My butt is numb, I need earplugs and the disco lights are bringing on a migraine. Where am I? Would you believe spin class? I feel like I’m back in the roller rinks where I spent my teens. Except instead of rollerskating with my friends, I want to go all Hell’s Angels on everyone in the darkened spin studio. I hate this exercise.
Luckily for me, my husband, Bill, whose workout mantra is “I only run when chased,” decided we should buy a Peloton bike last November. He needed to exercise more, doctor’s orders, if he wanted to avoid diabetes. Since Bill hates the gym even more than I do, I was game for a solution, even though the Peloton price—$2,000 plus a monthly $39 membership—gave me pause. Is Peloton really worth it?
Stream Your Spin Class At Home
Never heard of Peloton? You might have seen their commercials with impossibly fit and sweaty people riding a spin bike at home. Or maybe you’ve seen one of their mall showrooms.
My husband Bill needed to exercise more, doctor’s orders, if he wanted to avoid diabetes.
What sets Peloton apart from other bikes is the fact that each comes with a 24-inch monitor—or tablet, as it’s called—mounted in front of the handlebars and that streams live spin classes from the Peloton studios in New York City. You can also do classes On Demand.
You also get a free pair of spin shoes when you buy a Peloton bike. Great, if there is just one of you. But since Bill and I both ride, he took the free pair and I ended up getting a pair of my own. With wide feet I bought what are technically mountain biking shoes on Amazon.com. Mountain bike shoes tend to be wider. Also, they were way cheaper than the shoes I saw at my local cycling shop.
When you boot up the Peloton tablet, you’ll see a screen of in-progress or upcoming live classes, with audition-worthy headshots of the instructors. (Many are former actors and dancers.) You can also choose from popular On Demand classes sorted by class length (20-60 minutes), instructor, or music genre.
My Love Hate Relationship with Instructors
I ride two or three times a week, sometimes four. Bill rides two to three times a week as well. At this point I’ve spun with nearly every Peloton instructor—there are about a dozen. One instructor does this weird jaw thing as she rides, like she’s blowing imaginary smoke rings. She might as well be scraping her perfectly painted nails down a blackboard. Another leads her class wearing Lady Gaga-esque makeup. I rode with both once and never again.
My husband is terrified of instructor Robin Arzon, tatted and proudly wearing an insulin pump, who has a kick your ass and take no prisoners attitude. She’s achieved a certain level of celebrity, thanks to this New York Times article. I enjoy her boot camp approach. My two faves are Christine D’Ercole, who plays tons of 1980’s music, and Jenn Sherman, who had a recent series of sing-along rides filled with karaoke-worthy tunes. When you are singing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” or Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” at the top of your lungs, you forget you are exercising.
Live or On Demand
When you join a class (live or On Demand), a leaderboard appears on the right-hand side of your screen, showing the usernames of everyone else in class. Many people create clever usernames so that instructors will give them a shout out—instructors also have tablets in front of them. Names that stick out include “Mazel Tough” and “Mom Can’t Hear You.” Your username also includes your age and hometown. Some people replace the hometown with hashtags related to certain instructors, like Sherman’s popular no-excuses phrase “Just fucking do it” or #JFDI. I changed mine to say “Kicking my a$$ in Jersey.”
I felt like a kid all those years ago watching “Romper Room,” waiting to hear my name.
The Peloton screen also shows your heart rate as you ride. That meant I needed a heart rate monitor if I wanted to take advantage of this metric. My athletic 20-year-old daughter swears by the Polar monitor that you wear on a strap, around your torso and right under your bra. So guess what her mother ended up buying and wears with each ride?!
You also get shout outs when you hit milestone rides—50 rides, 100 rides, 150 rides, etc. I know this coming shout out drove me to achieve 50 rides pretty quickly. Ride 50 was done live, and, sure enough, during Christine’s New Wave Wednesday class, she congratulated me. I felt like a kid all those years ago watching “Romper Room,” waiting to hear my name.
Tapping Into Your Competitive Nature
The leaderboard, which measures your output throughout the ride—the sum of the resistance on the wheel and your cadence or pedal speed—is also designed to inspire riders’ competitive nature. While I’ve never been in the number one spot, I always strive to be in the top 50 percent of riders. So if there are 218 riders in a class, I don’t let myself fall below 109th. Also, there have been times that I’ve seen a 30-something or 40-something on the leaderboard who seems to be “catching” me, and I end up thinking, “Damned if I’m gonna let a young un pass me.” So I spend the remainder of the class working to stay ahead of them.
I always strive to be in the top 50 percent of riders. And if I see a 30-something or 40-something on the leaderboard who seems to be “catching” me, I spend the remainder of the class working to stay ahead of them.
It’s good that I’ve started riding at home: I realized that I’m a grunter when I exercise. It sounds somewhere between labor pains and orgasm, which is not great when you’re at the gym. But in the privacy of my own home, it’s not a big deal, at least to me. It’s gotten to the point that whenever I climb on the bike (it’s in the living room), my husband leaves the room. It’s either because of the grunting or the fact that I’m singing while I ride.
I’ve since started wearing Insignia Bluetooth headphones during my rides. They sit over my ears, not in my ears; I found that earbuds always fell out so, tip, don’t use the free pair that came with your iPhone. I’m loving these headphones because they hold their charge for weeks on end, are super comfortable and ensure Bill doesn’t have to listen to class while I ride. I can’t say the same for my singing.
Because I don’t have to worry about getting to the gym in time, fighting traffic, finding parking, or getting a spot in the spin room, I’m working out more. And because I’m not enduring loud music and stupid lights, I’m enjoying it more. That leads to tangible results. After using the Peloton bike for the past 10 months, I can feel muscles in my butt and legs, and because many classes include 10 minutes of arm weight lifting while on the bike (the hand weights are mounted on the back of the bike) I am seeing definition there, too. My husband has benefitted, as well. He’s gone down two belt sizes and his doctor no longer considers him to be pre-diabetic.
Good music. Great workouts. Better health—it’s hard to put a price on that.