Netflix’s Nike Training Club Workouts Are Beautiful Chaos
Even at 30 minutes or less, are the fitness classes worth your time?
At the close of 2022, Netflix partnered with Nike for a series of videos aimed at people like me: those of us who typically get our heart rate up by re-watching “Squid Game” or “Peaky Blinders.”
And it worked. The idea of being able to break up my television binges with bite-sized, 10 to 20-minute exercise breaks appealed to me. So I typed “N-I-K-E” into my Netflix search bar and came upon a dozen different tabs of random workouts.
From fitness basics and vinyasas, to high intensity interval training and bodyweight burn, all categorized under 10, 20 or 30-minute time increments, the user experience is disorienting at first. You know you’re dealing with a chaotic interface when Netflix has to release an entire blog post about how to navigate 30 hours of workouts.
To put the pandemonium into perspective, episode 11 of the “Bodyweight Burn” section is titled “Your first strength class.” So what were the previous 10 classes, Nike? But no matter where you dive in, it doesn’t take more than a few HIIT sets to realize that the confusion is largely because the videos are mostly a commercial for the already existing (and very much free) Nike Training Club App.
Rather than being bothered to make original content, the videos on Netflix are ripped directly from the app without any added frills — they don’t even have music.
But this brazen lack of fucks was actually impressive to me, and as it turns out, is the exact amount of arrogance I’m looking for in an exercise program. They couldn’t even be bothered to edit out the parts where trainers address the original app users directly…I love that for them.
What’s going on, here? Well, Netflix is likely testing how workout content plays on their platform before creating more of it. So in “collaborating” with Nike, both companies benefit, and you do too. If you end up hating the workouts, at least the algorithm won’t pull up more fitness videos on your queue, because they don’t have much else.
Given the low risk, I chose chaos and started training.
Starting With The Basics
Netflix’s blog suggests starting with the section, “Kickstart Fitness with the Basics.” The workouts feature what most of the videos turn out to be — basic HIIT workouts, at 10 minutes and up.
Fitness aficionados may be interested in samples of more nuanced forms of interval training, like EMOM and AMRAP, but for novices this distinction is relatively meaningless. It’s all about moving your body, getting your heart rate up and hopefully breaking a sweat while clock-staring.
(Having a clock to watch when enduring planks is something I didn’t know was important to me, but now it makes me feel like every workout is New Years Eve.)
The HIIT Sessions Really Hit
The Nike Training Club videos are more or less a HIIT workout program — with a few exceptions, all of them could’ve been categorized as high intensity interval training.
Still, Netflix decided to break them up into 10-minute, 20-minute, and 30-minute blocks, along with “HIIT & Strength with Tara”…and a separate HIIT tab. The section “Bodyweight Burn” also features a number of HIIT workouts as well.
After a few days of jumping around between 10 and 20 minute HIIT sessions in different sections, I noticed that many of the videos were repeated, or dropped into separate sections, potentially in an effort to make it seem like there’s more content than there actually is.
Regardless of this oversight, I was immediately a fan of the 10-minute HIIT sessions, which I started using to take small exercise breaks throughout the day. At first, I resented motivational tone that trainers like David Carson used, calling me “team” and saying he’s “proud” of me. I love a short workout, but let’s not be delusional — I’m doing the bare minimum and should not be congratulated for that.
Yet after a few days of doing these shorter HIIT sessions, I started to feel all those squats, and agreed with Coach Dave. I was proud of myself. Aside from videos that specifically targeted arms and abs, most of the Nike Training Club workouts really challenged my quads and glutes. Maybe it’s because the goal of the program is to make you feel like an athlete, and not because thick thighs save lives. In any case, by my fourth or fifth agility ladder drill, I almost felt like one.
Namaste With The Yoga Basics
The yoga section of the Nike Training Club videos have drawn some criticism from more traditional yogis, who prefer vinyasa flows closer to 60 minutes. These 20-minute sessions are comparatively basic, but consistent with the overarching theme of treating viewers like athletes-in-training. It seems to be more geared towards people hoping to use yoga as a form of active recovery on their rest days, rather than people hoping to use yoga as their primary workout.
Although Nike Master Trainer and yoga instructor Jonah Kest uses some Sanskrit and is legitimately zen when he says “Yoga isn’t trying to change you,” it could be considered largely an introduction to yoga class for beginners. Not bad, but that’s because it wasn’t that demanding, either.
WTF Is Feel-Good Fitness?
The most befuddling part of the Nike Training Club videos was in the “Feel-Good Fitness” section, which was a random mix of shorter yoga sessions, HIIT workouts, pilates, and circuit training. But after hours of content that required no equipment, the need for resistance bands and weights for these otherwise forgettable workouts was infuriating. I was so caught off-guard when the first episode asked me to use weights that I audibly responded with “Shut up!” And yes, it did upset my dog. Without weights handy, I attempted the workout with water bottles, before eventually giving up. How dare Nike and Netflix suggest I invest in additional props for an otherwise free workout?
To be fair, these feel-good workouts included the countdown clock that I had grown accustomed to, but even that was bizarre. While some workouts lasted 10 minutes, others were 18 minutes, and some started counting down from random times of 10:41 and 6:28?! If part of feeling good means confusing everyone into a state of relaxation, then they absolutely nailed it.
The Trainers Are The Best Part
As the only trainer with her own separate section of workouts, Tara Nicolas is clearly the breakout star of the Nike Training Club. That said, Kirsty Godso, Alex Piccirilli, Lauren Schramm, Jerrelle Wilson, Vance Vlasek and all of the trainers featured possess the kind of charisma typically reserved for up-and-coming celebrities.
This seems to reflect the general, influencer-centered model that the fitness industry is moving towards. Whether it’s a workout with Cody Rigsby on a Peloton, Diana Conforti’s 30-day ab challenge, or my personal favorite, Coach Dave’s HIIT workouts, it’s basically the parasocial equivalent of having a friend-crush on a fitness instructor in real life. You respect them too much to ask for their phone number, but it’s just enough to motivate you to keep showing up.
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