My idea of hell is a workout class in a mirrored room packed with people wearing spandex crop tops, as an instructor barks at you over a "Starboy" remix. Everyone knows all the moves, they sweat so artfully it makes me suspect gland surgery, and then they fling their bras off in the locker room without a care in the world that a stranger could glimpse a nipple hair. Terrifying!
Those classes every celebrity is spotted at are intimidating, competitive, and expensive. But when we're (I'm) left to our (my) own devices without a workout class to guide us, we (I) just watch Seinfeld reruns for a half hour on the elliptical. Or worse, run in place on the treadmill, going nowhere for roughly 15 minutes. That’s a totally fine thing to do if your health goal is to "not die." In my case, though, I want to shed some major baked brie and Tostitos from my midsection. I need to sweat.
If you read health magazines or watch weird infomercials late at night, you’ve heard of HIIT. (High intensity interval training, bro. Mixes protein powder into martini.) Basically, watching Elaine and Jerry argue with the rental car lady for a half hour on an elliptical is way better than watching it on my perfectly butt-grooved couch, sure—but I needed to get my heart rate WAY up, and then come down, in order to see the belly fat disappear into the sweaty-sock scented air. And that’s just not something I can figure out on my own. I sprint for a minute then rest a minute? Something like that. But I cheat during YouTube yoga and used to turn around in the middle of the pool during swim practice, so I don’t trust myself as a motivator.
This is where Aaptiv (previously known as Skyfit...now you know why they changed it) comes in. It an app that contains audio workouts with legit trainers and really good music (Top 40 hits, themed Rihanna playlists, and high-tempo remixes I call “Zara dressing room soundtrack”). There’s treadmill and marathon training, elliptical workouts, yoga, strength training, all kinds of “challenges,” and my favorite: indoor cycling, aka spin class, party of one, please. The trainer tells you when to increase resistance, sprint, recover, stand up out of the saddle and work on those GLUTES, my favorite gym word. All the while you’re sweating like a snow cone in the Sahara. It’s a hell of a good workout. There are different levels of intensity, time limits from 15 minutes to a Herculean 90, and tons of trainers, who have these hilarious dramatic profile pics. You figure out who you love, who has great music, who you avoid at all cost because his voice is so soothing you nearly fall asleep on the bike, etc etc.
Aaptiv became my obsession last fall. I joined the Facebook group, where people give feedback and share red-faced selfies with screenshots of their “Workout complete” calorie-burned count. If you’ve never been sucked into fitness social media before—it’s a crazy place, full of overwhelming positivity, uninformed medical advice, protein bar reviews, and concerning self-esteem issues that can’t be cured with “likes” no matter how many times you post.
I came into the mix with my grumpy attitude and quickly found it was not invited. I posted something about how a certain unnamed trainer keeps singing along to the music, and while her music is awesome, and she does my favorite workout of the entire app (45 minutes of 90s rock, which is devastatingly no longer available), it drove me crazy to hear this head cheerleader hum along to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” How could I tell her to please...not do that?
Was I in the wrong? I mean, it’s Nirvana. Come on.
I asked the folks at Aaptiv, and the short answer was: You deal with it. Trainers with corny motivational phrases and anti-bacon propaganda. There are a few other downsides they’re working on, like writing clearer class descriptions and figuring out how to rate classes better (right now you can fave, but not, say, put a big red X on the ones you hate). New classes show up all the time, while others disappear.
But honestly, the good is definitely outweighing the minor bad—I’m in better shape than I’ve been in since I was in high school. At $10/a month, $25 for three months, or $50 a year, it’s a great deal. My brie-belly is shrinking every day because spinning is (news to me) a great core workout. I come home, lift a few weights for my grocery-lugging arms, and then take a luxurious bath. I read that if you reward yourself after exercise, it helps make it a hobby and soon you won’t need the reward, even if it’s chocolate or gin martinis. I’m starting to see shoulders? It sounds crazy, but before they were just these 45 degree downward slopes.
I was cooling down after a grueling hour sesh with my favorite trainer, all-business Candice, and this young guy sat on the bike next to me. He started pedaling, then pointed at my bike screen. “Why are you here?” He asked me, which is not the existential question I’m ready to answer in performance Lycra. To work my ass off, I said, the same reason everyone else is here. “I want to burn calories like that,” he said while pointing to the impressive 457 on my screen. “You gotta get this app,” I said, feeling slightly like a Scientologist. So I’ve achieved two life goals: losing a few lbs, and joining a cult. What's up, 2017?
Screenshot via Aaptiv.