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It’s that time of year again when everyone wants to try to get in shape. There are so many fitness apps out now! I mean you long time readers know because I’ve reviewed a lot of them! This app review is going to be a little different because it involves DIYing a Peloton experience with my iFit compatible equipment and pitting the fitness apps against each other, to see which app is the ultimate fitness app.
Now if you’ve been following along on Instagram you know that this review was born after several people told me I just needed to try the Peloton app when I got the Proform Carbon CX exercise bike for my birthday last month. The Carbon CX is iFit compatible just like my treadmill and can be auto-adjusted by the app during rides. I chose the bike because I’m already an iFit subscriber and love the experience on my treadmill. But people kept insisting that I needed to try the Peloton app so thanks to a guest pass from my cousin-in-law, I decided to give it a try and see what all the fuss is about.
Making my Proform Carbon CX a Peloton Dupe
Now the Proform Carbon CX is a great stationary bike but it’s really not the easiest bike to turn into a Peloton dupe because it uses digital resistance and not a knob. The digital resistance can be controlled either with the onboard computer that’s attached to the tablet tray or through the iFit app in Manual Mode. For this reason I would probably recommend the Proform 500 SPX if you’re not already an iFit subscriber and are new to spinning; if you’re a more advanced spinner on a budget I’ve heard good things about the quality of the resistance on the Sunny Health Endurance bikes. Of course if by the end of this review you think iFit is cool and worth checking out then the bike I got is a really great place for a newbie to start – mine cost about $500 before tax.
My onboard computer tracks cadence and controls my speed and while it does have bluetooth, the bluetooth only works with the iFit app so it would not communicate with the Peloton app at all. This meant if I wanted to get any of the metrics that Peloton uses to determine things like strive score and leaderboard standings I would need to get additional sensors. I had to purchase a separate cadence sensor and I also got a chest heart rate monitor, though I later found an app that allows me to cast my heart rate from my Apple Watch to the Peloton app on my iPad. Which by the way for you Android tablet lovers who love your metrics, cadence tracking is only available as on option on iOS, so you’ll either need to use an iPhone or an iPad if you want all the performance numbers. I learned this after I tried to use my Onn. 10″ inch tablet (that I purchased specifically for using on the bike) and found I could only get my heart rate on the app. The iFit app on the other hand works perfectly on an Android or iOS device.
Once I had my equipment I found two ways I could deal with the changing resistance issue. I could 1. Place my iPad in a separate tablet holder/stand and leave the built in stand clear so I could use the buttons on the onboard computer or 2. Use two tablets, one running iFit in manual mode and the other running the Peloton app. Option one is less cumbersome but make sure you have a stable second tablet holder (especially if you’re using an iPad Pro like I have been).
For those of you that are considering my bike or another Proform bike with 16 levels of resistance, here’s the conversion chart for Peloton to Proform resistance:
I also added SPD clip-in pedals to my bike swapping out the the toe cage pedals it came with. Peloton uses a different clipping mechanism but I went with SPD because it’s much more common and I would be able to use the shoes that go with those clips at most classes and for road cycling (if I ever got that advanced). It was just one more way to further duplicate the experience.
The Rides & Runs
Full disclosure I am a mountain bike girl. Before I got super bogged down with law school and later lawyer life I used to like to get out on the trails and get messy. I had never done a spin class prior to buying this stationary bike. I occasionally used the bikes at the gym to warm up but that’s about it. So I went into the studio classes without a ton of expectation other than this will probably be hard but set to good music.
I did my first iFit ride set in the studio. I occasionally do the studio runs when I want to work on specific things like speed or stride so I was a little familiar with the iFit Studio experience. Since I wasn’t sure who would be a good trainer for the rides I went with my favorite studio running trainer Jesse Corbin. And the ride was hard but a lot of fun and unlike Peloton that has fancy playlist mixes that they play for each ride iFit has a system called Feed.fm that allows you to choose the genre of music that you want to listen to during a workout and the music is synced to the speed and intensity of whatever you’re doing. I really loved that Jesse was just as informative and educational during the ride as he is during runs, making sure he not only cued you to the next resistance level or push but also providing guidance on how to become a better cyclist.
