Will Peloton Replace Personal Trainers or Fitness Studios? No!

The fitness industry has seen a lot of innovation over the last few years, with a lot of companies trying to bring something new to the sector. The continued interest in the fitness industry centers around the opportunity that it presents. The sheer magnitude of the industry is astounding (a $30 billion industry in the US alone) and is one of the few sectors that grew in the last recession (and during 2020 – albeit digitally).

Peloton vs Personal Trainers


Of late, there has been a lot of media coverage based around Peloton, a hardware company wanting to change the habits of how people workout. Peloton are not the only company who are trying to bring something new, in terms of hardware, but they are the one’s who have had the most press because of them going public. 

Before we delve into whether Peloton are going to achieve the goal of changing people’s workout habits let’s analyze why there has been so much interest in the fitness sector. This will help us to understand how such hardware companies will have an impact on personal trainers or fitness studios.

As already mentioned, fitness has been one of the industries that will continue to grow, and it is just natural that commercial endeavors are made by companies in an attempt to create a category for themselves.

So, is Peloton Growing?

Peloton has been suffering a lot of late and its IPO has not been as smooth as it could have been.

This year a lot of hardware device companies in the fitness space have been suffering. Peloton are not the only one who have been struggling, Fitbit and Go Pro have struggled mightily in the public markets as well.

At times, the markets are the ones that dictate overall consumer trends so as far as personal trainers go it is always interesting to keep an eye on how consumer products perform.

So back to Peloton, it had it’s IPO (which essentially means going onto the stock market to raise capital) on Thursday, 26th of September and as any process, the company goes through the press circuit to drum up interest and excitement (so that investors buy into their stock). 

Was it a success?

According to their CEO, Peloton claims to sell happiness. But happiness is not what is coming across in the markets judging Peloton’s NASDAQ listing. Just in it’s first day their share price dropped by 11%, over the next few days it has dropped to just over 22%, continuing the slide (at the time of writing this piece). Update: as of 24th Feb ’21 Peloton is down 3.8% (YTD).

Now this does not mean that personal trainers can brush aside Peloton, as a lot of people have bought Peloton devices (albeit on the back of a lot of sales and marketing expenditure from the company).

Before we can evaluate whether personal training is going to change let’s continue to look at what is causing the growth of services like Peloton. Easier to analyze Peloton as it has shared its numbers after its IPO.

The growth that Peloton has had is mainly down to the hardware, which means the product itself is what people have been purchasing. The Peloton bike is priced just above $2k with the treadmill coming at nearly double that price.

However, Peloton also have a service side to it, which is the subscription fee to access their set of trainers. Their hope is to expand this part of the business.  

What Personal Trainers / Fitness Businesses Are Up Against?

The positive news is that fitness is relatively a recession proof industry. Since 2008, there was an uptake of a number that correlated to 38% for people who joined a gym. This is what has excited a lot of these hardware-based advances and why there have been so many companies who have been trying to break into the fitness sector. The other thing companies like Peloton & Mirror are banking on: more and more people’s desire to work from home. These services offer users with the ability to work out from home, not stressing about the traffic and not having to deal with strangers judging them in a live gym.

With Peloton, the most obvious challenges that personal trainers are facing is the ability for users to access the training based on their own schedule. Things happen and people miss their planned time of workouts. 

As one of the appeals of a Peloton device is going to be the flexibility behind someone working out according to their own schedule personal trainers should have a robust online booking or schedule system in place that allows their clients to follow their regimen.

What the numbers say

To try to gauge the impact that these hardware devices have had (or having), I decided to reach out to personal trainers and see how many of their clients have either access or had access to a Peloton device. 90% of personal trainers did not have a client with access to a Peloton device. 

This led me to make two assumptions:

  1. Most Peloton buyers have been lured by the fact that they can now work-out at home and 
  2. These users have not yet been exposed to the full advantages that a personal trainer brings

Good news, the opportunity for personal trainers is large, very large. 

The nuts and bolts:

Adding to these observations, it is safe to suggest that one of the most common reasons why people do not stick to a fitness regime is not seeing results. 

Why am I bringing this up? Well, because the future of these devices is going to depend on the actual results. 

What happens when users of these devices do not see the results they are expecting?

Answer: It is going to be natural that Peloton users are going to get disheartened by their results, either due to bad form or missing their sessions. Whilst it is true that Peloton has not had much churn, yet this is mainly because of the cost of the devices. People tend to stick it out when they have a certain level of financial commitment, for a short time period anyway.

The positives for personal trainers:

Time to move onto the positives.

In the long term, devices like Peloton will not be able to compete with accredited personal trainers or fitness studios where people build bonds with.

Reason why I say this.

  1. Lack of variety

Spinning is a good exercise but with Peloton there is no variety and little opportunity for the trainers to personalize their workouts. The live sessions are performed for a mass audience, somehow a voice saying ‘keep up bluehair07’ is not going to feel personalized. 

A lot of people think that personal training is all about lifting weights, but the biggest advantage of personal training is that it adds a whole deal of variety in someone’s routine and all good personal trainers set routines which act as cardio as well. Peloton, or similar devices will never be able this level of variety.

  1. Cost

The cost for a Peloton bike is $2k, with their treadmill costing over $4k. That is a lot of money for most people, and the Mirror product, comes in at around the $1500 mark. 

Not cheap. How many people are going to want to invest that type of money on a hardware device? 

It is quite telling that when Peloton had it’s IPO, a common theme was that how international expansion was going to be an area of growth, along with additional products. I wonder, when users begin to lose interest and they do not see value in the product what growth will look at. 

  1. Lack of Accountability:

It is not easy to motivate yourself. How does someone tune into achieving their goals without having someone reach out in a one on one situation?

With these devices, the Peloton trainers are not checking back in on the progress of the individuals, nor is there a mechanism to measure progress. Personal trainers, on the other hand, know that someone just exercising for an amount of time does not guarantee any kind of success. They generally check in regularly with progress routinely.

  1. Little Comradery:

After a while working out by yourself, without much one to one interaction, isolation will creep in. This is going to be an issue that Peloton users will come across. 

Personal trainers, especially online ones – will regularly check-in with their clients to ensure they are either staying on track or making progress. They also know exactly what type of workouts are required for what different types of people.

A lot of personal trainers also perform group exercises or have in-person sessions. It’s like having an accountant – you will not always see your accountant but knowing that you have one who knows your first name is reassuring, in case you want to do your taxes.  

  1. Space

All Peloton ads show bikes being used in either the living room, with no other furniture, or in a penthouse with a beautiful backdrop. If you are not aware, there are plenty of Peloton meme’s doing the rounds on the internet which poke fun at the resources or space you require to have a Peloton device (i.e. all of us do not own a lake house). 

Simple truth is that Peloton devices do not make good furniture and not everyone has the space for a Peloton device. 

  1. Distractions

Again, whilst working out at home might sound easy, we need to keep in mind that it is a lot easier to get distracted. At home, there are kids, there’s Netflix, there is the cooking to do and at times even the laundry is more appealing that getting a sweat on. 

Users of Peloton do not really have to turn to their devices, and they have not spelled this out. But a good personal trainer? He/she will always keep a track on who is checking in and who is not. Some personal trainers can easily use an online personal training software that automates this check in process. 

Author: Rehan Sajid

Rehan is the founder of turnfitter, an online software that helps fitness business 10x their productivity. His main mission is to help fitness businesses to realize their true value. 

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