Apple Fitness+ executives talk about the service's ambition, and post-pandemic future
Apple Fitness+ launched as coronavirus was keeping people from gyms, but Apple says that the program is a "moral responsibility" that is only getting started.
It was September 2020 when Apple introduced the Apple Fitness+ exercise and workout app that ties in to a user's Apple Watch, and AppleInsider would soon describe it as a godsend in those COVID days. But the service was not rushed out to because of the lockdowns, and Apple is not cutting back on it now that the pandemic is over.
The British GQ magazine recently toured the service's studio in Santa Monica. Alongside hearing from Apple executives about its genesis, the publication also learned that every trainer learned American Sign Language when they joined.
"People are returning from home to work and the gym, but we created Fitness+ well before there was any notion of a pandemic," Apple's chief operating officer Jeff Williams told GQ. "One of the things we're most excited about is that we can meet the user anywhere, anytime — we see this as an opportunity as opposed to a challenge."
"We not only have an opportunity," he continued, "but maybe even a moral responsibility to help people be more active and help them with their health."
Apple Fitness+ was always planned to revolve around the Apple Watch, says Jay Blahnik, vice-president of fitness technologies for Apple.
"We had always been thinking about what a service like this would look like if it was built around Apple Watch at the centre," says Blahnik. "And so we kept leaning into many of the things we've learned with Apple Watch, which is that people want it to be unintimidating. It needs to be friendly. It needs to be motivating."
"We knew from the very beginning, that we wanted the content that we were creating to be as beautiful as any content has ever been created," he continued. "And we thought this was especially important in fitness and well being because that's typically the place where a lot of corners are cut."
All Apple Fitness+ workout videos are written and filmed within the one base in Santa Monica. Its studio space can be configured to switch between the service's relaxing yoga vibe, to its high-intensity training.
Plus all trainers are required to will appear taking part in other training videos, even if they are far out of their normal expertise. "I'd never even seen a rower before I got here," cycling coach Tyrell Desean told the publication. "So I was like, 'What is this thing?'"
Each trainer also had to go through teaching a class behind a curtain. His or her fellow trainers would be on the other side, following the instructions, while the service's programming team watched. Classes would then be rewritten if any part had proved confusing.
Apple's Blahnik would not, though, talk much about what the service is planning and how it intends to keep people using it now the initial launch is well behind them.
"'Time To Walk,' guided meditations and releasing collections were all things that were on our radar from the beginning," he says, "so we were thrilled to safely be able to bring all of them to market."
"We don't think that pace is going to slow down," continues Blahnik, "as long as we have great ideas to motivate people we will keep pushing on."
The most recent example of Apple Fitness+ motivation came where the service added new Time to Walk workouts to tie in with Apple's Earth Day measures.