With the knowledge of what a studio ride was like, I did my first Peloton ride with a trainer that I’d seen all over Instagram and is basically a phenomenon, Cody Rigsby. I knew he was funny and that a lot of people really liked his quips on the bike so I was expecting to have a lot of fun while getting a good workout in. I will say the ride was challenging and he did make some remarks that made me laugh but I didn’t feel particularly motivated to push harder based on the things that he was saying. I kind of felt the way I do when I’m out with my girls for brunch so I’m not sure I pushed as hard as I could have. And while the music choices were all songs that I love and would listen to they weren’t songs that get me motivated to push hard.
With this first experience in mind I turned to Instagram and asked people to share with me their favorite trainers, letting them know that I kind of like trainers that emphasize athleticism because I like the idea of thinking of myself as an athlete. A lot of people mentioned Cody (I’m telling you people love him), Robin, Tunde, Alex, Ally Love, and Olivia. I ended up doing workouts with Robin (run), Olivia (ride), and Tunde (ride). I have to say that I liked Robin and felt she gave really good cues and referenced how what we were doing on the treadmill could translate to real life running. But some of the music choices made me lose focus and that made the run harder for me.
I was hopeful that my ride with Olivia would give me some of that athlete power I was wanting from my trainers. So many people said she was one of the more athlete focused trainers. The rides I did were endurance rides and I have to say that I hated them. I really was uninspired by the cues she gave and didn’t find them particularly challenging or interesting. However, just as I thought that maybe Peloton wasn’t for me at all I did a ride with Tunde and man she lit a fire in me. She was powerful and she made me feel powerful. I would say that she alone is probably worth the price of the subscription but I wouldn’t say that she’s worth getting the Peloton bike.
On the iFit side I also did an outdoor ride in the Swiss Alps with my favorite Tommy Rivers Puzey. I absolutely love all of his workouts because he’s just so knowledgeable about the human body and about training. Every time I do one of his workouts I learn something new and I come out of it feeling like I can do anything. I also did a studio ride with Antonia Desantis who is tough as hell on the bike and loves to talk about food. She was fun even if she wasn’t as focused on the anatomy lessons as some of the other trainers are. I will say that I did experience one trainer that I really didn’t like on iFit. I did an outdoor ride with Jenny Fletcher and while the scenery in Italy was beautiful, I really didn’t like how she spent most of the ride talking about herself. I probably won’t try rides with her again.
Overall, I feel that I generally enjoyed the iFit workouts more. The Peloton workouts felt like they had a lot more fluff without enough of the instruction that I have come to expect from my virtual trainers. And I just find that I’m more inspired by trail rides than rides in a studio, though I also liked the iFit studio rides more. From what I understand Peloton removed their outdoor rides and has no immediate plans to bring them back so that’s a bummer for my outdoorsy friends.
The iFit app is designed around the concept of auto-adjustment and true virtual coaching. It’s designed to work best with iFit compatible equipment where the app can adjust your speed, resistance, and incline depending on your abilities, what the coach has designed for the workout, and your heart rate metrics. By auto-adjusting you are encouraged to workout outside of your comfort zone as well as slow down when you need to. For me, it keeps me from taking the easy way out. While there is a leaderboard not much emphasis is placed on it and it’s pretty difficult to follow friends (I’ve heard you can do it but I think I have to do it through the website). But the app is great at keeping track of things like mileage, calories burned, effort, and workouts completed. They have recently added a Fit Score, which I think is a little bit analogous to Peloton’s Strive score though the Fit Score takes into account other factors besides just heart rate and cadence. There are treadmill, bike, elliptical, rower, yoga, strength, and meditation workouts. You also have the ability to create your own “street-view” workouts from anywhere in the world. If there’s a park you really like to run or bike in and you’re far away from it you can just input the address and create a route and you can workout there.
