- At-home fitness continues to grow as more people prefer working out at home to paying gym dues or commuting to studios.
- A two-year-old fitness service called obé re-imagines the at-home workout by not only offering a diverse library of on-demand and live classes like boxing, yoga, and dance, but by connecting members with attentive and involved instructors.
- We tried obé to test this new approach ourselves and walked away impressed with the community it’s built with its members and instructors.
- obé currently offers a free one-month trial, instead of the standard 7-day trial, for anyone quarantined or self-quarantined due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
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As the at-home fitness craze continues to heat up, there’s been an influx of on-demand workout streaming services. Like the exercise VHS tapes of old, streaming workout classes give people an easy and effective way to improve their health and maintain their fitness from the comfort of their home. Instead of popping a tape into a VCR, people can simply boot up an app via their workout equipment or turn on the TV in their living room.
Despite this modern era of streaming, many workout services are just as reclusive as yesterday’s workout tapes. Though some have instructors calling out a member’s name as it pops up on a leaderboard, the chance of that instructor recognising a member’s face is rare. Any sense of a true connection ends when the workout does, and a lasting feeling of community is fleeting.
Ashley Mills and Mark Mullett, two former talent agents for Creative Artists Agency (CAA), envisioned the at-home fitness experience a different way. With a knack for content creation and years of relationship-building on their resumes, Mills and Mullett started obé fitness, an on-demand, live-streamed fitness service specializing in 28-minute workout videos.
The idea was to replicate the early days of the NYC boutique fitness scene but for people all over the country – and this didn’t mean producing the same revolving list of live-streamed classes as everyone else. A high-quality production was necessary but they also needed a specific type of instructor to not only lead those classes but to forge honest relationships with members, as well.
“We wanted to develop an immersive digital community that everyone felt a part of,” Mullett told Business Insider. “It wasn’t just about creating a service for people to take classes, we wanted them to feel genuinely connected to other members and instructors. Engagement in the community has always been important to us.”
Sweat, Define, Flow, Repeat
The service created by Mills and Mullett is fairly straightforward. Members queue up a workout of their choice, selecting from a wide variety of pre-recorded or live classes across three different categories: Sweat, Define, and Flow. Each class shows users the date it’s recorded, the type of routine it covers, and whether they will need a yoga mat, weights, resistance bands, or another type of equipment.
Within each category are a series of sub-workouts each class is based on. Sweat, a cardio-based routine, specialises in HIIT, cardio boxing, and dance classes. Define focuses on strength, with classes ranging from barre and pilates to full-body strength workouts and toning routines. Finally, there’s Flow, a set of yoga and stretch classes designed to improve flexibility and build muscle.
Members have access to it all, so they can pick and choose whether they want a cardio-heavy dance routine or a more subdued but still effective yoga sculpt class. There’s even a set of filters that show specific classes for prenatal members, or someone wanting a shorter, 10-minute express class.
Turn up your living room
Regardless of the workout you choose, each obé routine is a wire-to-wire fitness experience. While this doesn’t necessarily mean the intensity stays at an 11 from 0:00 to the end of the class, expect little to no downtime while in session – and a whole hell of a lot of sweat.
Though this is the point of almost any on-demand fitness class, what obé manages to do is keep the 28 minutes varied enough that doing the same class back-to-back wouldn’t feel like a chore. With a library of available classes at your fingertips, repeating isn’t necessary but the fact it wouldn’t feel repetitive shows how attentive obé was in creating a high-energy fitness routine that’s not just sweat-inducing but enjoyable – the upbeat music helps push the workouts along, as well.
Getting the most out of any given class comes down to two parts: keeping up with its consistently energetic pace and learning the moves necessary to a specific workout. What might seem like a foreign movement in a dance-specific class becomes second nature the second, third, or fourth time it comes back around in the routine.
The quick changes in technique allow you to constantly work different parts of your body and contribute to each workout’s variety. Two separate classes focusing on the same routine also feel entirely different – i.e. Tuesday’s cardio boxing class looks nothing like Friday’s. The instructors are different but so, too, is the workout.
The obé difference
To someone who’s yet to take an obé class, it’d be easy to lump the brand into a growing lot of similar on-demand fitness apps. I certainly did.
Before joining Mark and Ashley for a morning workout at an event in New York City, I assumed I’d seen this model before. There are medium- to high-intensity workout classes focusing on a variety of interval training and cardio exercises to improve the fitness of its members. It’s a model that works and a model that gets real results – it’s a model that’s familiar.
While the DNA of obé is certainly rooted in that tried-and-true formula, Mills and Mullett took familiarity a step further. The final product still gets results but not just in a traditional health and fitness sense. It’s not about kicking your butt for 30 minutes to get you into shape but rather,obé prioritises relationships and connections just as much as it prioritises health and fitness.
As I jumped into one of the workouts, a mixture of aerobics, dance, and shadow boxing, I could easily recognise that attention to fitness. It took only a few minutes for me to start breaking a sweat and a few more for me to learn the choreography. I threw jabs at an invisible punching bag one moment before doing hesitation squats into star jumps the next.
