Touted as the next big thing after Peleton, the -Reflect Touch boasts Pilates, yoga and HIIT workouts, but can it give Chrissie Russell the health kick she craves?
The person facing me in the mirror is toned to perfection.
She’s all lithe limbs and glowing skin, performing highly co-ordinated Zumba dance moves with flawless co-ordination and smiling with energetic enthusiasm, only the merest sheen of sweat across her chest.
Sadly, the person in the mirror isn’t me.
It’s my peppy fitness instructor Cat, and while her beaming face might be the main one I’m focused on, I can see me too — distinctly less toned and more sweaty — as I attempt to follow her every move in a 20-minute Zumba class.
At the end of the class, the mirror morphs into a new screen, saluting me with the words, ‘Great workout, Chrissie’, before dissolving into a complex-looking graph illustrating my heart-rate and calorie burn over the last 20 minutes.
Before I leave, there’s a brief inspirational message of encouragement. “The class may be over,” declares the screen sagely. “But the journey has just begun.”
The ‘journey’ in question is my foray into the world of fitness mirrors. Touted as the next big thing after Peleton, my Echelon Reflect Touch 50” Smart Fitness Mirror, is one of several interactive mirrors currently on the market, providing a vast range of home workouts with personalised feedback on your performance.
It’s not cheap. The wall-mounted Echelon Reflect (kindly loaned to me for a trial by Brown Thomas) retails at €2,199.95. And that’s not the end of the financial outlay. Accessing the wealth of live and on-demand classes is extra.
There’s everything from yoga, barre and kettle-bell workouts to HIIT training and daily challenges, with options ranging from a 10-minute guided meditation to a 30-minute Pilates class, available 24/7 at the touch of a button, for €29.99 per month, €299.90 for 12 months or €479.76 for 24 months.
I’m entitled to a 45-day free trial, which I quickly fill in my online form to avail of, but the screen’s suggestion that I might also want to buy wireless earphones feels a step to far.
With the average cost of a typical gym membership weighing in at €45 a month, perhaps it works out economically in the long term and, anyway, what could be more important than investing in one’s health?
This is the mantra I’m still chanting to myself as I shell out another €30 ordering a heart monitor (not the €100 plus for the recommended Echelon one, but a cheap one online that worked fine).
As it transpires, I’ll only get helpful feedback on heart-rate, work-rate and calories burned if I’m hooked up via Bluetooth to my new mirror master.
The mirror claims to be finger-print resistant, but it seems wise (particularly at €2,000) to place it somewhere far away from my sticky-fingered children, so I install it in our spare bedroom/home office.
The sheer range of classes is staggering and brilliant for trying something new. I discover I actually quite like Zumba despite having previously ruled myself out on grounds of terrible co-ordination.
About 10 years ago, I’d gone regularly to a Pilates class that I loved and I soon rediscovered my joy of mermaid poses and even the dreaded plank.
There’s a ‘Family’ section, so my eight-year-old and I blitz a family-friendly workout and because the Echelon allows you to add up to four family members, my husband signs up and embraces the 10-minute warm-up classes as a pre-soccer habit.
Perhaps it’s because most of the instructors are US-based, but live classes don’t tend to start until 11am at the earliest and it’s only after frantically googling ‘can they see me?’ that I pluck up the courage to join a live workout. (They can’t by the way, some mirrors have cameras, but the Echelon Reflect isn’t one of them).
There’s a bit of a buzz from seeing the other names come up and knowing you’re effectively at a group class, but my presence doesn’t garner any ‘shout-outs’ from the trainer, not even when my heart-rate strays into the red zone for a less than ideal length of time.
The zones are a handy way of guiding your intensity and encouragement is provided by way of doling out Heart-rate Points.
I get a little badge on my avatar to celebrate when I’ve completed 10 classes, but my Heart-rate Points never seem to turn into anything tangible.
Regardless of my effort, many of the emails I get on completing a task tell me I am entitled to 10pc off Echelon apparel and accessories, so I can “keep working out in style”, proving conclusively that there is no camera on my mirror since I am, in fact, working out in an old East 17 T-shirt and see-through leggings.
There are things that irk me. The detail of what classes entail is often lacking, as too are details on what weights are required (if any), and I would have struggled to keep up as a beginner in some classes, such as the Pilates, if I hadn’t had some previous knowledge.
But the shorter classes prove a great gateway. On days where I’m lacking motivation, a 10 minute ‘reset’ or brief, guided stretch session is all the nudge I need to get moving with a longer, more energetic class and I love things like the Killer Core challenge, led by the ever-encouraging Sam, which gradually steps up the time and intensity over a period of weeks.
Then slowly, inevitably, my fitness mirror becomes more ‘mirror’ and less ‘fitness’. Its shiny eye of judgement watches me as I walk past it, too weary from consecutive weeks of the kids being down with vomiting bugs, to engage in squats and completely uninspired to perform Sun Salutations in the office where I’ve already spent most of the day.
I have form with this: the piles of dumb-bells that haunt the garage like the ghosts of fitness past; the elliptical trainer that ended up mostly serving as a handy place to hang ironing on.
I don’t blame the mirror. It’s the woman in the mirror who once again couldn’t quite make a change. There’s a part of me that embraces the option of at-home workouts.
Despite the logical side of my brain knowing that no one in a gym cares about the size of my arse, the self-conscious side still screams ‘everyone’s judging you’, so there’s great appeal in exercising behind closed doors and all its handiness.
But when I think of the times I really engaged with exercise in a consistent and enjoyable manner, it was when I went to the aforementioned Pilates class, where the lovely instructor would patiently tweak my form in real time.
Or the twice-weekly Fun Box class I sweated at every week for years, encouraged on by instructor Al and various boxing buddies.
Or when I was pregnant and loved doing lengths of the swimming pool, mindfully engaged only in the sensation of being in water.
Perhaps it’s because I also work from home full-time, but I think I’ve reached my ‘at home’ saturation point.
The Echelon Reflect is a great bit of kit and no doubt would work for many, but what it taught me was that, if I’m going to engage in exercise in a committed and meaningful way, then maybe I need to stop being disgruntled with what I see in the mirror and just get out the door.