Just to get this out of the way: Yes, it is bizarre that a device called BlazePod has nothing to do with vaping weed. What else could it possibly be? Officially, BlazePod is a modular fitness gadget that supposedly helps you train your agility, strength, balance, and focus. Unofficially, it is a gadget that, no matter how hard you try, will make you will look utterly stupid when you use it.
You only have to mosey on over to the BlazePod website and click on the promotional video to see what I mean. It’s a bunch of sweaty, skilled athletes thwapping these tiny discs that light up in a super-serious manner that belies just how silly these things look. But the thing that piqued my interest was that this was a fairly compact gadget that could be used in a number of different ways to gamify a boring fitness routine. Since stay-at-home orders began, I’ve gotten tired of my go-to workouts for both strength training and cardio. BlazePod looked like an unorthodox way to jazz things up.
WHAT IS IT?
A modular fitness gadget
Varying options: kits start at $498.
Good for switching up routines. Can use them with teams, workout buddies, or kids. Adaptable for outdoors or indoor spaces of various sizes.
Pricey for what is essentially a novelty. May take a bit to figure out the ideal setup or activities.
The pods themselves are discs with three tiny legs. The top is an LED light that you can change to one of eight colours. They’re Bluetooth-enabled and are “weatherproof” so you can also use them outdoors. You control the pods via a companion app on your phone, and each pod has a range of up to 40 metres. My review kit also came with a charging base, which you can stack the pods on top of. The pods are red when they’re charging and green when they’re fully charged. The effect is sort of like a weird Christmas tree. The kit also came with straps, brackets, and suction cups for mounting them on different surfaces. (More on how much all this costs in a minute.)
At first, I’ll admit I was a bit lost on how to use these things. It’s not that setup was hard. Actually, pairing each individual pod via the BlazePod app was surprisingly quick and intuitive. It was more that I had no idea what sort of exercises I was supposed to do. The app gives you a questionnaire as part of the onboarding process, which asks you which sports you like to play or what type of training you’re into. I’m not a team sports person — I like to exercise solo, away from ridicule or scrutiny, thank you very much. Accessories or complicated setups are also not my preference. The app has plenty of sorting filters, but even after I’d done all that, I was left with a daunting list of activities. At a glance, I wasn’t sure where I should start or what would suit my space.
I wouldn’t say that’s the app’s fault, per se. These exercises are kind of bizarre if you’re not used to sprinting drills or activities of that sort. For instance, what exactly is a “Colour Catch Two”? To figure it out, I had to manually go through the list and examine each exercise. When you tap each activity, it pops up with a card explaining how many pods you’ll need, how to place them, the objective of each game, and a section where you can customise settings like duration. Again, this isn’t hard, but it is time-consuming. Plus, I was a bit disheartened because most of them involved distances of at least one metre or 0.91 m, and the most space I have in my studio is a 6×6 foot square. Maybe enough for two yoga mats side by side, but not much more.
Eventually, I figured out which of the pre-set activities I could do in my space, albeit modified with shorter distances than the ones described in the instructions. Most of the activities I tested were iterations on strength training exercises I hate, and a few shuffle sprints I finagled by clearing out my “hallway.” For example, I loathe Russian twists. There’s something about side rotations while being slightly unbalanced and holding a weight that irritates me. I surprisingly did not hate the “Russian Twist with Reach” activity in the app, which is a slight variation on the move. It involved tying a BlazePod to a chair and setting two more pods on either side of me. The goal was to tap one of the three pods with a weight or medicine ball whenever it lit up. Perhaps it was having something for my mind to focus on besides, “I hate Russian twists,” but I had fun with an exercise I normally try to avoid at all costs. (Plus, I was impressed that the pods did not break as I whacked them none-too-gently with a 7 kg dumbbell.)
I also hate squats. Goblet squats, sumo squats, air squats, lateral squats. All the squats. I was, therefore, highly sceptical of the “Power Jump Challenge,” which involves sticking three pods on a tall surface, crab walking in a squat until you’re underneath a lit pod, and then jumping up to smack it before repeating the process all over again. I felt stupid doing it. My dog and cat watched in silent judgment. My partner failed to withhold a derisive snicker. But I did do a good amount of squatting and cardio in a short period — and I wasn’t bored doing it. The last time that happened was when I tested the Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure.
