Remember 2019, when no one really did a home workout unless they were really stuck? For me, training at home was almost exclusively reserved for annual gym maintenance periods, days too wet for a run, and that week (is that even correct?) between Christmas and New Year when no-one knows what day it is or what the hell is going on. My garden HIIT sessions were consistent only enough to warrant the accumulation of mum’s 80s ankle weights and an old yoga mat I got for Christmas when I was 11 and is not at all big enough for an adult, and dad’s frustration at me ripping up the lawn during my more aggressive sessions was aired maximum twice a year.
Enter 2020. A year of very many challenges, not least the bizarre stocking-up of items never previously considered anywhere LIKE stocking-up worthy. I won’t mention the obvious (loo roll. ok I went there, sorry), but the more niche shortages extended far beyond the aisles of Waitrose. When the gyms closed their doors on 23rd March 2020, kit became a real bargaining chip. The black market went wild – I heard rumours of sole (not a pair. SOLE) kettlebells going for circa £80, and in desperation I actually joined a waitlist for some particularly overpriced dumbbells with a gold finish. It was the sort of bling, super crazy extra kit that I would never normally even contemplate, but the waitlist was (understandably) somewhat shorter than those for the more socially-acceptable equipment.
We got by in a blur of 5km challenges, compost-bag deadlifts, and tik tok handstand nominations, and when gyms re-opened on 4th July 2020, the message was clear: we’d done the hard part at home, so why bother schlepping into (and paying for) an actual gym, when we all had borderline-pro workout spaces at home.
I’ve been building my home gym over the past few months, and probably the most noticeable change has been the arrival of my latest piece of equipment: my Echelon bike. The reason for this is two-fold. Yes, the bike is easily my most sizeable piece of kit, but also my monthly membership represents access to literally thousands of classes on-demand, plus the community and the team spirit that my home workouts had hitherto been lacking.
I was pitching the idea of dad following suit (dad is notoriously difficult to buy for, and since his birthday and Christmas fall within a month of each other, any gift-giving inspiration is always greatly received by relatives. He also happens to really love cycling) to mum, and the hardest sell was the cost. So I broke it down. Say you do a gym-based class three times a week, at an average of £20 per class. Travel etc not withstanding, that’s around £240 per month. Echelon’s platform gives access to 14 live-stream classes per day plus thousands of pre-recorded classes for £39.99 (can be as little as £24.99 per month the longer you commit). Of course, if you go down the spinning route a la moi, you have the cost of the bike too. Which is £1199, aka circa £100 per month for the first year. So technically – TECHNICALLY – you’re saving £100 per month.
If you really strip it all down, Echelon is a class-based fitness subscription. Specialist trainers from around the world lead an array of different classes – some in multiple languages. Although primarily known for their spin classes, there are plenty of other categories to choose from, ranging from the ones that require the equipment (bike or row), to the more traditional at-home classes like HIIT, yoga, and barre. The user-friendly interface allows you to filter classes by ability level, time, instructor or music genre, and you get access to them all, which is kind of cool if you’re a commitment-phobe / fickle / easily bored like me.
I get the whole ‘yeh but it’s not the same as training with people’ thing, and have probably even quoted the old ‘team training’ thang whilst in the throws of class-based passion. But with social distancing here to stay, a virtual team has begun to feel like more team than a physical team does. If that makes sense.