If you've been trying and failing to execute a group Zoom workout for months now, you'll appreciate the ease of the new feature.
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Screenshot of Obé workout party
Credit: Setthasith Wansuksri/EyeEm/Getty Images, Obé Fitness

If at the beginning of 2020, you went from having standing IRL workout dates with friends to only working out solo in front of a screen, you might be missing some of the perks of having a workout buddy. Maybe you used workouts with a friend as a time to catch up, or perhaps they helped you stay accountable or tap into your competitive side. Whatever the case, you'll now have an easier way to get the same effects while doing virtual workouts.

Fitness platform Obé just launched Workout Parties, a tool to allow you to video conference with other members while working out. The feature is only available on web browsers for now, but Obé may add the feature to its app in the future.

Here's how it works: Any Obé member can host a party, inviting other members by passing them a link to join. (Everyone has to be a member, but Obé does have a "guest pass" feature that gives non-members a two-week trial to experience parties and the entire platform and workout library.) Once guests start arriving, everyone will be able to view the class in one corner with the other guests in surrounding rectangles, so you can keep an eye on the instructor and your friends. Everyone has the ability to mute their own mic or turn their camera off, and to adjust the volume levels of both the class and their friends. The host has control over playing or pausing the video (only applicable if viewing on-demand) so that everyone is viewing the workout in sync. Parties can accommodate two to eight people total with any of Obé's live or on-demand classes. (Related: I Tried My First Virtual Wellness Retreat — Here's What I Thought of the Obé Fitness Experience)

If you're not super familiar with Obé, it's an at-home fitness platform offering barre, HIIT, strength, Pilates, dance, and other modalities (think: cardio boxing) that require little to no equipment. Founders Ashley Mills and Mark Mullett created Obé with the hopes of blending entertainment and fitness, which has fostered a roster of spirited instructors and fun, themed classes. Obé memberships costs $27 per month with a free seven-day trial for new members. (Remember: Those invited by existing members through the party feature get two weeks free to browse.)

If Workout Parties sounds like a more streamlined, simple, and exciting version of Zoom workouts with friends, that's exactly what it's intended to be. "Immediately after COVID-19 hit in March and members adjusted to working out at home, we learned that members were FaceTiming each other and facilitating Zoom meetings to take class together," according to Mills and Mullett in a joint statement to Shape. "We then set out to build this feature within the Obé platform, allowing members to connect before, during, and after class. We named it Workout Parties because we want our members to feel like they're part of an inclusive, joyous celebration." (Related: Kate Hudson Has Been Doing 30-Minute Daily Workouts with This Home Fitness Program)

While beta testing the new feature, the initial feedback showed great promise for the future success of the parties. "We've gotten feedback that parents will be planning Workout Parties for their children, so a group of kids will be able to take Strength or Dance together with Super Walter, who wears a cape and talks to them about building confidence and fostering joy through movement," report both Mills and Mullett. (In addition to the standard classes Obé offers a selection of workouts intended for kids and seniors.) "Entire families will be creating their own Parties too, so we'll have parents, kids, and seniors all in the same Party moving together." (Related: Turn to These Streaming Workouts When You Can't Break a Sweat at the Gym)

Turning a solo workout into a ~party~ with friends or family is one way to make exercise seem more like a highlight in your day than a chore. Now to narrow down your first guest list...