As with many others, my fitness routine lagged significantly during the COVID-19 lockdown. I’ve been in the gym most of my life – I’ve been going to the gym fairly regularly since I was 15. Over the past few years, I’ve learned that cardiovascular health is just as important as physical strength (and probably more). So my routine over the past few years has generally been: going to the gym for strength training. For cardio, I would run outside. In bad weather, I would use the gym’s treadmills and exercise bikes. All of my cardio training took place in the gym between November and March.

I’ve never been able to motivate myself to work out at home. The pandemic has obviously changed that. When the lockdown began, I stopped going to the gym and ordered some resistance bands, a push-up board, and an exercise ball. But the training was a slog. I’m not proud to say that I pretty much stopped doing cardio in November 2020.

But something caught my eye on my friends’ Instagram stories, these short instructor videos with the stats of a workout: distance, calories burned, etc. In some cases, these videos were posted by people who weren’t exactly fitness nerds. After a few online and personal conversations with my wife, we decided on a peloton. If you’ve never heard of Peloton (which is hard to imagine given that thousands of devoted customers love to evangelize for them), it’s a stationary exercise bike with a large video screen that streams a multitude of archived courses that are almost always held. And new classes are added every day. Not all classes take place on a bike: there are yoga classes, strength training (dumbbells sold separately), and more.

I want to note here that I haven’t tried any other brands, so this isn’t an endorsement by Peloton over other networked home exercise options like Soulcycle, the Mirror Home Gym, or the Centr app by Chris Hemsworth. I only share my experiences.

The peloton has a lot to offer. It feels … friendly. People “follow” you on Peloton like they would on any other social network. Personally, I haven’t really participated in this aspect, but I can see the appeal. I haven’t “shared” my workouts on social media either, although I see the appeal in them. I occasionally reciprocate when someone high five me during a workout – I guess it’s like the equivalent of an old-school Facebook poke, but it’s nice encouragement.

When you turn it on there is a Netflix-like display that offers a variety of courses with different teachers. I hadn’t researched any of the individual instructors: I chose the courses mainly based on the type of music they used (I tend to switch to different types of rock or hip-hop from the 80s and 90s). I am also looking for English-speaking teachers; For some reason I am offered a lot of German courses and I don’t speak German.

You can take “live” classes – it’s like live TV. The teacher is running a class in a studio somewhere (New York, London, etc) and many people treat this as an appointment viewing. Although all courses are archived, people enjoy the courses “live” with their friends. You can compare your performance on the leaderboard with that of everyone else in the class right now. This is a social media-like feature that can turn people off in the same way that social media might scare people off. You might not want to know that you hit 9,999 out of 10,000. The leaderboard is also displayed when accessing archived classes. Fortunately, you can wipe it out, and in fact, many teachers encourage you to do just that. After all, you are your real competition, especially if you are just starting out on a fitness program (or if you are new to Peloton). A nice aspect of the live classes: You may be called by the instructor with birthday wishes or congratulations on your 500th trip or even your first trip.

I started with a couple of “beginner” courses that weren’t as easy as I thought. But soon I switched to regular classes, usually 20 minute sessions, sometimes 30 minutes. It’s definitely a great workout and often quite exhausting. The instructors will tell you how fast to pedal and how much resistance to put on your bike. Of course, it’s okay if you need to slow down or decrease resistance if you can’t keep up (and a lot of the instructors mention this, too). The whole experience feels nourishing and encouraging, with a little hard love. After you’ve finished a workout like Netflix, Peloton suggests what to “watch” next. In her case, the suggestions are cool-down rides or post-workout stretch routines. When I have time, I do both.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never enjoyed exercising at home: it just seems boring and tiring, even when I’m happy to do the same four mile run and workouts at the gym. But the fact that the peloton in my home office is 1.5 meters from my desk makes it hard to avoid, and the fact that I could get a workout that would get me drenched in sweat in 30 minutes or less , takes away any excuses I might have about not having time to exercise. I’ve been using it fairly regularly and I will be using it more regularly over the winter. My wife uses it regularly and rarely misses a day. The fact that it’s so convenient and I never do the same workout twice (and the instructors are so encouraging) made it worth the no small investment.