It’s good for more than just selfies and checking out your OOTD
This time last year, like most people, I was thinking of New Year’s resolutions. Any guesses what made the top of the list? Yup, working out more and getting rid of that holiday weight (and then some) that had somehow, magically, found its way to my body. I already had a gym membership and had invested in a personal trainer who kicked my butt twice a week. The problem was, beyond those two weekly sessions, the gym was seeing very little of me. My trainer begged me to come in more often to actually see some changes, but I had your Standard List of Excuses not to make the trek to my midtown gym: It’s too cold outside, it’s too hot outside, five more minutes of sleep, please . . . Okay, 10 more, whoops missed the train, no point going to the gym for just 30 minutes, I don’t want to stay in Manhattan later than I have to, there’s too many people at the gym . . . So, finally, instead of fighting the idea of the gym, I decided to look for an at-home workout solution that would get me to work out as much as I should. Enter the Mirror.
If you haven’t seen the TV commercials or those Instagram ads that always seem to know what you’re thinking, the Mirror bills itself as a “nearly invisible home gym.” That’s because, true to its moniker, it’s basically made up of, well, a mirror. However, unlike its purely reflective cousins, the Mirror also doubles as a screen offering a multitude of workout classes. It’s not the only one of its kind, of course. Mirror is part of a trend of instructor-led, at-home workout stations that you’ve probably seen popping up all over. There’s the Peloton bike for cycling enthusiasts, Tonal for weightlifters, Liteboxer for those who prefer punching as a form of exercise and many others. All promise gym-quality workouts from the comfort of your home without the hassle of actually going to the gym. The Mirror separates itself from the others in that it’s not limited to just one form of exercise; instead, it gives you access to a multitude of classes, ranging from barre and Pilates to boxing and cardio. Think ClassPass at home. Also, the Mirror takes up a lot less space and is much more design-forward than other at-home solutions, which is an important aspect to me.
Getting set up
The experience started out pretty smoothly. I reached out to the Mirror team, and they set up a time with me to have the device delivered and installed. Their tech team/person came in, set it up on a stand (it can be mounted to the wall but I’m a renter), connected it to my Wi-Fi and made sure it was good to go before leaving. On my end, all I had to do was set up the companion app on my phone and create a profile with all of my relevant details – height and weight, physical limitations, goals, etc. – to get the most out of my workouts.
How it works
The app itself functions as the remote for your mirror that you can use to navigate all the classes available to you. It also tracks your progress, recording what courses you’ve taken and completed, how many calories you’ve burned and how close you are to your weekly goals. Just as important, it’s also where you can connect to Apple Music to provide a soundtrack for your chosen form of suffering, er, workout. (Surprisingly, the Mirror’s built-in music mixes also hold their own.) If you’re feeling generous, you can also use the app to add up to five household members so they can also use the Mirror with their own profiles (you’re welcome, fam).
As the name implies, the Mirror is a reflective surface that doubles as a screen. This is important, because unlike other at-home gyms, you can actually see yourself while you’re working out, allowing you to check your form as you follow along. Is it extremely awkward to see your sweaty mug as you struggle through an excruciating strength class? Yes. Does it help you get better and avoid injury? Also yes. Aside from your reflection, the class instructor is also smack dab in the center, so you feel like you have a front-row spot at your favourite workout class without having to get there 30 minutes early.
The screen will also show you the names and locations of other people who are taking the same class as you (but don’t worry, you can’t actually see them and they can’t see you) so you feel like you’re not alone in your fitness journey. It also displays upcoming moves so you can prepare for the damage ahead and how many workouts you’ve completed this week. Below the instructor there’s a bar that shows your heart rate and how many calories you’re burning as you’re working out. These stats are measured via a heart monitor that you can purchase with the Mirror; it’s an US$50 (S$66.50), but considering the instant gratification you get from watching those calories burn, it’s totally worth it. Could you get this same dopamine hit by wearing a smartwatch in a real-life class? Yeah, but I don’t like wearing watches, and this class is in my living room!
The most important part of the Mirror, of course, is the instruction. The sheer number and variety of classes – easily enough to rival the offerings of any top-tier gym – is impressive. You can find everything from boxing and kickboxing, strength training and cardio as well as yoga, barre, dance and Tai Chi. There are even classes geared toward families as well as pre and postnatal offerings. Oh, and meditation, of course – it is 2021 after all.
Classes are offered at various levels, from beginner to expert, so you’ll never feel overwhelmed or under-challenged. Though fair warning, as someone who has spent a year using this thing and is now relatively fit, I haven’t dared to go past the advanced classes. I do recommend getting some basic equipment like dumbbells and yoga blocks, as it’ll allow you to level up quickly when you’re ready. But if you’d rather go without, there’s still plenty to do.
All of these butt-kicking classes are taught by accomplished fitness gurus that not only look the part (those abs, those arms!), they also have the credentials to match. My favourite yoga instructor is Alex Silver Fagan, a Nike Master Trainer, and then there’s Gerren Liles, who’s both a Lululemon ambassador and an Equinox trainer. Tracy Anderson (yes, of the Tracy Anderson Method) has also been a guest trainer. You’d have to scramble to get a class with these accomplished instructors at a regular gym, but here you can work out with them every night.
