Apple Fitness+ launched in the middle of a pandemic, at a time when working out at home wasn’t just novel but necessary.
Now, a year and a half in, I was able to visit the Santa Monica studios where Apple Fitness+ classes are created and sent out to the world.
Since I’ve been using Apple Fitness+ since day one, I’m familiar with how it all works. But I was surprised to find out about a neat new feature I didn’t know about, and now I’m obsessed. More on that a bit later.
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Our tour began with a warm welcome from the entire staff at the Apple Fitness+ studios. It felt like an Apple store opening, with the entire cast, crew and producers clapping to welcome in a small group of invited journalists and YouTubers to the studios.
They showed us how the workout classes are crafted from start to finish.
The studio is one of the most high-tech robotic camera studios in the world, with more than a dozen automated cameras hanging from the ceiling. They can move all over the room to capture shots from any angle. In fact, I was surprised to learn that every fitness class is recorded in the same studio. It was designed so 100% of the space can be used.
Since I love ending each workout with a mindful cooldown, I was especially curious if the plants behind the fitness trainer were real. Turns out, they are, and in typical Apple fashion, they are all species that are indigenous to Southern California.
One secret: that’s not actual sunlight streaming in over the plants. It’s special lights that mimic the sun so classes can be recorded any time of the day. They also make the plants grow.
We watched a trainer record a quick intro for her class, then we headed upstairs to the control room to see what it looks like from the production point of view.
I was surprised to learn that classes are shot in real time. There is basically no stopping for re-takes. Instructors work with producers to create their own classes and consult with a music specialist to craft a playlist that matches the mood of the workout.
If you’ve ever taken an Apple Fitness+ workout, you know that there are always three instructors onscreen. One is leading the workout; the others are doing modifications for beginners and advanced users.
Trainers mix a good amount of sign language into their classes as well. We learned that every Apple Fitness+ trainer takes sign language classes every Friday.
In real life, the trainers are just as energetic and bubbly as you would imagine. We shared some laughs about the amount of real-life sweat generated in the studios and I asked them if they were ever tempted to just walk home in the amazing Nike wardrobe they have access to. (The answer? No.)
Speaking of that wardrobe, they took us into the dressing rooms where the trainers get ready for each workout and there was workout gear hanging from ceiling to floor, all organized by size and color. Trainers are free to pick out their own clothes for each workout.
The best part: a giant chest of Apple Watch bands in every color and style you could imagine.
The Apple Watch is the star of the show here: Apple Fitness+ requires users to have one, along with a $10 monthly subscription. The classes are really a way to help users close their rings, which represent daily activity.
“We’re thrilled with the response we are getting from our customers,” said Jeff Williams, Chief Operating Officer at Apple. He also leads the team responsible for Apple Watch.
“It’s now on so many people’s wrists and we knew from the beginning that we had an opportunity to help people live a better day,” said Williams.
Classes range from 5 to 45 minutes, and you can take them in about any category you can think of: strength, dance, rowing, HIIT, core, Pilates, cycling, treadmill, yoga, and meditation.
My personal favorites are strength, HIIT, core, treadmill, and mindful cooldown.
One new offering I wasn’t aware of is called Time to Run. These are audio guided runs that take place in a variety of cities worldwide. You run with an instructor who coaches you along the way, telling stories about that place and even sending photos of points of interest to your Apple Watch screen. There’s also a version for walking. I highly recommend trying them out.
The thing you’ll notice about Apple Fitness+ is the quality. It’s a step above most workout classes, no pun intended. Compared to Peloton’s classes, Apple Fitness+ feels more planned and detailed. Still, I prefer Peloton’s cycling classes, which makes sense, the company invented the genre of digital cycling.
“I think that’s one of the things that distinguishes Apple in general is the amount of thought and care that we put into our products,” said Williams.
There is a marked difference between Apple’s instructors and Peloton’s. While Peloton’s instructors have a specific personality and style, tell stories about their personal lives and even swear, Apple Fitness+ instructors keep it more general, light and bright.
One other unique aspect to Apple Fitness+ is how metrics from Apple Watch appear on screen in real time as you work out. This includes time, distance, calories, and heart rate. This way, you are motivated throughout the entire class and can even see an animation of when you close your rings.
Overall, the tour of Apple Fitness+ gave me an even greater respect for the thought and care that goes into every class. Inclusivity, diversity, and motivation are common themes throughout the studios and it’s clear that Apple understands the importance of using its products to promote mental and physical strength in addition to keeping us connected.