Like many, I need musical motivation to help with my performance when it comes to my workout routine. Listening to great-sounding audio with an up-tempo playlist for aerobic exercise can help me run for longer (and sometimes faster), as I stride out to the beat on a treadmill run, say. It can also help to make the time pass more quickly so that my exercising doesn’t feel like such an endurance test.
I have often found listening to my own music selection a great tool for boosting my energy levels to help me achieve my workout goal. As such, I’ve used all kinds of different earbuds over the years to help me power though gym sessions, from wired models such as the original Apple iPod earbuds tethered to an iPod Classic (remember those?) to the latest ANC earbuds wirelessly connected to a recent generation iPhone.
None of the earbuds I’ve used have ever been specifically designed for active lifestyles like the fitness-centric Beats Fit Pro, for example. And I don’t see too many other gym users donning a pair of dedicated fitness models either. Like me, most seem to wear regular wireless earbuds for their workouts.
Until recently, I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro on my gym visits. But as an iPhone user I switched to the latest generation of Apple’s AirPods Pro to try out with my fitness routines the moment they became available.
At first glance, the AirPods Pro don’t look like a particularly good fit for workouts, and it’s important to point out that they’re not designed as pair of active lifestyle headphones at all. Nevertheless, going on our experience of using the AirPods Pro 2 for running, and my own experience using them as a pair of workout earbuds, the AirPods Pro 2 are actually pretty well equipped for everyday active lifestyle pursuits.
Although I’ve heard of some wearers having difficulty keeping the original AirPods Pro in place during physical activities, the latest generation has slightly different silicone ear tips (although they look identical) that feel slightly more compliant to gently conform to the ear canal. They certainly had a reassuring fit in my ears, and felt comfortable and secure despite the continuous vibrations of my feet pounding the treadmill’s moving conveyer belt.
Another difference between AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro is the addition of an extra small set of ear tips as well as small, medium and large tips originally supplied. The medium-sized tips worked best for my ears, and this was confirmed by the AirPods Pro Ear Tip Fit Test, but my colleague Kate Kozuch found the XS eartips are a big improvement and provided a much better fit. Having the right ear tips to form a proper seal is essential for a secure fit as well as to achieve effective noise cancellation and the best audio performance.
I’ve experienced numerous earbuds fail during gym sessions, and having to remove them halfway through a workout due to sweat moisture working its way into the ear canal and making the ear tips so loose that they feel as though they’re about to fall out of my ears and hit the ground. Truthfully, this usually happens to just one earbud first, but it renders the other useless even if it is still securely inserted in the other ear.
As with their predecessor, the AirPods Pro 2 are IPX4-rated for sweat and water resistance, and so far I’ve experienced no slippage issues. The fit does feel improved on this latest generation, and the AirPods Pro 2 have felt secure throughout my sessions.
Useful features for workouts
Personally, I don’t often feel the need to chat away on calls while I’m working out. But if I did need to make a call, I’d be able to give commands to Siri and control my iPhone functionality handsfree. However, as our AirPods Pro 2 review highlighted, call quality was pretty lackluster during our tests, and really only passable for brief conversations.
More importantly, the new touch volume controls are a great addition while working out. It’s something I felt was lacking from the originals and its introduction to the AirPods 2 only highlights what a useful feature I’ve been missing out on. It’s a boon for workouts when I want to make volume level adjustment to my music playback without reaching for my iPhone. The touch control technique takes some mastering using a thumb and index finger placed on either the left or right earbud. But it’s very handy and means I no longer have to grapple for my iPhone when I want to up the level and increase the pace for a final treadmill sprint.
I’ve used transparency modes before, and the AirPods Pro 2 version is one of the strongest I’ve encountered and just as useful at the gym as it is on a run in maintaining a level of awareness of my surroundings.
Apple’s ANC claims to be twice as effective as its original noise-cancelling earbuds, and while its undoubtedly effective at minimizing the general hubbub of fellow exercisers going about their workout routines, some sounds including the gym’s own music system could still be heard breaking through in the background. It wasn’t enough to distract me from my own music, but it’s there in silent gaps between tracks all the same.
Although they’re not marketed as such, the AirPods Pro 2 are a viable option for those seeking a pair of versatile earbuds than can also participate in active lifestyles. While the fit has definitely been improved to work for even more wearers, I dare say that much like the originals it’s still not universal.
For my ears, though, the AirPods Pro 2 made a great workout partnership at the gym and have turned out to be some of best workout headphones as well as best running headphones I’ve tried.