By Hester Aba
Fitness Apps for NYC Parents
In the life of a busy NYC parent, fitting in time for working out is a challenge. While we miss heading to a cool downtown studio to check out the latest fitness trend, or sweating it out at the gym, Covid has meant that most of us have transitioned to at-home workouts. There is an overwhelming number of options when it comes to fitness apps and classes offering online streaming, so I checked out some of the best New York-based fitness apps to see what I loved (and what I didn’t!) as I sweated and danced my way through four weeks of fitness fun. While I initially set out to find the “perfect” app, I’ve realized combining a few app subscriptions means I can pick and choose the best workout to suit my mood, and to deliver endless variety. And even the price of all of these app subscriptions combined is still much less than a gym membership!
Peloton is best-known for its proprietary stationary bikes and treadmills (and the long waitlist to receive your purchase once you’ve ordered!) but they also have a stand-alone fitness app that allows you to take Peloton strength, running, bootcamp, yoga, cycling and meditation classes with their coterie of charismatic instructors. Classes range in length from five to 60 minutes, and are easily searchable by type, level and even music genre. I’ve been using the Peloton app for a couple of years now, in conjunction with their bike, and to mix up my workout routine by adding in barre, pilates, and full body workouts using free weights or my own body-weight. Pre-Covid, I would use my Peloton app while traveling, as the majority of workouts just need a mat and a small space. New classes are constantly being added, and I’ve learned which instructors I love and who will motivate me to push myself. Peloton is definitely best-in-class in terms of the sophistication of its offering, but for me it’s not a complete solution, so I like to use this as my base app for four days of the week, and then add on one or two more workouts from other sources for novelty! Peloton has some basic prenatal strength and cycling content, but there’s definitely room to grow this category further.
What I Love About the Peloton App:
Peloton’s instructors are incredibly positive and encouraging — I feel like I have a sense of connection to their different personalities. I love working out with Cody if I’m having a hard day because he always makes me laugh, and Robin makes me feel like I can go out and kick some butt! I also love how Peloton has the rights to use famous artists’ music, so you can workout to really fun pop and hip hop playlists. Another great thing that Peloton has (which none of the other fitness apps I tried have) is that they offer rewards and badges for completing challenges, or for getting a “PR” (personal record). I find this incredibly motivating, and it’s also easy to see which workouts you’ve already completed and track your progress over time.
What’s Not So Great:
One of the reasons why I started looking outside of the Peloton app was because I really missed my in-person Pilates classes, and Peloton’s Pilates content isn’t as developed as some of their other categories. If they had a dedicated Pilates instructor and introduced more content in their category, their app might be my all-around winner.
$12.99 per month (check for current promotions to see if you get your first month free).
NYC-based mama and influencer Melissa Wood’s app contains a blend of short and longer pilates and yoga-inspired workouts and meditations. Wood’s vibe is calm, semi-spiritual and very targeted, with minimal cardio and a lot of focus on creating “long, lean lines” via repetitive stretching and toning movements with either just bodyweight, or one pound ankle/wrist weights, along with the occasional use of resistance bands and balls. Melissa Wood is the sole instructor on her platform, leading all of the workouts, and she proposes a weekly schedule made up of previously-filmed content and helpfully mixing longer and shorter classes with slightly different focuses (e.g. legs one day, abs another).
What I Love About the Melissa Wood App
Melissa Wood’s workouts, especially her ab workouts and standing series are just incredibly effective. If you follow her weekly program, within a couple of weeks you will notice a firmer core and tighter legs and booty. Her program really works, and is really great for womens’ bodies. She includes plenty of time for taking a breath and recovery within the workout, and gives guidance on how to avoid injury. Melissa Wood has both pre- and post-natal content, and has two children of her own. There’s a lot of planking and core work involved, and even eight years after having my youngest, my mid-section still has a lot of room for improvement! But since starting the Melissa Wood workouts, I can actually see a hint of abdominal muscles peeking through! Now if only I could put down the cookies…
What’s Not So Great
Melissa Wood’s app functionality is basic, without the ability to see which workouts you’ve previously completed, and as she films most of her workouts in the City, you can often hear sirens, construction and other street noise in the background, which can be a little distracting during a meditation! Melissa Wood’s workouts also do not feature any background music. I actually find this quite pleasant and it allows me to really hear her instructions, but it might not be for everyone.
