Pandemic’s Peloton Obsession Turns to Peloton Fatigue


Meghan Rabbitt’s

Peloton bike sits unused for weeks at a time at her home office in Boulder, Colo. In the worst of the pandemic, she rode every day.

“The workouts were such a mood boost,” she said. Since getting vaccinated in spring, her indoor rides fell to once a week, then it was every three weeks.

Stuck at home.

“I hit the Peloton so hard during the pandemic that I craved variety,” Ms. Rabbitt said. The 42-year-old multimedia freelancer prefers hiking up the nearby Mount Sanitas Trail and being back at the gym.

“I glance at it and think, ‘That was an expensive machine that I should probably use,’ ” Ms. Rabbitt said. The web-connected exercise bikes from

Peloton Interactive Inc.

start at $1,495 with the option to pay $39 a month for live-stream and recorded workouts.

Peloton swelled into a cultural phenomenon during Covid-19 lockdowns. From April 2020 to June 30 this year, the company signed up more than one million connected fitness subscribers, people who own the company’s bike or treadmill.

Now, 18 months into the pandemic, there are signs of Peloton fatigue. Many who practically lived on their bikes are taking a breather. For the three months ending June 30, connected subscribers averaged 19.9 workouts per user a month—including bike and treadmill sessions—compared with 24.7 during the same period last year.

Meghan Rabbitt of Boulder, Colo., said she rode her Peloton daily in the worst of the pandemic but now craves other activities.



Photo:

Meghan Rabbitt

Atena Vladu said her Peloton sessions earlier this year made her feel like she wasn’t going through the pandemic alone. “Instructors talked about how they were feeling, and how we should allow ourselves to feel,“ said Ms. Vladu, a New York-based marketing manager for an engineering company. ”Sometimes we all cried together.”

Since June, she has barely touched her Peloton, she said, caught up in 12-hour work days from her 1,000-square-foot apartment in Queens.

“The last thing I want to do at the end of the day is spin in my bedroom,” said Mr. Vladu, 42. “I feel guilty, but the thought of doing Peloton now feels stressful. It used to be my stress reliever.”

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Riders sweated out lockdowns in bedrooms and home offices with music-fueled workouts that to many were the closest substitute for a party.

Peloton instructors shared personal stories and peppered in pop-culture commentary. Some instructors became workout celebrities, including

Cody Rigsby,

who is competing on the ABC-TV show “Dancing With the Stars.” (“Unfortunately it’s just impossible to get to Cody given his schedule,” a Peloton spokeswoman said when asked to reach Mr. Rigsby for comment.)

Mr. Rigsby has been Ms. Vladu’s favorite, always delivering laughs along with his workout sessions. Now, she said, work is her focus.

“If I was having a bad day, I’d acknowledge that and use that in my classes,” said

Ally Love,

another popular Peloton instructor. Her wedding was recently featured in Vogue and generated a swirl of social-media attention.

Many of Ms. Love’s workouts offered a sweat-soaked escape to the beat of 1980s and 1990s pop music. “I told people today might be a hard day, but you can get through it just like you can get up this climb,” she said.

Peloton instructor Ally Love.



Photo:

Peloton

The pandemic has since shifted to a new stage. For some people, the easing of Covid-19 restrictions has prompted a break from their Peloton obsession and the pursuit of different physical activities. Others say they are too drained from the pandemic’s grind to muster any energy to hop on a bike.

Amelise Lane, a spokeswoman for Peloton, said last year’s subscription surge was boosted by both the pandemic and the company’s new non-bike workouts. “We rode the tailwinds of the pandemic,” she said.

The brand is synonymous with spinning—nearly 60% of workouts on its exercise bike—but the company saw an increase in members taking classes in strength training, meditation and yoga, as well as using the treadmill. The Peloton treadmill was recalled in May after related injuries and a death. It was reintroduced Aug. 30.

Ms. Lane attributed the decline in average monthly workouts per user to summer weather, which drew more people outdoors. Many Peloton users are spending more free time at the gym, dining out or taking vacations, she said.

Other people say that getting back to social activities has left them too tired to maintain their peak levels of Peloton workouts.

Lauren Zaremba took a break from her Peloton but has improved this month, logging 15 workouts.



Photo:

Katie Newton

Lauren Zaremba,

32, sustained a 55-week Peloton streak from March 2020, logging six classes a week. After she got her second vaccine shot at the end of April, her Peloton bike started to gather dust. Over the summer, she took four vacations and filled out her social calendar.

“I found myself exhausted from having a social life again,” she said. “I felt like I had to make up for lost time and go to every party and event.” In July, the account management director in New York logged 10 workouts compared with 31 in January. “My numbers were abysmal,” she said.

Ms. Zaremba improved this month, logging 15 workouts as of Thursday, but riding her Peloton isn’t a priority. “Fitness is still important to me,” she said, “but work and friends come first right now.”

Write to Jen Murphy at workout@wsj.com

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