I miss the gym. Before the pandemic, I would go after work on most days, and it was where I I did more than exercise. It was where I showered and blow-dried my hair, chatted with gym friends, and kept my workout clothes in a locker. 

Now I shower at home (and there’s no sauna in my bathroom last I checked), my running shoes are somehow always in the way, and I’ve lost touch with my gym buddies. Oh, and my living room is now my workout space. 

But my Aaptiv app has made my shuttered gym easier to handle. 

What is Aaptiv?

Aaptiv, like its name suggests, is an app that contains thousands of audio workouts. Each session has a trainer talking you through the moves whether that’s outdoor running, strength training, yoga, stretching, barre, meditation, cycling, and even sleep sessions. 

There are 15 categories (with recent additions of boxing and rowing) and you can filter through each based on class length, intensity, music, equipment, subtype (like tempo or interval workouts for running), and trainer. I’ve been using Aaptiv since October 2019, so I’ve learned which personalities and coaching styles work best for me. I may even have a few coach crushes.

This app has it all and all in one place: I can find unlimited yoga classes, take a coached run, try out a barre session, and then meditate before sleep.

With 4,000 classes to choose from, it can be overwhelming. Luckily Aaptiv forces some structure from the get-go. You create a personalized coaching schedule for each day of the week, so every day I have a stretching class scheduled, along with 2 minutes of planning and 20 push-ups. Every Sunday I take a yoga class. From there I add different programs and challenges to my weekly workout plan. If you finish everything on your daily coaching list you get a gold star. Who doesn’t want a gold star?

Programs and challenges are curated workout plans that you pepper throughout the week. I’m currently signed up for the Spring Out! challenge and on team Purple Monkeys with a long list of fellow Aaptiv users. For each workout (a mix of outdoor running and strength training sessions) completed I bring up my team’s total by five points. I started on March 29 and had until April 25 to finish the 16 workouts and beat out the Silver Parrots and Jade Penguins. This is great if you love a little competition in your life.

Are you up to the challenge?
Are you up to the challenge?
Plenty of options.
Plenty of options.

Other programs — like at-home abs and booty series or yoga for athletes — allow you to finish at your own pace. There are many other programs designed for specific fitness needs: workouts for pregnant athletes, to lose weight, reduce stress, run faster, and get stronger.

How much does Aaptiv cost? 

While the app is free to download on iOS and Android devices, access to all the workouts and features requires a subscription. There’s a free 30-day trial, but after that month you need to pay either $14.99 per month or $99.99 for an annual subscription.

For Weight Watchers users there’s an Aaptiv integration in the WW app with access to all the Aaptiv workouts and classes, for no additional cost. Some WW plans include a 90-day free Aaptiv trial for an extra two months to use the app without a subscription.

Full disclosure: I have Aaptiv free through a wellness program from my parent company. It’s a good reminder to check with your employer about any fitness offers the HR department might have. Maybe Aaptiv is an option.

Does Aaptiv only use audio?

While it’s an audio app at its core, there are accompanying graphics to demonstrate some of the basic moves, which come in handy for yoga, Pilates, and strength training classes. There are even some video classes, which is sort of contradictory, but when I took a TRX program that required special equipment, a video guide was crucial to clearly see what to do. 

But usually, the Aaptiv trainers know you’re only listening, so they’re cognizant about the way they describe movements and give directions. For users stuck in a small space, the audio aspect is helpful since you don’t have to find a good spot for a screen. If we make it back to the gym, there are classes for the treadmill, stair climber, elliptical, weight training, and exercise bike. I don’t have a set of kettlebells at home, but I could take the Aaptiv audio class while using the gym’s full set (before COVID, of course).

Aaptiv is also a social network. With 150,000 members, there are a lot of cheerleaders. And your fellow athletes ( or “aapletes” as users are also known) show up to encourage you. Instead of liking posts, you throw confetti on posts. It’s cheesy, I know, but it works for me. You can tag trainers and ask questions about each workout, or just post a sweaty selfie.

An app for any and all athletes (even newbies)

Beyond a robust selection of types of workouts, the app is geared for all fitness levels. If you want to sweat and push your limits, find high-intensity cycling or higher level strength, class. Some of the yoga classes have positions that I will need to practice for months before mastering. 

But if you’re new to working out, Aaptiv will guide you through it. There are starter courses for yoga, running, and other types of workouts. If you need low-impact options, you can easily find those. Being mindful of intensity levels and lengths of workouts is important for athletes still building up endurance. 

Its audio feature is most compelling for all types of athletes. It feels like you have a one-on-one training session and you don’t want to let your trainer down. Each trainer uses positive reinforcement and most are down-to-earth and inspirational at the same time. Some trainers talk about their past addiction struggles or poor relationships with food and exercise that they’ve overcome. 

For running, a persistent voice literally in your ear making sure you’re not slacking on your pacing or running with bad form keeps you going long after you would’ve taken a break. Same with cycling.  

Feeling encouraged.
Feeling encouraged.

And the positive reinforcement continues after you’ve completed a workout. You earn badges, gold stars, confetti, and encouraging comments. The app emails you after you’ve completed a workout, reminding you of your accomplishments, even if it’s just a 10-minute treadmill class.

And it’s not just about burning calories or pumping heavyweights. The trainers emphasize balancing high-intensity workouts with restorative ones, like yoga or stretching classes. Many trainers suggest incorporating breathing and meditation sessions, too. 

Musically challenged

Considering Aaptiv is all about audio, its recent music changes seem like a misstep. Before this April, each workout played with a soundtrack baked into the recording. Now you can choose which type of music you want for each workout (EDM, pop, world, and many other options) and the volume level. You can even plug in your own music from a separate music app like Spotify or Apple Music. 

While personalization is fun, this doesn’t always work since some trainers have built a workout based on the music selection. Aaptiv has added an “Aaptiv curated” option for some classes to restore the music to its original settings. 

The customized music option also messes up how your headphones — in my case, Apple’s AirPods Pro — connect to the app. Instead of controlling the app, my buds only control the music, which isn’t ideal when out on a run with the phone tucked away in a pocket.

Music options.
Music options.
A look at the app during a run.
A look at the app during a run.

Another shortcoming: fitness tracking. While the app keeps track of your workouts and tallies up your estimated mileage and calories burned weekly and over time, it’s not a precise tracking app. You can connect to any trackers you use, but it’s not as streamlined for anyone meticulous about fitness tracking, like my friends using Strava to capture movement they made.

Add to cart? 

With my IRL gym still closed, continuing with the Aaptiv app makes sense for me. It’s cheaper than the cost of the monthly $39 Peloton bike service or some yoga apps. Throw in a meditation app and the costs quickly pile up. 

This app has it all and all in one place: I can find unlimited yoga classes, take a coached run, try out a barre session, and then meditate before sleep. I’ve even found a workaround from pricey Peloton fees. I use Aaptiv’s cycling classes while riding a Peloton bike paid off years ago, disconnected from the screen. 

Even when (if?) my gym reopens, I’ll keep Aaptiv in my ears.

https://bit.ly/3gIy4Qm

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