are classes for strength (includes full-body and targeted workouts, as well as Pilates and barre), yoga, cardio (e.g., HIIT cardio), meditation, running (treadmill), outdoor (audio only), cycling, stretching, tread bootcamp, and bike bootcamp. You can filter by difficulty, length, instructor, type of class, and music, as well as bookmark and preload classes. Classes range from 5-60 minutes and you can use the stack feature via web, bike, or tread to build your own multi-class workout instead of having to go back into the app after each class to search for the next one you bookmarked.
There are various collaborations, which range from things like a partnership with Shonda Rhymes for “Year of Yes” themed sessions to Artist Series where workouts feature playlists entirely of a specific artist such as Beyoncé, Elvis remixes, The Beatles, Prince, J. Lo, and Whitney Houston, among others. And, for those who love a good virtual badge, there are also achievements you can hit such as workout class milestones, workout day-streaks, working out with your friends within the app, or doing the special events like the Artist Series. If you are a person that likes to work out, and probably even if you don’t, you’ll be able to find something to love here.
I have to preface this by saying my “home gym”—aka a yoga mat on the floor of my small apartment—is pretty lackluster. I don’t own a stationary bike or treadmill—Peloton or otherwise—or really any hand weights, so I’m pretty much limited to no-equipment classes. I realize this means I’m missing a big chunk of the classes available, especially the cycling ones that everyone swears by, but there were still more than enough of workouts to try.
Outdoor Running (Audio)
These are the classes I personally liked the best and did the most of. I’ve done about 18 of the runs, and the fact that I keep doing them is a win. I found that the 20-30 minute runs were perfect for a weekday morning (20 minutes if I woke up late), and the 45-60 minute runs were great for weekends when I didn’t have to rush back home to check emails or take a call.
Not every run has sprints, but all have changes in pace, which you have to gauge by feel since there is no number on a treadmill to tell you exactly how fast you’re going. Some instructors are chattier than others, some ask you to do high knees in the middle of a run (looking at you, Jess Sims), but all of the workouts have fantastic, motivating playlists and high energy levels. I’d choose one in the morning based on length and music and would not really know what awaited me, kind of like an interval/speed roulette.
I like running with others but I don’t actually like talking during a run, so these outdoor workouts were the best of both worlds. It’s like having a running buddy + hype woman/man with you the whole time, and I immediately saw a difference. I made no change in the time of day or the routes that I ran, but just by using the Peloton workouts, I ran faster and longer, trimming anywhere from 5-20 seconds off my per-mile pace. If that isn’t proof that by having someone push you, even virtually, you can be better, I don't know what is. Sometimes when you’ve dragged yourself out of bed for an early morning run, you really just need someone in your ear to tell you to pick up the pace.
My favorites included:
- 20-minute interval runs with Jess Sims: If you only have 20 minutes and want to make the most of your workout, this will do it. You run eight intervals at increasing levels of intensity.
- 20-minute Beyoncé run with Robin Arzon: Because if you only have 20 minutes to work out, spend them listening to Beyoncé.
- 30-minute House run with Olivia Amato: Lots of 1-to-1 intervals and fast runs, but the music is so upbeat and fun that it gets you pumped to be running, even if it is 7 a.m.
- 45 minute hip hop run with Rebecca Kennedy: It’s hard not to move to hip hop. There are different intervals throughout and a speed push at the end, but it’s to “Baby Got Back,” so I couldn’t be too mad about it.
- 60-min ‘90s pop fun run with Matty Maggiacomo: My struggle with long runs is that I get bored and start thinking about how long it will take me to get home and/or what I plan to eat after. Maybe it was the music, or maybe it was just having something else to focus on, but this 60-minute run flew by. There are intervals, fast runs that last entire songs, and no sprints. There’s a fast finish to Whitney Houston, so you end on a high note.
There are also run programs you can do if you’re training for a specific distance such as a marathon. I started a 45-minute tempo run not realizing it was a week-15 workout of a marathon prep series. There were a few tempo runs and you hear a lot about mental resilience and race day, but other than that, I would do this one again, (even though I am definitely not currently training to run 26.2 miles).
Peloton is really, really good at reminding you to stretch. Every single instructor/class mentions stretching at least once, and I for one, need it. I’ve never been great at stretching before or after a workout, and I’m even worse at foam rolling because my MO is to start and then immediately stop because it becomes painful.
- Foam rolling with Hanna Corbin: I did several of Hannah’s 10-minute foam rolling classes (calves, glutes, quads, hamstrings, chest & back) and I really liked (and finished) all of them. Having someone tell you where/how to foam roll is much better than trying to figure it out on your own. The glute one was uncomfortable in a way I probably needed. In the calves roll, Hannah said, “I laugh when I’m in pain,” and I felt that. By far, the hardest one for me was the chest & back roll, which is probably also the one I should do the most, given I’m sitting in front of a computer all day. You stretch your back, your lats (so much ouch), and open your chest, and I struggled more in that 10-minute class than I did in the 30-minute run I did earlier that morning. I told a friend and fellow Pelotoner how much my lats were screaming with the foam roller and she took the same class only to report back that, if anything, I undersold the pain. Regardless, I did the same class again a week later and it was not easier the second time, so note to self: stretch/foam roll my chest and back more often.