I also enjoyed a simple plank exercise, in which you alternate hands to thwack pods as they light up in a random sequence. This is also a game you can play as a competition with a second player, which adds an element of mutual suffering and fun. My cat was an excellent opponent, as he loves batting lights. Planking is the pits, so this was a neat way to get in a few rounds of 45-second planks while distracting myself from what I was doing.
Sprint drills were…less successful in my tiny space. There are few iterations — most involve a formation of pods that light up in a random sequence and a “home” base pod that you run back and forth between. I may have knocked over some furniture and banged up a knee. My dog may have skittered away in fear. My partner may have asked me not to do the sprints again. This isn’t a problem if you’re using these in a backyard or park, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re wondering if the sprinting activities are safe indoors. (I would say no unless you miraculously have an empty spare room or a spacious garage.)
When all was said and done, I was surprised how BlazePod shook me out of a rut. It reminded me of gym class as a kid, back when physical education was more activity-based, except this time there was no public humiliation if I sucked. Personally, I’m not too sure if I’d add this to my regular workout rotation, but I could see it being a fun activity if you work out with a partner at home, or have a kid (or two, or three) bouncing around the house.
Another neat thing: You can make up your own exercises! I didn’t make much use of it, but it could be a useful feature for coaches, personal trainers, beleaguered parents, or anyone with a bit of creative gumption.
The kicker here is, as always, price. There are various kits you can choose between, but they’re all on the expensive side. The Standard Kit is the cheapest and starts at $498, and gets you four pods. The most expensive kit is the Trainer Pro Kit, which comes with 12 pods and costs $US800 ($1,143). That’s a huge range! That also doesn’t take into account the Bundles, which include accessories like suction cups, brackets, and straps. Those start at $US340 ($486) and go up to $US800 ($1,143). You could also buy a single pod for $US80 ($114), and the charging base costs $US30 ($43). The various adaptor accessories come in kits for $US20 ($29) and $US30 ($43), depending on which ones you want.
Editor’s Note: Not all of these kit variations are available in Australia.
Though it’s a tad confusing, it’s nice that there are several price options. Theoretically, you could just get two pods and a charging base for less than $US200 ($286). But unless you plan on using these for building your own fitness empire, even the cheapest kits are a bit steep for novelty.
That said, tech-y home fitness equipment is not cheap. A connected kettlebell I recently tested was $330. The Mirror is $2,100, plus a subscription. The Peloton bike will cost you upwards of $3,100, plus a subscription. Forget the Peloton Tread — that’s around $5,700. Plus a subscription (See a trend here?). And while we liked Tonal, that was a pain to install and a whopping $4,200. Considering those alternatives, BlazePod starts to look a little more reasonably priced — especially since it does not require a monthly subscription fee.
Really, it’s a matter of how often you’d use these things and whether you ever plan to go back to a gym, even after the covid-19 outbreak subsides and, fingers crossed, a vaccine becomes available. If BlazePod is going to collect dust, you should save your Benjamins. But if you don’t plan on returning to a gym anytime soon and your workouts are getting stale, a BlazePod kit is not that much more expensive than a gym membership. A super cheap gym could be as low as $170 a year, while pricier ones — cough, Equinox, cough — can cost as much as $370 a month and several thousand a year. Non-connected home gym equipment will always be cheaper, but most everything is out of stock right now (as basically everyone had the same idea).
If you’re sceptical of shelling out for a home fitness gadget, the best I can say is at least BlazePod is a little different. I had fun while working out for the first time in a while, and fun is highly underrated when it comes to physical activity.
- A modular fitness gadget that you can adapt to various activities and spaces.
- You can get accessories to stick pods on glass, high surfaces, and other objects, like a chair.
- Looking stupid is unavoidable.
- Pricing is also “modular,” but whichever way you slice it, it’s kinda expensive.
- Overall, a good way to shake up a routine and work out with a friend/partner/teammates, or even rowdy kids.