The online service Obé (pronounced “obey”) Fitness offers a modern take on those cult-hit workout VHS tapes your mom used to watch. As you might expect from a company founded by former television talent scouts, Obé stands out from a crowded fitness field with its beautiful set design; engaging, charismatic coaches; and workouts that don’t require any equipment beyond a laptop or an iPhone.
To start out, just choose one of the 15 types of workouts on offer. These range from high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions to yoga and meditation classes, and they can be streamed either live or on demand. There’s also a selection of multiday fitness challenge series that offer everything from seven-day beginner programs to monthlong fat-burner collections.
The first thing you’ll probably notice about the Obé visual aesthetic is the background setting. Instead of the usual studio setup, the coach is framed by blank walls. As you work out, the hues on the walls change, which creates a lively and dynamic feel to every session. It’s almost enough to distract you from how hard you’re working.
The live classes are the star of the show here, as having a programmed schedule for workouts adds a feeling of accountability and gives you something to look forward to at the end of the workday. But if you can’t make it to the 20 or so daily live classes, there are more than 5,000 on-demand classes you can stream. The on-demand classes are the same format as the live classes, but you don’t get the little thrill of hearing the coach call out your name during a live session.
You don’t need specialized equipment from the company, and some classes don’t need equipment at all. Others require dumbbells and fitness bands, or items around the house, like a chair to grab onto for barre classes.
Coaches will take you through the workouts, occasionally directly addressing class members and shouting personalized encouragement, and here’s where Obé really shines. A home fitness system relies on its coaches and programming to attract people to its service. Coaches can make or break the system, and Obé’s coaches are an absolute home run. Obé’s cofounders, Ashley Mills and Mark Mullett, started out as talent agents, and the majority of their coaching pool has a background in the entertainment industry. Their on-camera charisma and entertaining personalities make each class something to look forward to, rather than dread.
When I coach a CrossFit or powerlifting class, I have to keep an eye on my members as they go through the workouts, so I’m very impressed when I see coaches actively doing the workout while they talk. As I powered through a fitness band workout with coach Melody D., she constantly offered guidance and encouragement, referring to participants by name and even offering short anecdotes throughout. Meanwhile, I was gasping for air and incapable of anything beyond a caveman grunt.
I went into it with a skeptical attitude–I’m used to slinging weights and heaving myself up 20-foot ropes, so I wasn’t sure just how hard these workouts would push me. About 15 minutes into my first workout, I learned that the answer was “a hell of a lot.” It didn’t take long for me to gas out and skip a round of plank reaches while I caught my breath (sorry, Coach Angelo G.).
The 10- to 15-minute express classes were perfect for a quick energy boost in the middle of the workday, and the half-hour classes fit easily into a lunch break. They also had me hankering for a smoothie afterward, instead of my usual power lifting staple of ground beef and rice. That studio vibe really sinks in.
If the Covid-19 pandemic drove you out of in-person boutique classes, Obé’s pricing is relatively accessible. It starts at $27 per month, and that gets you unlimited streams of live and on-demand workouts. That’s a steal compared to most boutique studios, which can cost anywhere $25 to $50 per class, or even a standard gym membership, which can cost anywhere from $10 a month for basic access with zero classes to well over $200 a month for full access to the classes and amenities.
There are no startup fees or specialized equipment required. The iOS app is free, and Obé also offers a free seven-day trial membership.
That said, boutique classes aren’t for everyone. Obé is a fun and effective workout system, but it doesn’t have the leaderboards or motivational competitive features you’ll find on other home workout platforms. Another differentiator: Obé doesn’t offer any monostructural cardio options like running, biking, or rowing. If you’re looking for a more traditional bang-and-clang-style gym, with traditional weight lifting mixed with cardio, Obé will likely not appeal to you.
Finally, the app is currently only available in a web browser or on iOS devices, so you’ll need a laptop, an iPhone, or an iPad to stream the videos. The company says Android support will be added in late May.
Still, there are no native apps for Apple TV or Smart TVs. While Obé provides instructions to route its apps through your Roku or Chromecast device, the instructions are not intuitive or straightforward enough for less tech-savvy users. Some folks will be better off just using an HDMI cable to connect a laptop to a TV.
Obé Fitness is fully committed to replicating the feel of a high-end fitness studio, and it does so extremely well, at a price that puts most brick-and-mortar studios of this caliber to shame. The only way that it could be more immersive is the addition of a virtual reality app, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an app show up in the Oculus store in the near future. If you want to work out in a high-end boutique fitness studio but don’t have access (or the funds), this is an excellent option.