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One week with Apple Fitness Plus: Beating my lockdown weight gain

I'm just getting started with Apple's new workout app, and already the pounds are dropping.

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

I'm one week into my new Apple Fitness Plus-based workout regime, and I've not only started to lose weight but also learned a lot about how to use Apple's new service -- and how it could be improved.  

I weighed in on Monday, Jan. 4, at 105 kg (around 231 pounds). On Monday, Jan. 11. that weight had dropped to 103 kg (227 pounds). It's a small change, but one I'm very pleased with in just one week. I've exercised every day, mostly using Apple Fitness Plus classes, mixed with some longer cardio sessions using the Zwift cycling app on a Wattbike Atom

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Here's how I've found Apple's service so far.

The classes are fun and engaging. I was worried that they'd be too "gym bro" for me, but I like the trainers I've experienced so far. There's a decent mix of gender and ages, and they're encouraging enough in the workout sessions to keep me moving and wanting to complete each exercise. The app works seamlessly with my Apple Watch Series 6, showing my heart rate and calories burned on the iPad screen to check that I'm putting the effort in. On one dance class, I noticed my heart rate lingering around only 115 bpm – a more demanding high-intensity interval training (HIIT) class saw that number jump to 182 bpm.  

But what I feel I'm lacking in the service is proper guidance on exactly what classes I should be focusing on to achieve my goals.   

My goal is weight loss, primarily, but I'd like to be stronger and fitter too. So which classes do I choose? Will a HIIT class be better than a cycle class? Will a core workout help me more than a strength workout? Should I be combining multiple classes in one session, and if so, are some better to do together than others? I know it's not good to overwork certain muscle groups at once, but I also don't know enough about what's involved in each class to make those decisions.  

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The Apple Fitness Plus interface on my iPad. I'd welcome more sections that help you pick classes based on your fitness goals.

Apple

It's easy to do one 20-minute strength class, close my activity rings on my Apple Watch, and pat myself on the back as I consider my day's workout done. And perhaps I had done enough -- or perhaps I should have done more. I'd hoped to see more guided solutions in the service, based on your own personal goals, be it to lose a lot of post-holiday pounds, to improve core strength to help your posture, or to train hard for a cycling competition.  

While there are sections such as "More of what you do," "Try something new" and "Popular," these don't give the sort of guidance I need to confidently put together a great weight-loss routine. Without the guidance, Fitness Plus sometimes seems more like just a collection of well-produced workout videos. It wouldn't be difficult either to have professionals put together what would essentially be playlists of classes, such as "One-month weight loss" that I can load up each day and do exactly what I'm told by fitness pros.  

Instead, I've built my own workout program that mixes together a variety of different exercises in the week, including more cardio-based sessions like dance and HIIT classes, as well as strength and yoga classes. Based on my limited knowledge of exercise, it seems like a decent all-round program, but I worry I'm basically making it up as I go along and could be using my time better if I changed it up. 

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I've been playing my weekly routines in a small notebook and trying my best to make sure I'm doing varied exercises. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The other problem I found on my first couple of days was understanding the way the classes work in terms of difficulty. While there are "absolute beginner" classes to introduce you to the different sorts of classes, the main workout videos themselves are not separated in terms of "beginner" or "challenging," but instead seem to be different from one another simply by the trainer running the class and the genre of music you'll be working out to.  

I eventually realized that there are multiple trainers in each video, and you'll be able to do the "easier" workouts with one (having your knees on the ground during a pushup, for example), do the standard workout with the main trainer or add in an extra challenge with the third trainer. I suppose the idea is that it means that everyone can get something out of every video available, but I didn't quite get that at first and found it a little difficult to navigate, resorting to a "Well, I guess this one will do" approach. Again, more guidance within the app would have made a huge difference to a beginner.  

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Healthy eating has, of course, been a big part of my new fitness plan.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

That all said, I've genuinely enjoyed my first week of workouts, and I'm thrilled to already be losing weight. Here's what else I've enjoyed:  

  • The dance classes are fun, especially when working out with my partner. I can't follow the moves properly, but as long as I'm flailing my arms and legs like an electrocuted spider, my heart rate stays high and I seem to be getting a good workout. We laugh a lot, and it's quickly becoming a fun thing we do together during lockdown. 
  • The music on a lot of the classes is not what I'd choose, but it works well for the workouts, and the classes are done to the music, so often when the beat drops, the movement kicks up a gear. It feels like I'm really in an exercise class. 
  • I'm not really in an exercise class. This means I'm also not in a busy gym, being forced to sweat and feel embarrassed in front of 20 other people and then having to get changed, inevitably next to that one man who insists on standing there with his gentleman sausage on display. (Is a towel really that much trouble, buddy?) 
  • Cycling on the Wattbike Atom is superb. It's comfortable and I'm really enjoying using the Zwift app for my longer cardio sessions. I tried my first social cycle, meeting up with a friend of mine who was using Zwift with his own training bike at home. We were able to cycle "together" in the virtual Zwift world of Watopia, clocking over 16 miles uphill and downhill in the hour we spent. It was great fun, and the time seemed to fly by.  
  • Although I'm working out in a small room there's just enough room for me to do most of the classes with my partner, with only one occasion during a dance session when she almost smacked me in the face during a particularly energetic moment (she promises it was accidental). I've been using my iPad Pro as there's not enough room to work out in our living room where the TV is -- It's not the most elegant of solution but it works.  

It hasn't taken me long to begin to understand how Apple Fitness Plus works, and the weekly routine I've put together seemed to be challenging enough to leave me exhausted at the end of each one, but not so sore I couldn't manage next day's either. Mixing in the longer cycles with Zwift, I'm confident that I'm going to continue enjoying the process and, crucially, continue to lose weight.

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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.