Saturday, January 17, 2015

Streaming Sweat

God created two types of exercisers. There are the soloists, who clamp headphones on or push earbuds in, then and run/walk/bike to their hearts' content. Often their aim, as much as giving their body a workout, is to block out the outside world for a little bit. No small talk, no pretending to listen. Just them and their sweat.  

Then there are the ensemblers. For them, having a partner or group helps to keep things going. It might be a pal with whom to run, or a class with an instructor. Were these same folks told their only option was to walk on a treadmill, they would likely look for the nearest couch. But offer them a Zumba or Lyengar or CrossFit class, and they're happy to drip along with other like-minded gym rats.
While there is no real breakdown of the $27 billion dollar fitness industry, walk into any gym and you will see the split. Now is an especially ripe time to do it, with January being the number one month for new memberships. A combination of too much food over the holidays, new year's resolutions to get in shape, plus the fear of what you might look like come bathing suit time drives people in droves to fork over for the privilege of leaving their nice warm homes to go stretch and flex in a box in a strip mall.

But it doesn't take long for the bloom to wear off that rose. The calculation that drove you to get out of bed early or not head straight home after work will start to tip. You will pass by the gym with a huge pang of guilt, then a smaller one, then smaller still. Finally you will view it as just another storefront, no different from the hardware store or flower shop. And you will say, you know, I can do all that same stuff at home and make it work just fine.

If you're in our first group, it's certainly possible. True, you might not have all the high end equipment, those elliptical trainers and tread climbers, each costing many thousands of dollars. But you can still buy a cheap stationary bike and read the paper. Or talk a walk and work your way through past episodes of "Serial." You can even do sit ups or leg stretches and squats, all while watching the football game. Works the same, and your heart-rate won't know why it's elevated if you don't tell it.

However, if you're the class type, it's a little bit harder. Sure, you watch "Hip Hop Abs" or "Kettlebell Kickboxing" or "Turbo Barre Ballet" online or on DVD. Each features smiling buff instructors yelling instructions and encouragement while a diverse set of classmates follows along behind, some going for the gold, with at least one sweat-er filling the "Gee, she looks uncoordinated but can still do it, so I guess I can too!" demographic. But it's kind of like watching an old tennis match. You know the players, you know the outcome, and you can stop it at any time and come back. Not exactly motivational.

But if you've got two grand, plus $39 bucks a month, check out Peloton Interactive. They bill themselves as the first live-streamed spinning class. The 2K buys you a high end spinning bike fitted out with a 22" video screen. Hook it into your home network, and you can sign up to watch a live, multi-camera feed of a class emanating from their New York studio. You can start the day with Cody Risby's 6AM 45 minute "Rhythm Ride" or end it with Robin Arzon's 830PM "Metrics," or nearly a dozen others during the day. You'll see and hear it all as if you were there, without ever having to leave your basement, nor listen to the gal next to you huff and puff.  

At this point, it's all one way, but it's not too hard to envision a Skype return feed, so instructor Lisa Niren can look at her screen and yell, "C'mon, Nicole, over by the old ping pong table, pump it up!" Might be right if you need the crowd for motivation. As for me, I exercise alone for a reason. It's not that I don't want to talk, it's that I need to take in as much oxygen as possible. After all, when I run, breathing is number one on my list.


Marc Wollin of Bedford likes to walk to NPR podcasts. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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