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In an age when every technological advancement is bent on ensuring that you need never leave the house again, the idea of having to make an outing to break a sweat can feel downright primitive. Group classes may be a growing segment of the U.S. fitness market, but many Americans still choose to work out at home, and unlike stationary bikes and treadmills, the newest tech is decidedly sleek, noninvasive, and destined never to become a coatrack.
Mirror, a wall-mounted panel that acts as a personal trainer, was created by Brynn Putnam (a former New York City Ballet dancer and owner of the HIIT studio Refine Method ) on the belief that convenience is critical to the future of fitness, but that users are hungry for higher-quality content, instruction, and experiences than they can reliably find through a casual Google search. (A crush of funding, favorable press, and celebrity fans proved Putnam’s hypothesis correct.)
Mirror users select a workout from options like HIIT, cardio, strength, yoga, barre, Pilates, and boxing, and follow the directives of their trainer (human or digital rendering, as you prefer). The program syncs with a Bluetooth monitor to track heart rate, calories burned, and other biometric data for fully personalized feedback. And unlike former infomercial-led fads, like Thighmaster or Bowflex, that are limited to only one style of exercise, Mirror, which costs $1,495 plus a $39 monthly subscription plan, can roll with any trend top trainers invent next. Or as Putnam put it, “We know that we can’t predict the future, so we’ve built a platform that allows us to react to it as quickly as possible.”
Mirror is not alone in the wall-mounted workout market. A compact machine that says it packs a weight room’s worth of equipment through the use of electromagnetic resistance, Tonal was created by Aly Orady, who designed supercomputing and telecom gear for 15 years before he turned his attention to the gym. Tonal, which counts Serena Williams among its investors, was created to “take the guesswork out of strength training” by coaching users the way a personal trainer would. The $2,995 machine (which can simulate up to 200 pounds of weight via retractable arms and pulleys) offers multi-week, goal-focused workout series as part of its $49 monthly subscription plan.
Revitalizing the at-home sweat session is not exactly reinventing the wheel. “We watched our moms work out to Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons, and I remember my grandfather had little booklets by Jack LaLanne that he would work out to,” obé fitness co-founder Mark Mullett says of himself and Ash- ley Mills, who created obé, a fitness-centered streaming service, in an attempt to combine roll-out-of-bed convenience with the pumped-up sense of community of a traditional group class. And with no equipment needed and a $27 monthly subscription fee, it definitely ranks as the most approachable new offering in the category. Obé offers cardio, strength, and flexibility classes, on demand and live-streamed daily. “The live element is so important because when you hear your name called out, and you’re surrounded by a community that you’ve gotten to know online,” says Mills, “there really is nothing that’s more powerful.”