Apple’s fitness instructors may never become Peloton-style stars, but the company is doing more for inclusivity than its upstart counterpart

Small rectangles with stills of workouts from Apple Fitness Plus
A peek into the offerings on Fitness Plus. Apple
  • Apple spotlighted some of the trainers from its fitness platform during the iPhone 13 launch event.
  • Its trainers aren’t household names like Peloton’s, who have become celebrities in their own right.
  • But Apple is positioning its platform as less intimidating and more inclusive than Peloton.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In the Apple world of fitness, everyone is friendly, no one is intimidatingly hot, and it’s OK if you want to work out in your pajamas.

That’s what Apple portrayed during its annual product event this week, where the tech giant debuted its latest batch of iPhones, Apple Watches, and iPads. It was there that Apple showed off the latest updates to Apple Fitness Plus, its in-house fitness subscription, which included new Pilates classes and workouts to help you get ready to ski this winter.

But Apple also provided a rare opportunity for non-subscribers to hear directly from the trainers themselves – Sam Sanchez, Jessica Skye, and Bakari Williams, who teach classes like strength, yoga, and cycling, and who explained the merits of letting Apple help you get in shape.

It’s hard not to compare what Apple is doing with Peloton, the 9-year-old fitness upstart that turned its trainers into household names. Over the course of nearly a decade, Peloton has grown to a nearly $US32 ($AU44) billion, publicly traded enterprise built alongside of, and perhaps because of, the stardom of trainers like Cody Rigsby and Robin Arzon.

The Peloton trainers are mostly glamorous, young, and svelte, and many of them have transcended the screens attached to the $US1,500 ($AU2,043) or $US2,500 ($AU3,406) bikes: Rigsby is about to be a contestant on this season of “Dancing with the Stars,” and Ally Love – who teaches a range of classes including spin, dance, and pilates – just hosted a five-day wedding bash in Trinidad and Tobago, complete with thoughtful product placements, its own social media embargo, and a feature in Vogue.

So in Apple giving its own trainers a spotlight during an event like the iPhone debut, it seems as though the company might be hoping to tap into a bit of the Peloton magic. The stream was available to view on Apple TV, Apple’s own website, and YouTube – on YouTube alone, it was viewed by more than 16 million people.

It’s hard to say if can Apple recreate that level of stardom. As the author and journalist Anne Helen Petersen pointed out in her newsletter, Culture Study, the Peloton trainer fame is unique in that users’ consumption of them isn’t passive – you’re tuned into the workout and strapped onto the bike, not distracted by your phone or the TV.

“You’ve shown them your worst and best self,” Petersen wrote. “They’ve piloted you through frankly melodramatic episodes of athletic exertion. They might not know it, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t experienced it while staring directly at their faces.”

She went on to say that the “continued cultivation of intimacy” via trainers’ on-air personas and taglines, and the “Peloton family” mantra, all makes users feel like they’re a part of something.

What’s more, most users have already made a significant financial committement to Peloton. While Peloton classes are available to anyone via a $US40 ($AU54)-per-month subscription, most of its subscribers have shelled out for a bike or treadmill: The company said during its most recent earnings call that it has 2.33 million connected fitness subscribers, versus 874,000 digital subscribers.

Woman in 'Peloton Wife' ad, at left, and a women working out in Apple Fitness Plus ad
The infamous ‘Peloton Wife’ ad, left, and a still from Apple’s most recent promotional video. Peloton; Apple

So while Apple’s own Bakari or Sam may not become household names in the same way, Apple may be after a slightly different type of fandom. The Apple trainers are all fit and pleasing to look at, but they bring a different type of energy to the table, one Apple promotes on its website, which proclaims “All motivation. No intimidation.”

“Apple Fitness+ trainers are welcoming, unique individuals, chosen as much for their friendly approach as for their expertise,” Apple says. “They don’t just create their own workouts and meditations, they weigh in on each other’s – and even appear in their videos. It’s a collaboration that lifts the whole team up.”

What’s more, Apple appears to have made a committement to inclusivity that you don’t always see in the shimmering world of Peloton. Like Peloton, Apple’s trainers represent a range of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds, but it also employs multiple trainers over 50. Amir Ekbatani, who teaches group fitness classes on Apple’s platform, lost his leg below the knee. Trainers incorporate American Sign Language into their classes.

And Apple’s most recent promotional video for the platform, titled “Welcome to the Club,” doesn’t portray only lithe, wealthy people participating in its workouts. Unlike “Peloton Wife,” the users Apple seems to be targeting have a range of body types and income levels more in line with, well, regular people. Of course, Apple requires that you buy an Apple Watch Series 3 or newer to use the $US10 ($AU14)-per-month subscription. While the 4-year-old smartwatch starts at $US200 ($AU272), new Watches will cost $US400 ($AU545) or more, and that kind of financial committement, while not as high as Peloton’s, isn’t realistic for all users.

In the past, Apple has been an exclusive, luxury company, a reputation it’s been working to change over the past few years – and perhaps the way it’s positioning its fitness service is another piece of that puzzle.