This Is the First Fitness Platform That Finally Made Me Feel Like I Was Working Out With My Friends Again

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Taking fitness classes with friends used to be one of my go-to social activities. But since the shift from in-person to at-home workouts, working out has become my new one-woman sport.

At first, I embraced the opportunity to focus on the solo workouts like to do, but since social distancing forced me to bid adieu to group cycling classes, I've missed out on a key ingredient to my overall happiness: human interaction (unless you count my dogs, who like to lie on my mat and aren't exactly the best accountability partners).

As someone who grew up playing competitive soccer, I thrive off competition, accountability, and the plain old friendship that comes with the game. So this whole one-woman show thing—though eye-opening—was starting to feel less and less fulfilling.

That's why I was so intrigued by the team aspect of AARMY's new online, at-home fitness program that brings the vibe of working out with others while sweating safely at home.

The concept was inspired by co-founder Akin Akman's formative years at tennis academy, where he learned what a powerful effect practicing with others can have on your mindset.

"The movement unlocks your mind," Akman says. "Getting support from your team, whether that’s virtually or in a room, it doesn’t matter—it's about tapping into that team energy, and encouraging each other as you grow." He's speaking my language.

Immediately, I was intrigued by the program's setup. Rather than scrolling through pages of random workouts, you align with a series goal each month. As the weekly workouts roll out, they focus on the mindset required for achieving that overarching goal—sort of like the inspirational quotes my coach shared at soccer practice would support our goals for the season.

This month's theme is "a new beginning," which focuses on getting started and building upon the strength and skills you already have. So with that, I was off to practice.

Keep reading for a closer look at this at-home fitness program, and find out why I don't plan on quitting any time soon.

Photo: co-founder, Angela Manuel-Davis at AARMY Cycle Practice

The sweat

Since I've been flying solo with my recent workouts, AARMY's biggest selling point for me was the teamwork aspect. Who doesn't love celebrating the moves you totally nailed with a friend? So, I asked my fellow Well+Good editor Kendall Wenaas to block off time in her calendar to do a practice with me.

I chose a 30-minute upper-body workout that turned my arms into a pot of cooked noodles (in the best way). In addition to feeling the burn everywhere above my waist, I'm convinced AARMY somehow spied on my own workout playlist, because I was straight jamming the whole workout.

Plus, instead of the typical "you got this" platitudes, coach Akman spoke like I was on the front mat in his practice, referring to us as part of the team, which felt empowering through all the reps. (There were a lot.)

Kendall promptly texted me post-workout: "I'm obsessed." Same, same. "I love that he sang along to the music, which made it feel more like I was actually in the class," she said. "And since he was sweating profusely with us, it made him seem motivational but also relatable." Safe to say, we have our lunch breaks planned for the foreseeable future.

Photo: co-founder, Akin Akman, at AARMY Practice

The mindset

Despite my love for team-oriented exercise, what I realized wasn't healthy was how competitive—and anxious—I'd get in those IRL group class settings (the comparison game is no joke, y'all).

But that's why AARMY is so committed to the practice concept. Walking into "practice" with your "coach" (not "class" with an "instructor") is supposed to feel like running a drill, not playing in the World Cup. That mindset immediately took the pressure off for me, and allowed the at-home fitness program to be a tool for tuning up my body and my mind.

"You’re not competing, it’s practicing," Akman says. "It changes the whole mindset to come in here and say, 'Let me stay in my lane and discover something new for myself.'" And that's exactly what I did. I leaned on my friend for encouragement and camaraderie, but I focused on myself when it came time to sweat.

This mindset gave me the inspo to try a workout I wouldn't usually opt for. My arm strength isn't inspiring to say the least, but I chose an upper-body practice to start building upon the muscle I do have. "Every body is an athlete," Akman says. "It’s all about perception. If you define what an athlete is, it’s somebody that is a professional mover." (*Changes LinkedIn title to Alex, Professional Mover*)

By tackling my workout with this open state of mind, I felt super productive post-workout to cross everything else off my to-do list—so it's the workout that keeps on working. Which, according to Akman, is the true purpose behind AARMY.

"It’s all about the unlocks," he says. "Once you start focusing on what you can build (versus what you can't), it becomes a different mindset." Don't mind me, I'm just over here planning out my next month of practices.

Sponsored by AARMY

Top photo: AARMY and Well+Good Creative

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