$99 per year or $9.99 per month. Melissa Wood offers a 7-day free trial.
Created by former Brooklyn Nets dancer, Megan Roup, The Sculpt Society, or TSS, is a dance-based approach to fitness, which also incorporates elements of Pilates. If Melissa Wood is your calm, spiritual older sister, Megan Roup is your energetic, bouncy little sister. TSS’s app is designed as an all-in-one approach to fitness, and as Roup is currently pregnant, she has started to introduce some new instructors on the platform. TSS has a great selection of beginner content that takes newbies through some of the basics of Dance Cardio moves, which as someone with zero coordination, I really appreciated. Then to kick off, you can follow a ten-week introductory program which mixes Dance Cardio and “Sculpting” classes (more Pilates-based) with short stretches to get you going on the platform. TSS classes quite frequently use props including light hand weights, ankle/wrist weights, bands and “sliders,” but I substituted towels for sliders and found these worked just as well.
What I Love About the Sculpt Society App
Megan Roup’s vibe is upbeat and infectious, and her workouts always start off with some energetic movement, so TSS classes are always a mood-booster for me. Like the Melissa Wood program, the moves are extremely effective for strengthening the lower body and abdominals, and I like the focus on being “strong” instead of mentioning physical aesthetics. I loved the introductory videos, and the content is beautifully shot and slickly produced. The sequences of movements that TSS features are very well thought-out, and there’s plenty of scope and suggestions for how to both level up your workout, or to scale it down. TSS has a special pre- and post-natal program including pelvic floor workouts.
What’s Not So Great
The pace of the workouts can be quite quick, and so I sometimes need to pause the video and rewind it to ensure I’m doing a particular sequence correctly. I also sometimes find that TSS’s core sequences strain my neck, which doesn’t happen with the Melissa Wood workouts. The TSS accompanying music is fun and lively, but seems to be generic open-source music, or at least, this old lady never recognizes any of the tunes!
$119 per year or $19.99 per month. TSS offers a 14-day free trial.
In-the-know New Yorkers will already be familiar with The Class by Taryn Toomey, which was forced to go virtual during 2020, and which streams their live workouts from their Manhattan studio. Like Peloton, there are a whole host of popular instructors, who mainly dress in variations on black bodysuits, with candles lit in the background. It’s a little bit Goop-y, and VERY different from the other fitness apps I reviewed, as there is as much focus on the mind as the body in their sessions. No equipment is needed, only a mat, and classes range in length from 30 minutes to 60 minutes. There’s also a daily schedule so you can tune in throughout the day, or pick from their on-demand library. The music is much more alternative than Peloton’s selection, a mix of rocky guitar music and upbeat EDM. The instructor will guide you through a sequence of jumping, dancing and very repetitive, prolonged periods of focusing on particular body parts, ending with a “heart-opening” movement and brief meditation. At various times you might be encouraged to make noise or dance freely. The Class has been a life-line for its participants in quarantine as it is deeply cathartic and the instructors encourage looking inward and share inspirational thoughts.
What I Loved About The Class
I loved The Class’s aesthetic, which is so minimal and pared-back and totally not focused on body image. When I took one of Soraya’s classes, she whipped her long hair back and forth in a way that felt very un-fitnessy, and I felt as though I had been transported to a primal scream class. I loved how the repetitive movements take you out of your body, requiring very little thought or focus, to allow you to have a meditative experience. I also liked how thoughtful the music selection is, and how it is used to take you on a journey, and to uplift and then relax in turn, and I liked the way even in the most intense moments, you are encouraged to stop and take a breath and return to your body.
What’s Not So Great
I think in general I prefer for my therapy to be therapy, and my fitness to be fitness, and I found the blend of the two didn’t always hit the spot for me. If you’re working through something though, like grief, or trauma, I can see how The Class would be an amazing tool. I definitely experienced moments of transcendent emotion that I haven’t experienced through other fitness apps. It is also worth noting that The Class is by far the most expensive fitness app I reviewed.
$400 per year or $40 per month. The Class offers a 14-day free trial.
This article first appeared on or sister site www.newyorkfamily.com