Illustrations by Max Guther

What Peloton Means for the Future of Fitness

The workout giant is changing at-home exercise — and spawning a flurry of copycats

Michelle Ruiz
Published in
14 min readApr 15, 2019

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IIt’s 6:32 a.m. on a recent Tuesday, and the living room of my New York City apartment is dimly lit. My husband and children are mercifully still asleep, and I’m about to Peloton. Yes, it has become a verb, like Google or Xerox.

Instead of mounting the company’s signature indoor cycling bike, I prop my iPhone on the family media console, tap into the Peloton app, and start streaming a 30-minute Pop Yoga Flow class.

It’s a bit like a silent disco: Ariana Grande’s breakup bop “Thank U, Next” pours into my AirPods while Anna Greenberg, a cheerful instructor wearing red lipstick, her blonde hair in a topknot, leads me onto my knees and into spine-curving cat and cow poses. Following Greenberg, I balance on one knee, swivel to the side, and stretch my right arm overhead, just as Grande’s chorus — “I’m so fuckin’ grateful for my ex” — drops.

This is how Peloton does yoga — with the same high-energy, telegenic instructors and catchy playlists, minus the pricey hardware. According to my stream, seven other Peloton users are also taking Greenberg’s class at the same time I am. I could “high-five” any of them if I felt like it.

“Peloton makes yoga so much more accessible,” Kristin McGee, another Peloton yoga instructor, tells Elemental. “You can practice with all-star instructors and still have a sense of community without leaving your house.”

While the fitness industry was caught up in the luxe brick-and-mortar boutique fitness boom of the early to mid-aughts — creating endorphin cults around SoulCycle, Flywheel, and Barry’s Boot Camp — Peloton was pedal strokes ahead. The company built a $2,000 indoor cycling machine — referred to by one blogger as “the fucking Acura of spinning bikes” — and launched a high-tech, at-home workout revolution. People in a given class can follow each other, share virtual high-fives, and even video chat while riding together in real time. By new industry estimates, Peloton now has more riders nationwide than SoulCycle—data the latter company disputes. The company has raised close to $1 billion in financing, in part from tech growth equity firm TCV — the same company…

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Michelle Ruiz
Elemental

Freelance journalist for Vogue, Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal, and Medium.