First Peloton, the cult spin bike was the name on everyone’s lips. Adored by the likes of David Beckham and Michelle Obama, it became a billion-dollar company as gyms closed during the pandemic. More recently, the buzz has all been about Hydrow, the high-tech rowing machine which counts American actors and superstar athletes among its growing base of disciples, and allows you to row past dolphins in Miami one minute and paddle past the London Eye the next.
The latest hype? Fitness mirrors. “Fitness mirrors?” We hear you cry. Yes, its 2021 and its a thing. Think of it as a PT for your living room. If you were one of the many who partook in personal training sessions via Zoom in lockdown and loved the convenience, ease and privacy of it, it’s a gamechanger.
Last June, Lululemon bought Mirror, a US smart mirror company founded by former ballerina Brynn Putnam, for a whopping $500 million (£350 million). It’s yet to arrive on our shores, but German tech company Vaha has just launched the first smart workout mirror in the UK - and we’ve taken one for the team and put it to the test.
What exactly is a fitness mirror? Vaha is a full-length interactive mirror with a touchscreen interface which allows you to join live, on-demand and personal training classes from your home. There are over 200 workouts spanning cardio, strength, yoga, bootcamp, Pilates, HIIT and tabata, the list goes on, plus daily live-streamed classes you can join with PTs from around the world.
Much like a Peloton or Hydrow, the device is subscription-based and you can also opt to pay the hardware off under an instalment plan, making it less of an initial hit - because honestly, it doesn’t come cheap. There are two models. Choose from the smaller Vaha S, which costs £1,150, or £29.49/month (for 39 months), or the larger Vaha X coming in at £1,950, or monthly instalments of £50 over the same period.
Users pay a monthly basic membership of £39 to access the platform of workouts, which can be used by up to four other flatmates, friends, family or other halves (though to access private training they’ll need a membership of their own). So in total you can own a Vaha mirror for around £89 or £68 per month. Under the current offer you get one PT session per month thrown in, following which your trainer will build a workout plan in line with your goals and workout preferences. Additional PT sessions then cost extra.
The PT kick-off
I kick-off my Vaha review with a 30-minute PT session with Naomi Jade (@naomijadeuk), who also teaches at 1Rebel. I was glad to see a mix of PTs from around the world which you can choose via the Vaha app (once you’ve synced it up to your device) based on a little blurb that explains their vibe, whether it’s hot on HIIT or a qualified nutritionist, for example.
Jade calls into my Vaha for the workout and it’s an immediate upgrade to some of the awkward Zoom workouts I did in lockdown as I don’t have to move back or forwards from the screen for her to see my movements, both of our video screens are displayed in full onto the mirror. The huge benefit here has to be how you can examine your form, which for me, a strength training convert, is desperately needed after months training without the watchful eye of an expert (and not in front of my reflection), but would be equally helpful for yogis wishing to perfect their warrior poses.
We work through 30 minutes of squats, ab exercises and compound lifts using a pair of heavy(ish) dumbbells - which you’ll need to provide yourself - with plenty of high knees and burpees sprinkled in between. Before starting the session I answered a series of lifestyle questions about my training goals and Jade puts together a weekly training plan for me afterwards based on how frequently I want to workout, telling me I can WhatsApp her with any questions any time.
Feel the burn
I have been loving Jay’s energetic strength sessions and Andy’s cardio bursts. For something more serene, there are deep stretching classes and even meditation sessions. You can sync up your Spotify to the mirror and play your own tunes during a workout, just make sure you’ve got the right beat, or enjoy one of the specially created playlist for each class, plus adjust how loud your music is in relation to the instructor’s voice - and the speakers are really decent. Vaha says it is planning to add “smart tracking and guided training” to its offering “shortly,” which will use AI sensor technology to offer feedback in real-time that would presumably enhance the value of these on-demand classes.
Look and feel
Gone are the days of clunky home fitness equipment, as with all the latest workout gadgets, Vaha has a sleek design and when it’s switched off it’s just a regular full-length mirror. The Vaha X is 170cm (just over 5’5”) and 62cm wide, while the Vaha S is smaller at 150cm (4.9” wide) and 50cm in width - both sit on a stand, though the smaller device can be mounted onto the wall where it would take up even less space. The mirror itself is heavy, and being rather accident-prone, I was very grateful to the two delivery men who came to install it for me. Starter kits come with a heart rate monitor, resistance bands and microfibre cloth for cleaning.
So - is it worth the hype?
The biggest differentiator between a fitness mirror and, say, a spin bike or rower in my opinion, is that you’re not getting that extra piece of workout specific equipment for the pricetag, but on the other hand what you are getting is a foolproof setup for quality personal training from home. And my form when deadlifting is really improving because of it. Equally, it takes up far less space than other fitness gadgets. I trialled the larger mirror (Vaha X) but on reflection may have opted for the smaller model given it can be mounted on the wall. Could I set something similar up for a fraction of the cost by just buying a full length mirror, angling my laptop next to it and streaming another online workout ? I guess the answer is yes I could, but it wouldn’t be anywhere near as smooth. Plus the option to have 1:1 live-streamed personal training is a big draw for the many who plan to continue working out from the comfort of their own homes.
This is an expensive piece of kit, granted, but having my mirror already setup in the living room and not having to fiddle around with my TV or laptop, moving furniture means I’m using it more than other home workouts. The fact that up to five people can use also considerably breaks down the cost, too. A Vaha smart mirror is basically the ultimate accessory for anyone committing to home workouts and wanting to pimp their home gym.