My Peloton ‘girl crush’ brings me much more joy than the gym ever could

Antonia Hoyle
·5 min read
The relationship with the Peloton instructors 'feels personal' despite being via a video link - Andrew Fox/The Telegraph
The relationship with the Peloton instructors 'feels personal' despite being via a video link - Andrew Fox/The Telegraph

The beautiful brunette’s body is showcased in the tiniest of crop tops and tightest of leggings. Playing music to rouse me as I wake, she stresses how grateful she is to have me with her. I stare back into her eyes, smitten. Our time together is so precious that, though I may be a quivering wreck when we part, I’m already planning our next encounter.

What started as a minor infatuation with Olivia Amato, my virtual Peloton instructor, has morphed into fully fledged obsession. The attraction isn’t merely physical – although what I wouldn’t do for that tiny waist, that washboard stomach, those steely thighs … but emotional, too. Olivia sees me at my worst and celebrates my achievements with the enthusiasm of a devoted spouse.

OK, I admit, sometimes I cheat. Jess, Ally, Kendall and Tunde are similarly stunning and seem to care just as much. So what if I’ve never actually met these women, and am but a name on their “leaderboard” of disciples, peddling furiously from front rooms around the world at 6am? They’ve turned exercise into a quasi-spiritual experience, the likes of which I never experienced in two decades of regular gym attendance.

So you can keep your communal workout studios, your taped-off water fountains and weight machines surrounded by wipes. My Peloton girl crushes bring me far more joy than I ever gleaned as a gym junkie – without so much as leaving my home.

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Membership of the stationary bike brigade – which includes Rishi Sunak, Michelle Obama, President Joe Biden and Usain Bolt – grew by 172 per cent last year, when the appeal of exercising at home was obvious. And I doubt the hordes who signed up during lockdown will be in a rush to unclip their cycling shoes now gyms are open again. As American businessman John Foley, who co-founded Peloton in 2012, put it recently: “Gyms are pretty challenged, there’s Covid obviously, but when you can get better classes at home that start when you want them to, why would you not do that?” One friend has just had a “Peloton room” built into her loft extension.

Scoff, if you must, that Peloton riders are misguided fools who mistake the £2.1 billion company’s woke capitalism for genuine concern for their well-being; that anyone who forks out £1,750 for an exercise bike and a further £39 a month for the privilege of being able to ride it deserves those pedals putting where the sun doesn’t shine; and that our slavish devotion borders on cult-like blindness. Perhaps we are a cult (although, FYI, our masters refer to us as a family) but I, along with 4.4 million other members worldwide, am fully committed.

Despite criticism of Peloton’s prohibitive pricing, subscription is no more expensive than the average London gym membership, which I relinquished after moving out of the capital in July 2018. Refusing to drive to the local gym from our new home in the countryside, I made do with regular runs, a DIY weights routine and an exercise bike my parents’ friends kindly bequeathed us instead.

Then running caused injuries and solitary bicep curls in the kitchen lost their appeal. When our old exercise bike broke at Christmas I realised it was time for a new routine, and when a friend bought a Peloton my interest was piqued.

My husband and I had saved £2,610 – £45 a month each – on cancelled Fitness First membership since leaving London: enough to cover the cost of the bike and necessary shoes. Unlike a regular gym membership, the £39 monthly Peloton subscription can be split between unlimited family members, and doesn’t just provide bike classes on the screen fixed behind the handlebars, but barre, strength, Pilates and yoga workouts, too.

While the male instructors are undoubtedly attractive – a prerequisite, perhaps, for front-of-house Peloton staff – it is the Stateside female instructors I am drawn to, their punishing classes not all that make my heart race.

Their workout gear – skimpy, cut out, never worn twice – is accessorised with Hollywood-standard hairdos and colour-coordinated make-up that mysteriously doesn’t budge; their motivational mantras a panacea for my aching muscles.

With hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers each (I have 280,000 rivals alone for Olivia’s affection) they are the icons of the digital age but, when their faces are inches from mine, the relationship feels personal and offers proximity I’d never get in a real life spin class – which, incidentally, could set me back £20 a session.

As they persuade me to push myself harder than I thought possible, they bare their souls, opening up with personal stories I won’t repeat here, so as not to betray their confidence. We are a family, after all.

But instead of demanding small talk in return, they tell me I deserve more and can achieve more – on the bike and in life. Lavished with praise as the lactic acid builds, I’m flattered and fuelled to pedal faster. “I see you! Yes, you!” they insist, as I’m gasping for breath. And they do, don’t they?

Related: What gyms must do to thrive in a post-lockdown world

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