In the fall of 2021, France discovered the Apple Fitness+ service, the Californian giant’s streaming sports course platform, launched a year earlier across the Atlantic. A service connected to the Apple Watch, which is a continuation of Apple’s desire to get us moving, and thought of even before the pandemic. Every week, the coaches offer new classes in yoga, HIIT, dance, Pilates, and many other disciplines. All this, shot a few kilometers from the famous Muscle Beach, this famous beach where sports addicts have been training for decades. “When we thought about where we wanted to locate, we thought that Los Angeles, and in particular Santa Monica, was a fitness hotspot, so it was important for us to be close to where those who love sport live, even if it is also the case in New York or London. And on top of that, we are close to the offices of Apple TV+ and Apple Music, here in Los Angeles, where all our original content is created,” explains Jay Blahnik, director of fitness and health technologies at Apple. In this kept secret place, 25 coaches and a team worthy of a film shoot, take turns every day to offer lessons whose rendering has nothing to envy to the Netflix series.
As soon as you enter the studio, the coaches naturally impose themselves as the cool kids, the band sitting at the back of the bus and with whom everyone wants to hang out. They look stylish – wearing head-to-toe Nike, official partner of Apple Fitness+, nonchalantly settle on the sofas of the cafeteria, a MacBook in front of them, on which they prepare their lessons, and reminisce with fun their week -end at the Coachella festival. This merry band doesn’t just pass the time to record a thirty-minute cycling lesson. They live and breathe Apple Fitness+. And above all, they perfectly reflect the inclusive values to which the new generation is rightly fed. “We were following a lot of extraordinary personalities when we designed this service, recalls Jay Blahnik. We had to have experts but also people who would talk to our subscribers, who were keen to care about beginners, so that the training sessions were as inclusive as possible. This was certainly the most important point for us. The fitness industry is not necessarily the most inclusive, yet it is one of the cornerstones of our service. Even if the coaches are experts in their field, they must know how to bring together and make new people want to play sports. And even if you’re very good at running, maybe you’re less so at yoga, so we needed to find coaches who had that in mind. »
A few steps from the cafeteria, after going down a staircase, we find ourselves in the den of creation. A large gym in which there is a large office where some coaches are preparing for their next shoot. First, they are given a mission, for example, to create a 30-minute dance class to music from the 2000s. They start by creating the playlist, then imagine the movements. “We write down our ideas, but the most important thing is to test the sessions in real life on the other people in the team. For example, someone may have a narrow pelvis, and we try to see which movements suit them better, we have feedback on the movements and positions, we adjust, we make the course easier, or we make it more difficult”, laughs Jessica, who excels in Pilates. But above all, Apple Fitness + wants to be accessible to as many people as possible. “We do more than talk to a camera, we speak to communities. Some are visually impaired, others hearing impaired, we learned sign language. When we train, we put up a curtain to see if the others can follow just by listening and not seeing. These are the kinds of details that make the courses accessible to everyone,” she adds. Every Friday afternoon, the sports team attends a sign language course in order to be able to sign several training passages.
Once the training has been perfected, validated, mastered, head to the huge filming studio worthy of a TV set. In this gym, robot cameras wander around, raise your head and look at the spotlights hanging from the high ceiling, and on the left wall, this indoor garden. All the space is made profitable so that depending on the orientation of the cameras, you have the impression, while doing your sports session, that the spaces change according to the discipline. Meditation or yoga could face the garden, while cycling will immerse you in a more urban universe with a brick wall.
Upstairs are the post-production offices, where you can follow the filming in progress live, check the timing of the exercises, whisper in your earpiece “there, raise your fist! Further, the audio recording studio, where a coach recorded the intro of his running training, shot a few days earlier in Detroit. In one take, he unrolls his text without stuttering, it’s in the box.
Since the release of Apple Fitness+, coaches have gained momentum on social networks, and are using this feedback to incorporate it into their classes, as Jonelle, who teaches yoga, says: “On the networks, we receives messages, it’s crazy. This is very important information, they tell us for example: “I loved episode 39, can you do one like this again?” We have a colleague whose husband has wrist problems, he can’t put too much weight on them. I’m going to create a 30 minute yoga class because he can’t be the only one with wrist pain. A proximity that would almost make you forget the screen that separates subscribers from coaches, and that makes the success of the service. What are the users’ favorite workouts? “We’ve found that our users love yoga, HIIT and strengthening, anything that doesn’t require equipment. But the trend is changing with the reopening of gyms. Me, now I do an Apple Fitness+ workout on a treadmill three to four times a week at the gym because I don’t have a treadmill at home. And 10 or 20 minute workouts are also popular. Meditation is often practically in the middle of the day, in the office. People realize that if they’re looking after their physical condition, they also have to look after their mental health, and five minutes can be enough. »