How To Work Out With Your Friends, Virtually

It’s old news that workout buddies make it easier to stick with a fitness routine. But now there’s a new way to sweat together—without ever leaving the house.

A smiling woman works out while looking at her laptop

(Photo: Stocksy)

The pandemic has made me a home workout convert, so much so that I’m not sure if I’ll ever return to the gym. But while virtual high fives are nice, they can’t replace the camaraderie of group fitness. Enter the recently released Apple SharePlay, which allows up to 32 users to do Fitness+ classes together, seeing and talking to one another via FaceTime. Team Chatelaine tried—and loved—this function for dance and HIIT workouts. Want to try it out? Here’s what you need to know.

All participants need Apple devices

There’s no getting around the fact that everyone needs an Apple Watch (and an Apple Fitness+ subscription, which is $13 a month) as well as another Apple device (whether it’s an iPhone or iPad) to access SharePlay.

There are workouts galore

Choosing a class might be harder than it sounds, as Apple Fitness+ users already know. There are hundreds of options that would work well for a group workout—from the aforementioned HIIT and dance classes to strength, yoga, and Pilates to spin and treadmill running.

You’ll need to do a dry run to ensure everyone’s tech is working

Ironing out any technological issues in advance of your workout is crucial.

The first step, for everyone involved, is to enable SharePlay on your devices: go to Settings, and then FaceTime, and then SharePlay.

Then, the organizer needs to FaceTime the other participants. After that, the organizer will open the Fitness+ app, select their desired workout, and tap “Let’s go” on the app and tap “Play” on their watch.

The participants will then be prompted to join SharePlay from the FaceTime call as well as their own Apple Watches.

(You can also follow the workout on Apple TV, while connecting with other participants via your iPhone or iPad. To do this, you’ll need to enter Control Centre on your TV, and select SharePlay, and follow the prompts from there. You’ll also need to ensure that your Apple TV is logged into the same Apple ID as your phone and watch.)

This sounds like a lot, but it’s more or less intuitive after the first few times.

You’ll also want to set your iPhone or iPad screen somewhere that will let the other participants see your face, at the very least, if not your full body. (Seeing one another’s dance moves during our team workout was a delight.) For spin and treadmill workouts, you’ll ideally need a tablet stand.

I tried SharePlay on both my iPhone and iPad, and while the screen was obviously bigger on the latter, the experience was great on both devices.

The SharePlay interface on iPhone and Apple Watch

(Photo: Shareplay courtesy of Apple Fitness+)

You can chat throughout the workout

Once the class has started, you’ll be able to chat back and forth with the other participants, but you’ll only see one person at a time (whoever is talking) on a small square inset on the workout screen. For this reason, we found that SharePlay worked better for smaller group sessions—say two, or three participants.

You can wear your AirPods—or not

For one of my SharePlay sessions, I worked out with just one other person: my coworker Sun. We did a 30-minute early morning HIIT class together and opted to wear AirPods, but then quickly realized it might be a little too… intimate. (In other words, I was basically deep breathing into Sun’s ears for the duration of the workout.) I will personally skip the AirPods going forward.

The bottom line

Doing group workouts via SharePlay was legitimately more fun than I anticipated—I laughed a lot and sweated a lot. Yes, it requires some tech and also a little patience to get properly set up, but if you and your workout partner(s) already use Fitness+, I guarantee you’ll enjoy this feature.

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