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My 2021 with Apple Fitness Plus: Big weight loss at home
I'm losing weight and enjoying the work, without having to set foot in a gym.
Andrew LanxonEditor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
At the beginning of January, I started a new workout regime at home based around Apple Fitness Plus and cycling app Zwift using a static Wattbike Atom. Nearly two months in, I've lost a noticeable amount of weight, learned a lot about how to exercise and, crucially, thoroughly enjoyed the process.
I began my journey weighing about 231 pounds (105 kilograms). I was borderline obese and needed to make significant changes. And changes I've indeed made. I'm pleased to say that since I started my new healthier lifestyle, my weight has dropped to 200 pounds (91 kilograms).
I faced some issues at first and am still overweight, based on the UK's NHS healthy weight calculator. I ideally need to lose another 22 pounds (10 kilograms) to be in a healthy zone, but I'm proud of the progress I've made so far. The best part is how much I've enjoyed it all.
Watch this: Apple Fitness Plus vs. Peloton
Creating a fun workout routine
I put together a program that included different exercises for every day of the week. Mondays typically include a 10-minute core strength session, while Thursdays might be a longer upper-body strength class, followed by a dance class. It shakes things up and keeps things interesting. I get bored easily, so having different things to do each evening feels good.
But because they're different types of classes, some strength, some cardio, I'm not overworking any one part of my body, so I always feel ready to go again the following day. The classes are short (I usually choose ones that are 30 mins), so they're easy to fit into my day and are enough to get the sweat pouring but not enough to leave me feeling half dead and too sore to move the next day.
Saturdays I do a long cycle of an hour or more on the Wattbike Atom and Zwift, which lets me ride in a virtual world alongside one of my friends, who's using his own static bike at home. We're on the phone throughout and it feels as close as we could get right now to a nice social cycle together. The fact that I also cover over 20 miles in that time and burn hundreds of calories is almost just a bonus.
I try to fit in an Atom cycle several times a week, usually for around 20-30 minutes and usually on top of some of my Apple Fitness classes. At the time of writing this in late February, I've covered 357 miles on the bike and spent more than 21 hours doing it. I love being able to just hop on anytime I want to get some extra miles in.
Dance classes have been a real revelation for me. I'm certainly no dancer, but I've really enjoyed the upbeat way the dance classes get me moving, and they've been genuinely a lot of fun as an activity to do with my partner. We don't take it too seriously, we laugh a lot and we get the steps wrong. But we keep moving, our heart rates are high, and we're out of breath at the end, so it's clearly working us well.
I don't have an "off day," but Sundays are for extended yoga sessions, helping me stretch and condition my muscles, as well as helping with flexibility and core strength -- both of which are key to a healthy body overall.
All of this has been paired with a more conscious diet. I'm a massive sugar addict and would typically plough through entire packets of biscuits or bags of Cadbury Mini Eggs (which are incredible) on any given night. I've managed to begin unhooking from that sugar train and haven't bought any treats like that this year -- a big deal, given that they were almost a daily purchase before now. I've also not had any beer since Christmas, and my alcohol intake overall has been down.
But I've still been eating well, as both myself and my partner love food and cooking good meals at home. We've not had to modify our diet too much, but we've made small changes, like simply measuring out a portion of pasta instead of just filling a bowl with it, and I've not had white bread. My calorie intake overall is down, but it doesn't feel like a restrictive diet, and I'm still enjoying everything I have. Delivered meals have been cut out almost completely though.
My partner is having similar success, with her weight also dropping steadily while she's been thoroughly enjoying our regular workouts and more calorie-conscious diet. Her biggest problem early on was simply finding workout leggings that didn't start to slide down halfway through, but a pair of LuluLemon high-rise Fast and Free tights have so far proved to be exceptionally comfortable workout leggings for her.
Both my Apple Fitness Plus exercise and my changes in eating habits have done what I've failed to do for years: make exercise and weight loss sustainable for me long term. I've not enjoyed going to the gym, and I always resented how long it took to get across London to my gym, sign in, find a locker, get changed, wait for the machine I wanted, work out, shower, get dressed, get home.
It could easily be a four hour process, including travel time, and that meant it became "the thing" I did that evening after work and so I could only justify doing it at most once a week. Using Apple Fitness at home means I'm able to fire up the app and enjoy a 30 minute workout before dinner without needing to plan anything around it. It means I can do smaller sessions every day, resulting in a lot of workout minutes by the end of the week, and it means I'm now in the habit of exercising. My question to myself each afternoon is not, "Am I going to exercise?" but instead, "What exercise am I going to do?" This is new ground for me.
The COVID factor
Of course the elephant in the room for this has been COVID-19. With Britain still in full lockdown, the gyms have remained closed, so working out at home hasn't been so much of a choice but rather the only option.
In 2020 my partner and I found ourselves ordering more and more food from local restaurants, going outside less and drinking more, leading to an acceleration of weight gain for us both. However, lockdown is now playing into our hands as we try to get fit again.
With socializing off the table and restaurants and bars being closed, there's no temptation for us to go out and drink beer with friends -- no boozy night out at a burger joint, no sitting in a comfy chair in a pub getting through four pints of local ale -- there are no plans at all. Sure, on one hand that's a real shame, but the flip side is that there's nothing getting in the way of our exercising. No reason for us to "cheat" on our diet or skip days to do something more fun.
We also haven't been traveling internationally for work. Usually at this time in most years, I'd be preparing to cover two trade shows for CNET, resulting in two weeks away from home and little time to exercise or eat properly. This would (and has) destroyed any kind of routine I may've built up, but with all travel canceled, I have this golden window of being able to focus fully on my health.
Lockdown has caused so many problems for so many people, but the one silver lining for me is that my exercise is succeeding not in spite of lockdown but because of it.
Looking toward the long term
I'm still only in my first steps in what I hope is a new healthier lifestyle for me long term, but I'm certainly encouraged by the progress I've made. I'm visibly slimmer and my T-shirts fit better. I feel stronger when I walk, and while I've always been plagued by low-level back pain, that hasn't even been noticeable since I started exercising -- a benefit I didn't even expect.
I set out to see how much Apple Fitness Plus encourages me to exercise and if it's a good long-term solution for gym-free workouts. So far, my weight loss is a big tick in the service's favor, but it's also taken a lot of commitment from myself in sticking to the program I've put together, and maintaining the healthy eating habits alongside it.
But these home workouts have been so enjoyable that I want to do them and actively look forward to them, whereas before now I'd typically look for any excuse to skip out on a gym session. Whether that's solely down to the approachability of Apple's service, down to the convenience of doing it at home or down to a change in myself, I can't say for certain (it's likely a bit of all three, to be fair). But I'm very much looking forward to seeing how much further I can get in the next few months.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.