- Post-run workouts: Most of the other stretches I did were post-run stretches, which were usually a combination of static stretches for your chest, hips, and legs. I found the 10 minute ones were a good length for recovery, and I actually did them consistently because there was always a reminder at the end of the run workouts. In fact, I probably stretched more times in a month on Peloton than in the entire past year of all my other workouts. Reminders work!
I usually prefer fast-moving workout classes where I feel like I’m getting an efficient sweat for my time. The HIIT cardio classes, as you can guess by their name, are very heavy on the cardio. The classes range from 5-30 minutes and include a warmup followed by multiple rounds or circuits of HIIT exercises. (As an aside, if you hate burpees, then I’m sorry to say that a lot of these classes have them.) Some of the classes I liked include:
- 30 min HIIT cardio with Rebecca Kennedy: There are six rounds of work where each round gets harder, moving through all different muscle groups. Think plank arm marches, drop squats, ball slams, and punches. The last round is everyone’s favorite exercise, burpees, with the option to make each set harder, because you might as well go out with a bang.
- 20 min hip hop cardio with Rebecca Kennedy: There are three rounds with different exercises in each one, and you do a low intensity version first and then a high impact version. So, you’d do air squats and then progress to jump squats, spider lunges to spider squats. You end on, what else, burpees, and then a plank.
- 20 min ‘90s hip hop cardio with Jess Sims: There are three rounds of exercises, with each round using a decreased amount of recovery time in between sets. By the third round you’re doing 30 seconds of an exercise like a squat thrust with alternating elbow twists, with a 10 second recovery, which is basically enough time to take one deep breath before you have to start again.
The strength classes are great as full-body or targeted muscle workouts, with or without equipment, and both Pilates and barre fall under this category as well. I did several of the core and pilates classes—they were a good complement to my runs, or a nice break away from my computer during lunch or in-between meetings.
There’s a whole Crush Your Core program, which is four weeks of ab work and what a friend described as "terribly effective"—I really enjoyed the 20-minute Beatles bodyweight strength class with Ben Aldis, because he did the most with pairing the playlist with on-theme exercises. For example, "Twist and Shout" included squat and lunge twists, "A Hard Day’s Night" was full of tough moves like squat jumps and push-ups, and, funnily, "Help" involved a one-minute plank.
For yoga, there are classes ranging from 5-75 minutes and various types such as Flow, Focus Flow (poses that focus on a specific body part like the chest or hips), Power, Restorative, Basics (e.g., Breathwork and specific poses). Most of the live classes didn’t mesh with my West Coast schedule, but I did try a live 30 minute Hip Hop Yoga flow, and I’ll say, I’m no expert in any type of flow, but I can get down with a hip hop yoga class.
When you’re at home literally all the time, not only is it aggressively monotonous, but it also gets hard to separate work and your personal life. My usual solution is to go outside and get some fresh air, but the meditation classes were another good, quick way to take a break without going anywhere. I’d do a five-minute energizing meditation before a long day of meetings, a 10-minute patience meditation in the middle of that long day of meetings, or a five-minute happiness meditation in the evening. There are meditations in the app that go up to 30 minutes, but the five and 10-minute ones were long enough to let me take a few breaths and reset.
In general, I am pretty active and get out of my apartment every day, but for at-home workouts, I am… less consistent. When I’m out for a run or walk, it’s easy to get distracted by music or scenery and that keeps me moving, whereas with a class in my living room, I can just immediately sit down on the couch or floor, or stand staring at my TV wondering why/how I chose the class that ends with multiple rounds of burpees.
The outdoor runs are what first sold me on the Peloton app because they complement something I already do regularly, and like I said, they help me run faster without even realizing it. But having friends who were also on Peloton (who you can follow, by the way) motivated me to continue to try new and recommended classes so we could swap notes on whether or not burpees or lunges are worse (jury’s still out), the sweat factor of various workouts, and which stretching classes were the most gratifying (usually glutes). It’s like having workout buddies even though you’re not seeing anyone in person.
All in all, I’ve liked every one of the workouts so far, and there are thousands more to choose from. Because there are so many instructors, all with different vibes, it’s likely you’ll find an instructor whose workout and style works for you, whether you prefer someone more intense or more chill. Music is also a big motivating factor for me, and all the playlists are great. After just a few weeks, I’m stretching more, I’ve got a bunch of classes preloaded on the app, and if the only side effect is I talk about Peloton all the time, I think that’s a fair tradeoff.