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How to Get a Peloton-Style Workout Without Splurging

Lisa Whitney, a dietitian in Reno, Nev., came across the deal of a lifetime about two years ago. A fitness studio was going out of business and selling its equipment. She scored an indoor exercise bike for $100.

Ms. Whitney soon made some additions to the bike. She propped her iPad on the handlebars. Then she experimented with online cycling classes streamed on YouTube and on the app for Peloton, a maker of internet-connected exercise devices that offers interactive fitness classes.

Ms. Whitney had no desire to upgrade to one of Peloton’s $1,900-plus luxury exercise bikes, which include a tablet to stream classes and sensors that track your speed and heart rate. So she further modified her bike to become a do-it-yourself Peloton, buying sensors and indoor cycling shoes.

The grand total: about $300, plus a $13 monthly subscription to Peloton’s app. Not cheap, but a significant discount to what she might have paid.

“I’m happy with my setup,” Ms. Whitney, 42, said. “I really don’t think upgrading would do much.”

The pandemic, which has forced many gyms to shut down, has driven hordes of people to splurge on luxury items like Peloton’s bikes and treadmills so they can work out at home. Capitalizing on this trend, Apple last year released Apple Fitness Plus. This instructional fitness app is exclusively offered to people who own an Apple Watch, which requires an iPhone to work.

But all of that can be expensive. The minimum prices of an Apple Watch and iPhone add up to $600, and Apple Fitness Plus costs $10 a month. Then to stream classes on a big-screen TV instead of a phone while you exercise, you need a streaming device such as an Apple TV, which costs about $150. The whole Peloton experience is even pricier.

With the economy in a funk, many of us are tightening our spending while maintaining good health. So I experimented with minimizing the costs of doing video-instructed workouts at home, talked to tinkerers, and assessed the pros and cons.

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