Dear Fitness Studios: You’re Doing Too Much

Cool it with all the tech-driven bells and whistles. I just want a good workout.

For some folks, the 60 or so minutes spent in a workout is the sole hour of the day that is completely theirs — free of technology and the distractions that seem to fill all the other hours of the day. But is it really? It seems to be a growing trend for studios to fit in as much technology as possible: Screens allllll up in your face, tracking and quantifying your every move, while huge speakers blast crazy-loud (and slightly aggressive) music meant to get you pumped up. Suddenly workout studios, maybe the one place where you could escape the tech-filled world, have become tech-filled themselves.

When did working out become so … much?

Call me a workout purist, but I find all of this extra technology — from leaderboards to heart-rate tracking to screens simulating an off-the-treadmill treadmill run — in fitness studios to be majorly distracting. Stressful, even. And definitely unnecessary.

My workout is what I consider to be “me time.” I go to a fitness studio to give my mind a break while challenging my body. When I’m in a strength-training class, I want to be focused on what my body is doing and be fully connected with every movement (mostly so this doesn’t become my reality). How can I be mindful when the bass from a Pitbull jam is vibrating my entire body or I’m solely focused on the fact that I’m not burning quiiiite as many calories as last class? Don’t get me wrong, I realize that my stance here isn’t exactly the general consensus or popular opinion, by any means (story of my life). For example, our lovely Be Well editor, Adjua, yearns for the voice of Rihanna and nightclub-like lights to push her through workouts and distract her from the feeling that there’s no way another lunge can happen.

But hey, I have to be honest with you guys, right? The bells and whistles in these flashy classes just aren’t what motivates me. My fitness studio requirements are two-fold: They provide a good workout and a fairly peaceful experience. And I know, while everyone might not be totally with me, I’m not alone. An article from Outside comments on how infrequent it is, in this age of technology, to be able to just move and think — without a bunch of background noise. To that avail, the author, like me, has fitness-purist tendencies and acknowledges that while running with music can make the time go faster and distract you from the general monotony of rhythmically pounding the pavement with your lower extremities, it raises the question: What are you missing outside of your distracted, tech-filled world? In another vein, research has shown that runners perform better when they’re more focused on simply running or relaxing, rather than focused on metrics, like pace.

Now, do these technology-ridden fitness classes and studios have a place in the world? Heck yes. I’m totally down with folks getting moving however best suits them — different strokes for different folks, ya know? Is working out in a nightclub environment what motivates you? Go for it. If seeing your workout outlined in numbers keeps you going, then by all means, visit places like OrangeTheory  — I’m not out here hating. It’s just not what does it for me and that’s okay because motivational factors can be highly subjective.

That said, I’m curious to hear: Is the influx of technology in fitness studios a plus or a minus for you?

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