The Peloton app doesn’t have any inherent auto-adjust features, though the Peloton Bike+ does have auto-adjusting abilities. The app has *almost* full functionality while being run on iOS, on Android tablets you cannot get metrics like cadence. I say almost full functionality because the leaderboard is weird but you will get things like a Strive score and will be able to see your cadence to keep up with instructor cues during rides. So if you are metrics centric you’ll have your best experience with the Peloton app on an iPhone or iPad. Your profile page keeps track of how many workouts you’ve done and what types but it doesn’t really quantify things like calories burned and distance. But if you use the Peloton app on an iPhone and have an Apple Watch you can track your heart rate that way and get calories toward your activity ring, even if you don’t open a workout within the watch. They have strength (includes pilates and barre workouts), cycling, running, yoga, meditation, walking, cardio, and stretching workouts. Each of the categories offer filtering by things like music genre, type of workout, equipment used, and duration.
Overall I would say that the Peloton app is easier to navigate and offers more studio style workouts compared to the iFit app but iFit prides itself on the immersive quality of its workouts so it’s to be expected that they would have much more workouts outside. I also feel that Peloton targets women more than men with their emphasis on cycling, yoga, barre, pilates and the low weight used in strength workouts. While iFit seems to target the fit-focused adventurous (or wish they could be adventurous types), so strength workouts are more intense and while their is yoga, the yoga workouts aren’t as great as on other apps I’ve tried.
So Will I Keep the Peloton App?
The Peloton app was fun to give a try and I’m hoping now that I’ve tried it the peer-pressure to try it will die down. While I think the app is a lot of fun, I feel that it’s geared toward people who want fitness to flow into their life but not feel like it’s too much work. These people are busy with conference calls and going to happy hours they’re not all “fitness is life”. I respect those people, I even envy those people because I am fully fitness is life over here and it’s tough. The music just didn’t get me going very much and I just needed more out of the trainers especially in the beginning when I was figuring out how to ride. I found myself as the weeks went on wishing I was doing an iFit run or ride. Maybe if I had not had iFit to begin with I would have appreciated the Peloton experience more and I’ve heard of people who’ve tried iFit and disliked it and gone on to use the Peloton app happily. I think what it comes down to is that in my own mind I’m an athlete, I want to train in a way that translates to my real life and I want to have the escapism of the outdoor/immersive workouts. I just feel that iFit provides a lot more of that experience and I’ve learned so much as a result of my iFit workouts.
As far as equipment is concerned. I love that I have iFit compatible equipment so that I can use the auto-adjust features. And I personally feel that you get more bang for your buck from Proform or Nordictrack than you get from the Peloton equipment. You can get a Nordictrack treadmill with a 40% incline, while the Peloton treadmill has only a 12.5% incline. And ultimately you get the best Peloton experience with the Peloton equipment. While yes you can create a DIY Peloton experience, I found it cumbersome when trying to get all the metrics. If the metrics don’t matter to you then you can save a couple thousand dollars by getting a non-smart exercise bike from one of the several budget manufacturers, like Sunny Fitness. For me, my bike is just too complicated to make using the Peloton app a smooth and quick experience. It would often take about 5 mins just to get my rig set up and those 5 minutes count when you’re trying to squeeze in as many tasks as possible during nap time. Again I think something like the Proform 500 SPX would be a better bike from the Proform line to do a DIY for the Peloton app.
I’ve enjoyed adding a bike to my cardio regimen. It’s been great to have another option for when I’m not feeling like I can push as hard for a run and also to add more cardiovascular work during the week without putting a lot of added stress on my joints. I’m loving using iFit and plan to stick with them for as long as I have my treadmill and bike but you guys know me I’m always on the look out for the next thing in fitness tech. Let me know in the comments if you’re thinking of trying out the Peloton app or if you’re considering iFit. Also shoot me any other questions you have that maybe I didn’t cover.