Could the Peloton bike ad be sort of okay when viewed through a different lens?
This past summer, I was visiting a friend who has a Peloton bike. I'd heard about them and was curious to try it. I clipped in my shoes, and was off with the virtual pack. Although it took a little while to get in the groove, I did find myself trying to keep up with the pack (you can see other riders' numbers on the screen).
The recent commercial for the brand unleashed a torrent of criticism, some warranted, and some perhaps, just people jumping on the brand-bashing bandwagon. We are so quick to judge others and point out what they are doing wrong. While I don't believe that the ad is an excellent portrayal of health and wellness, I believe it spoke to some important points. Check out the ad below:
Brands, especially those that have the resources to get their ads in front of millions of people, should consider what message they are sending. But we have to look at what lens we are viewing these ads through.
- Exercise is not just for weight loss. There has been a lot of pointing out how thin the woman is when she gets the bike. The issue here is that people exercise for all kinds of reasons. Many exercise, especially at high intensity, for their mental health—to boost their mood or to calm anxiety. These are things you cannot necessarily see from the outside, and they don't have anything to do with weight.
- Community. "She said my name!" exclaims the rider. The ad is sort of right about the importance of community. It's a huge factor in our emotional and physical health. But ... having someone read your name off a screen does not mean you are seen. We all want to be recognized, and in a society obsessed with celebrity, having someone say your name in front of potentially thousands of other riders could offer a thrill—albeit an empty one. Consider catching up with real life pals, and support each other through actual conversations.
- Documenting wins. It used to be that we charted our workout days on a calendar, logging miles, sets, and reps. Documentation can be a great way to stay motivated. In this era of digital everything, it does make sense to take that documentation online. The problem becomes when we are subjecting ourselves to the mercy of others. We can be victims of how many likes and 100!s our latest post has received. This could become a version of working out for someone else's approval.
- Bringing anxiety to the forefront. The woman in the ad is clearly anxious. She's nervous for her ride, and when she is sitting and watching the video a year later, she is nervously twiddling her fingers and looks rather anxiously at her husband for approval. In her video she says the past year has changed her life, and while it is unclear what that means, one can imagine that she no longer felt as anxious or low as she did the year before. After all, as the soundtrack says, "She's so high." Could that be referencing endorphins?
The biggest problem with the ad:
- External motivation. Having your husband give you a bike, especially if you haven't specifically asked for one is ... odd, and potentially demeaning. It's also an expensive gift, and hard to move, so returning it might not be an option. Any change that is made to make someone else happy is not going to last.
Keep reading: Yoga on the Go: A Sequence for Cycling