Peloton Killed the Cardio Star


The problem with old home workouts, was even if you ignored the terrible music and often watered down movements, you quickly ended up debating a load of laundry, making dinner or just sitting down to watch. For the last 30 years these videos were short fixes, never considered better than the real thing. Part of the so-called “Pain that came with the gain” was the struggle to get to the gym in the first place (traffic, parking, baby-sitters, gym-bags). Home workouts were like Mrs. Watts, the high school substitute teacher of fitness. They helped you through the day, but you ended up making fun of it, rather than learning anything.

Even the big stars had a hard time making in-home fitness productions pencil out and the only way to create truly awesome in-home experience was invest largely. You had to be a Tami Lee Webb, Jane Fonda or Kari Anderson to know you could invest in the quality necessary to see a return.

As a gym fitness professional, you were never concerned about your members simply choosing home-videos over a live class if proximity and affordability were no issue. Having filmed many such DVD’s, I never once lost a customer to a “home version” of myself.

Over the past 10 years, many groups have made huge leaps in improving home workout experiences. Until recently I wasn’t concerned, because while those experiences were getting better, I could still provide my members a better energy and motivation along with the community of their fellow classmates. As Instructors we are now entertainers, DJ’s, and have loyal fan clubs that follow us around coined #fittribes. The change in what all we offer has helped grow our role in members lives.

Then, about two years ago, the word “Peloton” started springing up everywhere. For the first time, my clients were bragging in the locker room about their new bikes and the incredible home workout experience. This was new. The number of clients I know who talk about riding at home, showing off rankings on their smartphones, is growing daily.

Is this a problem? Should we, the group fitness instructor be worried?

I think so, because we have seen this story before.

It used to be that popping in a VHS of “Pretty Woman” was a subpar experience to seeing it on the big screen – it took 10 minutes to rewind the tape for goodness sake. Now, with an “on-demand lifestyle”, your 72 inch plasma TV, fancy home audio system, and food delivery through your phone make your home movie experience quite enjoyable – plus you can hit pause any time to use the bathroom. It is no wonder movie theatres have to woo you in with blankets, recliners, and drinks delivered to your seats to keep you coming back.  

Netflix went around the retail video chains and went straight into your TV. Amazon went around retailers and directly to your front door step. We now see Peleton copying the same model. Flanking big retail gyms, and going directly into living rooms. The sleek engineered new bikes could be the next fitness fad that comes and goes.  We all know there have been large fitness tools that went from Hit to Hanger (literally hanging clothes). In this case, we have a new product coupled with a highly disruptive process that feels like another Airbnb, Amazon, Uber, Netflix. The product is popular, but the process of on-demand teaching and content, much like an Amazon, is a true disruptor. This time it feels different. Much like amazon didn’t stop with books and movies, I have a feeling the bike is just first chapter towards cementing the process for staying in your home for good. Once Amazon got good at delivering books and CD’s to your door in two days, moving to other product lines was an easier step. Peleton will likely follow a similar path, before even accounting for all the other competition in this genre of in-home exercise. 

Of course just copying another process won’t suffice in keeping Peleton in your house, unless the product delivers. And here’s the scary part … it does!

Peloton instructors are beyond entertainers and motivators. They are both inspirational and aspirational, young, but not too young. Attractive but edgy. Peleton mastered the art of hiring in a few short years.

They also created a community many thought wasn’t possible, with an on-line interface that has clients sending photos when they miss my class and instead jump on their Peleton.  

Skipping class and working at home use to be drag, now it’s a chance to BRAG, with verified accomplishments.

What’s wrong with your clients having incredible home workouts? Absolutely nothing, we want them to workout wherever they are. Our motto as an industry is to “inspire the world to move.” So any exercise is good in theory.

Is there a way to get the consumer to both workout at home with these incredible hybrid brands but still remain our members and clients? Only if we get our act together.

Of course, in the health club environment we can provide the truly personal experience with everything from great front desk staffing, and personal relationships. In effect we create the 3rd place, much like the Starbucks model offers. There’s something to be said for walking in a room and having your Norm moment where “everyone knows your name.” Or when we notice a member hasn’t shown up to class in a while and reach out to assure their return. This is the basis for how we’ve continued to grow as an industry for so many years. Personalization could very well save us.

The issue you face is that Peleton also figured out this puzzle. They come straight into your home, provide an incredible workout, and remember to wish you a happy birthday when their done. Additionally, they have created a deep bench of viral stars that can feel like your local barista that knows your order and your name after a few sessions.

Maybe you are right, and those Peloton’s will be collecting dust in a year much like so many big hits of the past. But when I see these texts from my Fittribe members excited to miss the gym, I sense a storm is coming. If you are like me and want to surf the coming wave, I have the playbook to work through this trend and even grow as they do. There are numerous companies moving into this category so let’s not be the Blockbuster Video in a story that hasn’t fully been told.


  For a few tips, drop me your email and we can talk solutions. You can also follow me on Insta @murphmadden or twitter #murphmadden

6 thoughts on “Peloton Killed the Cardio Star”

    1. Right? We’ve have surfed many changes before and this time I just want us to look at where the live experience could be improved and work hand in hand with digital version at home. My thinking is too at improving instructors skill-sets, front desk communication and then other interface options. Thank you for taking the time to read!


  1. Peloton is the one at home workout that concerns me also. I mean we cycle in a room with dimmed lighting and all the newest bikes have personalized information on a console in front of you. People are used to shopping at home with Amazon and if Peloton is picking these amazing instructors, why wouldn’t people want to do their workout at home? Everything these days is about effectiveness and efficiency. If you can get a great cycling workout at home, you’ve saved the time driving to your local fitness facility.


    1. I know right Amy? It was the double whammy of them really delivering and the convenience factor that made me think we need to look at shifting business models whether a JCC or 24 Hour to understand how to retain membership through this next evolution of fitness. Let’s keep talking…


  2. So interesting you wrote about this. Just attended les Mills seminar on virtual workouts. They site research that adding virtual to gx schedule can be gateway to live workouts and increase member retention. Could peloton at home be used somehow to draw people to live classes?


  3. As someone who “has lost a customer to a video version of herself”, I know this is just the beginning! Fortunately I believe the net effect will be positive- more ppl working out and trying new movement in the privacy of their own homes. For those of us in the biz of motivating others via group fitness, we hedge our losses by going online 😉


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