As many critiqued the holiday ad — which features a woman being surprised by her husband with the brand’s $2,245 (and up) stationary bike — and the company also dealt with an ongoing music rights legal battle, Peloton’s real-life users went on the defensive.
“I think people were putting their own insecurities and their own misconceptions into the commercial, but they weren’t really there,” Chris Porta, a Virginia-based Air Traffic Controller who has been a Peloton member since July 2018, tells PEOPLE.
Echoes Courtney Hughes, a Texas Peloton member since March 2019, “I thought people looked too far into it.”
Peloton was founded in 2012 and is based in New York City. The company’s main product is a stationary bicycle that allows users to participate in streamed spinning classes, either live or on-demand. Peloton also offers a treadmill, called the Tread, which starts at $4,295. The company offers payment plans for the equipment.
In addition, users also pay a monthly subscription fee of $39 for the wide array of classes.
The cost, members tell PEOPLE, is more than worth it.
Amy Wieland, a 56-year-old vice president at a software company in Florida, tells PEOPLE, “I would say it was the best investment I ever made.”
Wieland — who has been a member since December 2018 — adds, “There’s no better investment than being able to have something that can take care of your health.”
And Wieland, who has Multiple Sclerosis, knows the importance of health.
“In 2018, I had a pretty severe [MS] relapse that started in August,” says Wieland. “I was hospitalized three or four times. And I got out of the hospital, I think in November. At Thanksgiving, I could only walk about three steps. In December, I started to walk a little bit more. I think I might’ve been up to about 10 steps without assistance, but just with a walker or a cane.”
Wieland used a bike at the hospital while undergoing rehabilitation, and then after watching some Peloton commercials, thought she could recreate the assistance at home.
“For my first ride, my husband had to literally hold me on the bike,” she recounts. “And from there, I just fell in love with it and grew to being able to do 75 minutes on the bike. And I began to walk without any kind of assistance at all.”
Wieland has since started a Facebook group just for other Peloton users with MS.
“The support you get, everybody is so encouraging,” she says.
The sense of community has been a huge selling point for many other users, including Hughes.
Hughes — a 34-year-old who works in communications at Dell Inc. — learned about the bike after her daughter McKenzie was born premature at 25 weeks, and subsequently spent five months in the NICU.
“After bringing her home, most people assume that everything’s fine — and that is like the furthest thing from the truth,” says Hughes. “She came home on oxygen and machines that were monitoring her, and then we ended up getting a feeding tube. This whole process, it completely changed self-care for me.”
Before welcoming her daughter Hughes says she was hitting the gym some to six days a week. She says: “It got put to the very bottom of my list of things to do.”
But Hughes craved the stress-release she felt after working out. The cost of care for her special needs child, she says, eliminated any budget for a gym membership. Then, she learned about Peloton’s The Comeback program, which gifts the bike to those “on an uphill climb” who have been nominated.
“I never win anything,” she admits, but pushed herself to apply because “Peloton was on my vision board.”
“It has been such a lifesaver for me,” she says. “It was never about losing weight or anything like that. For me it was always just about feeling good and working out makes me feel good.”
She’s also a member of several Peloton Facebook groups, including Black Girl Magic: The Peloton Edition, she tells PEOPLE.
“The community is behind you and supporting you and pushing you to be better.”
Sabrina Kasner, a member of Peloton since March 2019, like Hughes, finds the ease of having fitness equipment at her home crucial.
The 30-year-old Wisconsin social worker was gifted the bike by her sister after undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, and, ultimately, a double mastectomy for breast cancer in 2018.
Leaving the house — and her two young children — to get fit after her health crisis was too difficult, she says, and the cold weather in her area didn’t help.
“I live in the middle of nowhere,” Kasner shares. “We have eight months a year, pretty much, that it’s winter. And so being a mom and having to go out to work out, really once I got [to the gym], that was an accomplishment. Having the bike in my home, I can get the kids off to school, and have time to work out.”
And like Hughes and Wieland, Kasner has found support online in a Peloton group just for riders who battled breast cancer.
And while many Peloton users espouse the overall health benefits of the company’s products, weight loss is still one of the most frequent results.
Porta — who saw a commercial for the bike during the Winter Olympics in 2018 — said he knew he wanted to lose weight after hitting 330 pounds, so he bought the equipment.
“I had never taken any spin classes before, so it was a totally new experience,” he shares.
And now, “It’s basically sparked an entirely different lifestyle. Aside from physical changes — I’m going to brag a little bit here — I’m down 100 pounds from when I started.”
But, again, what about the cost — which many critiqued during the media circus that followed the dubbed “sexist”-commercial and the brand’s other ads which frequently showcase the equipment in glamorous homes, overlooking stunning landscapes?
“I just try to get people to see that the upfront investment — it may seem a lot upfront — but long term, you’re able to get more than any other equipment than you would use at home,” says Charlis Penson, 40. “The instructors are top-notch and you’re changing your life. It’s a great commitment to your health.”
The Maryland-based medical device saleswoman has been a member since January 2016 and loves the equipment so much that when her family moved and her bike was lost, and her Tread left behind, they bought new ones.
“What Peloton has done for me is beyond anything I could ever have imagined,” she says. “I invested in Peloton because I just wanted a workout. I ended up gaining so much more.”
Video: Calorie counters on treadmills and ellipticals aren't as accurate as you may think (Business Insider)?
Get back to sleep with these tips from the expertsCan’t seem to get a good night’s rest? Buzz60’s TC Newman has what the experts do when they can’t sleep.Buzz60
Gym anxiety is real and how you can conquer itIf you’re feeling self-conscious about potentially intimidating, embarrassing or awkward situations at the gym, you may have gym anxiety—and yes, it’s a real thing. Veuer’s Chandra Lanier has the story.Veuer
'I'm having a ball:' Grandma loses weight, becomes bodybuilder'I'm having a ball:' Grandma loses weight, becomes bodybuilder with help from local medical professionalsWXII 12 Greensboro-Winston-Salem
Calorie counters on treadmills and ellipticals aren't as accurate as you may think
Get back to sleep with these tips from the experts
Gym anxiety is real and how you can conquer it
'I'm having a ball:' Grandma loses weight, becomes bodybuilder
Jake Paul’s claim anxiety is ‘created by you’ debunked by psychologist
This could be more helpful at relieving stress than a vacation
Pathologists debunk 13 coronavirus myths
This is how China is staying fit amidst the Coronavirus outbreak
What are coronaviruses?
Postpartum Depression: Signs, Statistics, and Treatment Options
6 foods with more Vitamin C than an orange
The reason some men go bald, according to a dermatologist
Latest preventative measure for doctors in Wuhan: shaving their heads
What nutritionists say going vegan does to your body
Bob Harper shows us his gym and fridge
What you need to know about your pet and the coronavirus