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How to Choose a Home Workout Platform

In the entire history of the fitness industry, consumers now have more choices than ever. But how to know which devices or services to spend your hard-earned money on? Get-Fit Guy interviews Colleen Logan of ICON Health & Fitness and professional cyclist George Hincapie to help cut through the hype. 

By
Brock Armstrong
6-minute read
Episode #538
The Quick And Dirty

When you are choosing which gear or online workout platform to purchase, there are a few things to keep in mind, including:

  • variety of content
  • variety of equipment and modalities
  • variety of price points
  • the company's track record and history

I have mentioned and shown the stationary bike that I use at home in some of my past episodes and workout videos. It is a ProForm Pro 22 studio bike that features the iFit workout platform. It is pretty compact, easy to move around, and has a big tablet screen that connects to my Bluetooth headphones and heart rate monitor. Suffice to say, it does me well. 

In a time when virtual and online training is at an all-time high, I spent a lot of time looking into not only which device I wanted to have cluttering up my home but also which platform I would need a subscription for to make the most of the device. 

Beyond iFit, I have subscriptions (many of them given to me for free) to more than a few platforms (including JRNY and AloMoves). And because I am nearly 50-years-old, I have a long history with various fitness platforms, starting with workouts on VHS tape. 

When I was presented with the opportunity to chat with Colleen Logan, Vice President of Marketing at ICON Health & Fitness, I jumped at it. Colleen has been working in the industry for nearly 20 years and has seen many fads come and go. 

The Home Fitness Equipment Industry

ICON Health & Fitness, headquartered in Logan, Utah, is a company that designs, manufactures, and sells treadmills, stationary bikes, and ellipticals as well as owning the iFit brand which I mentioned earlier. 

During our conversation, I asked Colleen how she feels about booming the online fitness industry. I figured it would be a dicey and perhaps even cutthroat situation but Colleen assured me that it is not.  “That's the beautiful thing right now is that the fitness market is absolutely exploding. It's always been a growth industry but today it's an exploding growth industry. We love the competition because more competitors talking about fitness and the need for fitness and the convenience of home fitness is [good for everyone] -- a rising tide lifts all boats.”

Interactive vs. Passive Workouts

One of the reasons I chose iFit for my home was due to the fact that it is interactive, not just passive. By that, I mean that it’s not like someone just took one of my old VHS workouts and streamed it over the internet. It actually reacts and changes with and for you. 

iFit is not like someone just took one of my old VHS workouts and streamed it over the internet. It actually reacts and changes with and for you.

Colleen is proud of iFit's competitive difference: “Back in the day, it was a videotape, and then it became a DVD, and then a CD, then downloadable workouts, and now streaming workouts. Our workouts at iFit technology are a level up from simple streaming. And we say that because, in addition to the workout that you receive (a video channel and audio channel), we also have signals that automatically adjust your fitness equipment. So if you're on a treadmill, it adjusts your speed and your incline and your decline. If you're on a cycle, it adjusts your resistance (some of our cycles also have incline and decline). If you're on one of our ellipticals, it adjusts resistance, incline, and decline.”

Colleen and I agreed that this technology is the closest thing (at this time) to having a real coach, in the room, working with you -- or out on the trail with you -- like I did the day before this interview when I was virtually riding with George Hincapie. George was a professional cyclist for 19 years. He raced in 17 Tour de Frances, five Olympic games, and several world championships. He's been retired for almost 10 years now, but of course he isn't sitting on the couch. Nowadays, he's training on a Nordic Track and the iFit platform.

Educational Workouts

During the ride I did with George, although we were just riding (virtually) through the countryside around where George lives, he gave a nearly non-stop masterclass in cycling technique. So what could have been a pretty boring ride, turned into a fascinating lesson on how to be a better cyclist.

“The iFit platform gave me the green light to be able to dispense advice for positioning and for fun workouts that you can do to try to become stronger on the bike, whether you're competitive cyclists or just want to burn some calories."

The thing that struck me was that I wasn't just riding along with George and learning from his encyclopedia-like knowledge of cycling. On top of that, he was also in control of my bike, increasing the resistance as we rode uphill and decreasing it when we went down. 

In another iFit cycle class, I rode with another trainer who spent most of our ride through Japan giving us a lesson in local history and culture. And one of the spin-studio classes I did the week before featured some great information about recovery and nutrition in between hard cycling intervals.

Are Virtual Workouts Applicable IRL?

I asked George if he would have used this technology back when he was training for the tour. “Oh, absolutely. I mean, the fact that you can actually see some of these climbs, on a screen, while being on a stationary bike, and feel the gradient and know which way the road is turning is pretty massive. I think it would have been a huge advantage to have something like that where you wouldn't have to spend a whole day flying to the Alps and seeing Alpe d'Huez for instance. Instead, you can see it on your screen on iFit.”

Personally, I have to admit that as a lifelong road and trail cyclist, I had a bit of a hard time adjusting to not having gears or breaks on the bike. It took me a least a week to get used to having to pedal constantly and not try to coast down hills. I also still haven't wrapped my head around how to ride faster when then are no gears on the bike. But perhaps this is just a matter of trying to teach an old cyclist new tricks. Check in with me again in a few months and I am sure I will get it sorted out.  

Some of the newer players on the scene may or may not have the lasting power of an older company like ICON and you may find yourself stuck with a device that no is no longer supported.

How to Choose?

Seeing as Colleen has been in the industry for so long, I asked her to give us some tips on how to choose a workout platform:

“I think the best way to go about choosing a platform for connected fitness is to know that variety is the opportunity to stay motivated and stay with your workout routine. iFit, for example, has live workouts, we have workouts that are shot and you stream on demand in the studio, we have workouts that we shoot on location all over the world, seven continents, more than 52 countries at this point. And then we also have workouts that you can create on your own using the Google map tool on the iFit website.”

“Then, frequently we're finding that consumers are looking for a variety in terms of the type of equipment they want to buy. So if you're a cyclist and you like cycling, you'll probably buy a cycle and that's great, but you also might want to add strength training to that. So look for a platform that also has strength training classes included.”

“And then it's just a personal consumer level. Look for the opportunity to mix and match. So if you're a cyclist and that's your thing, then you might end up buying the top-of-the-line cycle. Then if you want another piece of equipment, but you don't want to pay top-of-the-line for that, you might buy a really great mid-price point treadmill. So you have the beginnings of a terrific home gym, but you haven't splashed out for the top price point in both categories.“

So, there we have it. Look for a variety of content, a variety of equipment and modalities, and then a variety of price points. 

And finally, a tip from me is to look at how long a company has been in the business. Not to point any fingers but some of the newer players on the scene may or may not have the lasting power of an older company like ICON and you may find yourself stuck with a device that no is no longer supported. Just something to keep in mind.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Brock Armstrong Get-Fit Guy

Brock Armstrong was the host of the Get-Fit Guy podcast between 2017 and 2021. He is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute.