The pandemic reality of 2020 has meant that for most of us, travel is off the table. But though our wings may be clipped for the foreseeable future, fitness enthusiasts have used this year to find a new way to see the world: Through their workouts.
According to Classpass‘s 2021 trends report, “fitness travel is in.” More than half of the platform’s members have tuned into digital classes taught in cities other than their own. This phenomenon has given users outside of major metros access to trainers from fitness hubs like New York and Los Angeles, and across the U.S. people are taking advantage of classes taught in places like London, Sydney, and Amsterdam.
“Being able to workout with people from different parts of the globe is giving people more diversity in their workouts because everyone has a different style and people do things differently in different places,” says Janine Delaney, a sports psychologist and wellness coach. Plus, she adds, this allows people (many of whom have been stuck alone in their homes for months on end) to connect with a community from all over the world, which makes the world feel smaller and helps them feel a little bit less alone in their experiences.
High-tech treadmills and spin bikes from legacy brands like Nordic Track and ProForm come with an iFit integration that allows users to run through different trails on seven continents and 50 countries using a built-in video screen and the resistance auto-adjusts based on the terrain. This means that instead of logging another mile in your living room, you get to feel like you’re trekking in Machu Picchu or on Mount Kilimanjaro. iFit also has a series of guided walking meditations that come with soothing audiovisual elements, like waves lapping on the beach or a breeze going through tall grass. Zwift, which creates immersive fitness video programming—and allows you to race roads around the world with real people—raised $450 million back in September, and is now valued at over $1 billion. The brand has its eyes on its first hardware in 2021.
“The gym factor was taken away from people, and the outdoor [workout] factor was taken away in certain places because it was impossible to social distance even on sidewalks, so [working out at] home became the solution,” says Colleen Logan, vice president of marketing at ICON Health and Fitness, the brand behind iFit, adding that the brand has seen a significant spike in users opting into their “global” workouts. Whether someone wants to run the beaches of Hawaii or cycle the Tour de France, “all they have to do is press start,” says Logan.
These escapist audiovisual effects have proven to be a great way for people to break from their usual (and by now, likely monotonous) workout routines. “From a mental standpoint, people are more motivated to exercise because it’s giving them something new to look at something to think about,” says Delaney of this type of fitness tech. “It allows them to visualize what could be possible when all of this passes and travel opens up, and I think people are very open and receptive to these types of experiences because any time you’re able to do something different with your workouts is a good thing.”
Digital fitness has progressed decades in a matter of months, and in addition to letting people work out in their living rooms, it’s also given them the opportunity to travel the world with their screens. “It helps people be more motivated in their workouts because we could all use a little escape right now,” says Delaney. Now, excuse me while I go figure out how to hike the Himalayas in my living room.
1. Nordic Track Commercial X32i, $3,799
Run your way around the world with Nordic Track’s newest treadmill, which has a 32-inch screen and connects to your headphones via blue tooth to really make you feel like you’re cruising through the alps. Plus, the treadmill adjust its speed and incline based on the trail you’re hiking—it’s as close as you can get to hopping on a plane and experiencing the real deal firsthand.
Shop now: Nordic Track Commercial X32i, $3,799
2. The MYX, $1,299
Unlike any studio (or at home) spin experience you’ve ever had, the MYX will have you biking through dozens of different places around the world. Plus, it comes in a chic white silhouette that makes it the perfect complement to any living room’s decor.
Shop now: The MYX, $1,299
3. ProForm Performance 600i Treadmill, $1,000
See the globe for $1,000 with this techy tread (less than the cost of a roundtrip ticket to actual Kilimanjaro), which has a 10- inch smart touch screen and is integrated with fast-adjusting speed and incline controls.
Shop now: ProForm Performance 600i Treadmill, $1,000
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