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Obé Fitness Review: Home workout playback service with retro appeal

Online service Obé (pronounced “obey”) offers a modern insight into the successful VHS cultural tapes that mothers used to watch. As you might expect from a company founded by former talented TV explorers, Obé stands out from a crowded gym with beautiful scenery; attractive charismatic coaches; workouts that don’t require equipment beyond a laptop or iPhone.

To get started, just choose one of the 15 types of workouts you offer. These are high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions ranging from yoga and meditation classes, and can be played live or on request. There is also the option of all-day fitness challenge sections ranging from seven-day beginner programs to monthly fat burner collections.

A whiter shade of white

Obé’s coaches teach classes from a white box with walls that change color as the workout progresses.

Photo: Elena Mudd Photo / Obé

The first thing you’ll notice about Obé’s visual aesthetic is the setting in the background. Instead of the usual studio setup, the coach is made up of white walls. As you work, the tones of the walls change, which creates a lively and dynamic session in every session. It’s almost enough to keep you from working hard.

Live classes are the protagonist of the show here, as having a scheduled schedule for training gives you a sense of responsibility and gives you something to look forward to at the end of the workday. If you can’t get to about 20 live classes a day, there are over 5,000 classes you can order. On-demand classes are the same format as the live ones, but you don’t have the slight thrill of hearing the coach call your name during the live session.

You don’t need specialized company equipment, and some classes don’t require any equipment at all. Others need dumbbells and fitness bands or items around the house, like a chair for taking bar classes.

The coaches will take you to workouts, occasionally directing you to classmates and shouting personalized encouragement, and that’s where Obé really shines. A home fitness system relies on its coaches and schedules to attract people to its service. Coaches can make or break the system, and Obé’s coaches are a complete home race. Obé’s co-founders, Ashley Mills and Mark Mullett, started out as talent agents and most of the coaching pools have a background in the entertainment industry. The charisma and entertaining personality of the camera make each class more than scary.

When I train in a CrossFit or powerlifting class, I have to observe my teammates while they do their workouts, so I’m very impressed to see them work out while the coaches are actively doing the workout. As I pushed through coach Melody D. through a fitness band workout, he constantly offered me guidance and encouragement, mentioning the participants by name, and offering brief anecdotes. In the meantime, I was looking for air and I was unable to do anything beyond the moans of the cavemen.

I came in with a skeptical attitude; I’m used to throwing weights and lifting 20-meter ropes myself, so I wasn’t sure how those workouts would push me. About 15 minutes after I started my first workout, I knew the answer was “a lot of hell”. It didn’t take me long to get out of gas and breathe (sorry, Coach Angelo G.).

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