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Equinox’s Variis App Is Making the Best of Boutique Fitness Accessible to All

When Equinox launched Variis—its first foray into digital fitness—earlier this year, it came with one major caveat: In order to access it, you had to either be an Equinox member or shell out $2500 for the SoulCycle at-home bike. As of today, though, the app is officially available to everyone, proving that an accessible blend of in-person and online workouts are officially the wave of the future.

In addition to Variis’s OG streaming workouts (spin classes from SoulCycle, treadmill sessions from Precision Run, yoga flows from PureYoga, and meditation and recovery classes hosted by Equinox trainers), the latest iteration of the platform will also stream classes from Solidcore, Rumble, and TB12, plus real-time, live classes. Or you can tune out and watch Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+.

a woman holding a phone: Variis

© Photo: Getty Images/Oscar Wong

At $40 a month, Variis pricing is in line with others in the industry (the “all-access” pass required to access Peloton’s spinning and treadmill classes costs $39 a month, while Obé charges $35 a month for its streaming service). If you consider that a single, in-person Solidcore class in New York City costs $32 and a SoulCycle class will run you $36, paying $40 for unlimited access to the digital classes could save you big in the long run. This, it seems, is representative of a larger, industry-wide shift of boutique gyms using affordable digital fitness to make their selections more widely available.

Over the last few months, after stay-at-home orders made living room workouts our only option, Equinox—like many other pricey, cult-fave brands such as Barry’s, AARMY, and SLT—have embraced an omnichannel approach of blending in-person and online classes, and this model is decidedly here to stay.  “I think people were kind of in one camp or the other before…but now it’s not an either/or—it’s what I call a hybrid model,” David Miller, the executive director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at George Mason University’s School of Business previously told Well+Good. “When you look at what’s emerging, people are now more open [to doing both at-home and in-studio workouts], and are going to mix and match.”

As far as luxury gyms go, Equinox has long been the industry’s gold standard, but its clubs have only been located in major metros. This means that by removing the membership requirement for Variis and shipping the Soul bike nationwide, Equinox has done away with its financial and geographic barriers to entry, placing the brand squarely in competition with other major players in the space—including Peloton.

In the last seven months, Peloton’s stock ticked up more than 345 percent, and its app reportedly saw five times more downloads in March (when gyms in the US were forced to close) than it did in February. It remains to be seen whether or not Variis will see the same sort of success, but considering a 2,009-person survey from TD Ameritrade found that 59 percent of Americans say they don’t plan on renewing their gym memberships even after the pandemic is over,

SoulCycle’s At-Home Bike Launches Across The US, With Live Classes And New Variis Fitness App

Starting today, SoulCycle riders in all 50 states can bring the sweaty, high-energy, in-studio experience into their home with the national launch of SoulCycle’s at-home bike. Initially released to a small set of markets in March, this national launch coincides with the co-launch of Variis mobile app. SoulCycle’s live and on-demand classes stream to the at-home bike’s screen via Variis, Equinox Media’s digital fitness media platform. In addition to powering the digital SoulCycle experience, the standalone Variis mobile app also launches today, powering digital access to a variety of Equinox’ other notable digital fitness and mindfulness modalities.

Not surprisingly given the current climate, demand for SoulCycle’s at-home bike skyrocketed after safer-at-home orders were issued earlier this spring, necessitating a change in rollout plans for the greater launch. According to Equinox Media and Variis CEO Jason LaRose, “We launched this March to select markets and had planned to test and iterate before going national. With the pandemic, it felt critical to accelerate our roadmap and give our members and riders the ability to pursue fitness from wherever they are. On the first day we started taking SoulCycle at-home bike orders, consumers from 47 states and 11 countries were reaching out to us asking when the bike would be available to them.” 

SoulCycle’s at-home bike experience now includes both on-demand and a growing schedule of live classes. Class length ranges from 20, 30 and 45 minutes, and difficulty from beginner to advanced. Riders can filter by instructor, and peek at class playlists before committing to a ride (something never possible with the in-studio experience). Following rider demand in test markets, SoulCycle and Variis Media accelerated the addition of live classes. These live rides have been a major hit. According to LaRose and member data, “We’ve seen tremendous reception to the launch of our live rides last month—97% of riders have shared positive user satisfaction ratings, and live riders now ride an additional class per week. We are also building in community features that enable riders to see where others are joining from, and how many people they’re riding alongside—so wherever they are, they’re part of the pack.”

Plans for the standalone Variis mobile app launch were similarly expedited, based on Equinox member demand and a spike in at-home usage. Initially intending to introduce the app in a phased rollout in the spring, Variis accelerated the launch by more than six months and expanded from one market to 14 in less than two months. According to member data, since Variis’s member-launch in March, those who use the app are working out nearly 20% more per month compared to last year. Approximately 2.5 of these workouts each week take place via the app, across 2.3 types of classes. The Variis app now offers, via a monthly subscription, unlimited classes across Equinox’s own roster, as well as SoulCycle, PURE Yoga, Precision Run, HeadStrong, and now [solidcore], Rumble and