Though this workout was a longer 45-minute routine, the energy of obé’s 28-minute classes carried over. Instructors knew members by both name and face, rallying them through each step of the routine with encouraging words or enthusiastic fist pumps. The routine was essentially a roulette-style workout – boxing here, dance there, a round of plyometrics – and the instructors jumped in and out of the main stage to work out alongside us, the intensity of their motivation a welcome sight.
As the longer workout effectively tired out those in attendance, the energy levels of each member still stayed as high as it had been when I walked in. When the routine ended, members high-fived each other while laughing alongside the instructors – and they’d have jumped into another 45-minute class if it started right then.
What stuck out was how it looked like this same gathering occurred every Saturday morning – it was a collection of friends sharing how their weeks went and enjoying each other’s company. And while these same people may actually take digital classes with each other every weekend, most of them had never met before.
It was Mark and Ashley’s vision of community and family in action; an ethic they developed and now live by, and something they leave up to the obé instructors to implement.
Obé’s trainer trademark
With a trainer roster of 27 (including one duo of sisters) people, obé’s instructors are the brand’s lifeblood. They’re responsible for leading the many workout classes as well as facilitating and maintaining relationships with members. I saw firsthand their energy instructing a class but after speaking to a few members, it’s clear the effort they put in outside the studio isn’t a gimmick.
To obé member, Valerie Branam, that connection and community means everything, even if it was mostly unexpected when she signed up.
“I can reach out to the trainers any time I want, and they actually respond back and talk to me directly,” Branam told Business Insider. “They ask me how I’m doing or how my day is. I didn’t expect that kind of communication at all. Other members even reach out to see how I’m doing and check in on me. I’ve made real, genuine friends through this.”
Owners of any fitness company can spend hours talking about creating a community or establishing a family – they’re commonly used buzzwords when you want people to feel comfortable participating in your product. But obé looks past that cliché and succeeds because it feels truly authentic.
Even the co-founders are as front-and-centre in the makeup of the brand as the instructors are. Just as members come to expect a certain general aesthetic in the classes – an energetic trainer flanked by neon lighting and upbeat popular music – they expect both Mark and Ashley to be present, as well.
It’s something that was on full display during my time at the class, too. Not only did the two of them participate in the workouts but while talking with me after, they’d pause to take time to mingle with members, even if it was just to enjoy their company for a few minutes. You’d assume they’d all been close friends for years. In some sense, they had been.
An affordable at-home workout
With a diverse array of on-demand and live-streamed classes, and a roster of instructors intent on developing genuine connections,obé has managed to carve out a unique spot for itself in the world of at-home fitness services.
It doesn’t break the bank, either. Membership costs just $US27 per month or $US199 per year, making it less expensive than most gym or fitness studio memberships. And any class can be taken at any time.
Maybe you want to do a cardio boxing class at midnight or a yoga sculpt workout at 6 a.m. It’s completely up to you and the obé interface is available whenever. It’s perfect for anyone who works from home or those who want to avoid the high cost of joining a gym or boutique studio. Ultimately, the value is in its versatility.
The obé website advertises itself as a live and on-demand fitness service offering unlimited access to daily live workout routines, as well as 4,000+ on-demand classes. While it certainly delivers on that, the entirety of obé is much more than a blurb on its website. It’s a community-driven fitness experience that’s as much about the sweat-soaked at-home workouts as it is the connections and friendships built along the way.
Editor’s note: In response to the spread of the novel coronavirus, obé currently offers a
free one-month trial
instead of the standard 7-day trial it advertises on its website.
The bottom line
Obé is a sum of its parts. On one side is the extensive library of on-demand and live-streamed classes that are designed to make you break a sweat in under 30 minutes. The other side is the community-driven network of members and instructors, a family-like group that treats each other like lifelong friends.
When you have people in your corner that are attentive and involved in both your life and fitness journey, the hard workouts become a little easier. The obé model masters this and offers its users an inexpensive alternative to fitness boutiques, the convenience of working out at home, and the priceless feeling of an involved community.
- Should you try it? Yes. The at-home fitness space is filled with a variety of apps that only offer parts of what obé gives its users, often for a higher price. The ability to take a cardio boxing class one day, a yoga intensive class the next, and a strength training class after that gives obé impressive versatility. When you include the community-driven aspect of its involved trainers and friendly members, you get an at-home workout service that’s worth every penny of its $US27/month or $US199/year price tag.
- What are your alternatives? Brands like Peloton or ClassPass offer their own selection of on-demand classes, but the finished product is slightly different. Peloton gives users access to a library of yoga, bootcamp, running, or cardio classes (in addition to cycling) and you don’t need a Peloton product at home to use it. ClassPass offers a variety of on-demand videos as well, though, for both, the instructor/member relationships aren’t at the same level as obé.
Pros: Community-driven fitness experience values breaking a sweat as much as it does the connection with instructors, cheaper than a gym or boutique fitness class membership, thousands of on-demand videos, and plenty of varied workout routines to keep workouts fresh
Cons: Some of the classes require a lot of space to move around
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