In addition to having your pick of classes and instructors, you can also choose how long you want your classes to be (15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes) to accommodate your schedule. I’ve found this to be particularly useful in getting me to work out more often. It’s a lot easier to stomach a 30-minute class when I’m not feeling motivated or to fit in 15 minutes of ab work when I’m really busy than trekking to the gym. If you do have the ability to set aside a specific time for a class, there’s a whole calendar of live classes that you can tune into (where you may even get an instructor shoutout!). But for people like me who have an endless to-do list and prefer the flexibility to work out whenever I want, the hundreds of pre-recorded classes are the way to go.
For those who want a bit more structure, the Mirror also offers workout programs made up of pre-selected classes that give you a set workout plan for two to six weeks. Per the recommendations of my real-life personal trainer (who, by the way, is not Team Mirror for obvious reasons), I did a four-week cardio program the first month I had the system. The program consisted of three cardio-focused classes per week, which increased in length and difficulty as the weeks progressed. It was a great way to figure out the ins and outs of the Mirror and get into the mindset of actually turning it on, rather than just using it for selfies. If you need even more structure, or just someone to tell you exactly how to do that crow pose, you can book a 30-minute personal training session for US$40/S$53 (a steal, let me tell you). There’s a built-in camera at the top of your Mirror, so you can get real-time feedback and tips without letting a trainer into your home – pretty ideal for the era of social distancing.
What I like about the Mirror
As anyone in my life can tell you, I’ve been singing the Mirror’s praises nonstop since I got it—and I’m not the only one. Remember those friends of mine that got access thanks to your truly? They love it, too—so much so that they would come over just to use it (before lockdown, of course).
I’ve tried many ways to get into shape and lead a healthier life. I’ve poured thousands of dollars into trainers, classes and pricey gym memberships. None of those investments have ever paid off for more than a couple of months. But in the one year that I’ve had it, the Mirror has become a part of my weekly routine. I’ve gone from working out a couple of times a week because I paid someone to make me work out a couple of times a week to working out at least three to four, sometimes six times per week because I want to. Something about flipping the switch and watching the Mirror come to life makes it feel almost like powering up a gaming console. Working out has become, dare I say it, fun.
Since the pandemic began, the Mirror has become even more indispensable. In a time when gyms and workout classes are either not operating or not particularly appealing, it’s been amazing to have a way to stay fit (and occupied) at home. It also fulfills that need to see other people. Somewhat. Look, I know the instructors are just pre-recorded, but working out with people not in my immediate bubble sort of feels like I’m at the gym and getting my fill of social interaction.
The pandemic also resulted in the rollout of Mirror Digital, which gives you unlimited access to all of the Mirror workouts on your phone, tablet or smart TV, so you can get your workout in pretty much anywhere sans the actual Mirror. As someone who has now driven cross-country to (safely) relocate short-term to Austin and LA to ride out the pandemic, this development has made a huge difference. Since I couldn’t travel with my Mirror, I was afraid that I’d revert back to my old ways of sitting around and doing nothing. But with Mirror Digital, rather than re-gain the weight I’d lost, I’ve actually continued working out. Truly shocking considering I used to be someone who would travel with workout clothes only to leave them in my suitcase for the duration of my vacation.
Of course, there are a couple of drawbacks to the Mirror. As my real-life trainer liked to remind me, at the end of the day, the person on the screen is just that, and unless you book a personal training session, there’s no way to get feedback on how you’re doing. While the instructors will give you variations on an exercise in case you have an injury, there’s no substitute for a personalized workout that takes into account everything going on in your life. Beyond that, weight-lifters should take note: Though the Mirror does offer a lot strength classes (and they certainly are challenging), you’ll have to provide your own weights and kettlebells to get the most out of them. And while they will definitely flex your muscles, it’s not quite the same as having access to a gym’s-worth of equipment. Also, there’s the issue of Wi-Fi. If your connection is strong you’ll have no problems, but if, like me, you have subpar signal, you may be holding that plank a lot longer than you would like while the class buffers.
Is the Mirror a perfect replacement for the gym? It depends. If you’re the type of person who is focused on getting stronger and toning with weights then it’s probably a better compliment to your leg days at the gym. But if you’re not particularly focused on heavy weight-lifting, it can certainly replace your gym membership. As for me, I’ve said goodbye to Equinox and have never looked back.
In the final analysis, I really can’t recommend the Mirror enough. Having all the classes I could ever want streaming on-demand from the comfort of my living room is a game-changer. Plus, I always have a perfect view of the instructor, and no other class attendees means there’s less pressure whenever I mess up a boxing combination. The ability to see how many calories I’m burning has really pushed me to work out more—the pain just seems more worth it when I can see the payoff in real time. I also like that the Mirror doesn’t take up a ton of space, like a treadmill or a stationary bike. You just need some wall space plus maybe a yoga mat’s worth of floor real-estate. Plus, it looks sleek as hell when it’s turned off, and since it’s actually a mirror, it’s still functional even when you’re not working out. Let’s just say I like the thing so much that I’ve been putting off writing this story so I didn’t have to give our test model back. Thanks for your patience, Mirror folks.