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Top online fitness classes

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January 14, 2021

Michael Donaldson

Confession time. I haven’t been to the gym since before the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Back in March I had a sense things were going get bad and put my Les Mills membership on hold … nine months’ later I haven’t been back and it’s unlikely I will (sorry Les Mills, it’s not you, it’s me).

I’m an at-home trainer now. It’s good – I’m saving money for sure – but I miss the motivation of physically going to the gym. Thank god then for online workout classes.

Much like a fully-equipped gym with a myriad of time-tabled classes, machines and bits of equipment you’re unsure how to use, navigating the world of online training is complicated. It will be a matter of trying something to see if you like it. And if you don’t, move on.

Increasingly online fitness classes demand a subscription. The likes of Class Pass, Booya, Daily Burn and Tracy Anderson among others charge fees. Admittedly these fees are less than the cost of a personal trainer but for at-home practices they may seem a bit stiff. However, all of these also offer free trials ranging from 7 days to a month. It’s potentially feasible to swing from one online workout platform to the other without paying a dime. Except of course you pay by giving away personal information such as your email address.

Many of these paid services do have free videos on YouTube – not everything but enough to give you a taste of what’s on offer, making YouTube a fiscally risk-free place to start exploring your options.

Just make sure you have plenty of room in your lounge, or on your deck.

Yoga With Adriene

I’ll confess I couldn’t have got through the first lockdown without a gym substitute and when my wife suggested we do yoga together I was just a little antsy, and anti. Nothing against yoga – I’d done it before and I accept that I could be a little more flexible but the idea of doing it in the lounge just seemed weird. But with little else to do besides walk the streets, I agreed to try Yoga With Adriene. To say it changed my life might be an over-statement but it certainly helped me survive lockdown. There’s something about Adriene – her non-judgmental tone, her underlying mantra that you need to find what suits you, her down-to-earth nature, all gee-whiz preppy cut through with an Austin, Texas, cool – and millions of people  agree. Her YouTube channel and website have dozens upon dozens of videos – from easy morning stretch routines, to themed workouts (yoga for lower back, upper back, hips, core etc) to more esoteric offerings such as “yoga for self-respect” and “yoga for when you feel dead inside”. If there’s a theme you’re after, you’ll find it. Perhaps start with one of her 30-day “journeys”. There are three that I’m aware of: Home, True and Dedicate.  Enjoy meeting your “comfortable edge" and "finding what feels good".


Pop Sugar

If you’re after something a bit more obviously energetic, Pop Sugar lives up to its name. The irony is that while it sounds like a contrivance, this is booming online media empire was started by the husband and wife team of Brian and Lisa Sugar. Their website is the perfect intersection of a number of on-trend areas – from fashion, fitness, celebrity gossip and parenting. The workouts can be found in plenty of places because Pop Sugar licenses content all over the place. But you can start on their YouTube channel, their website or the app. What you’ll find, whereever you go is high-energy pizzaz and colour, with lots of dance, barre, abdominal and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. The website also has daily links to Instagram lives where various celebs take you through a range of workouts. There’s a strong vibe of 90s aerobics about some of these workouts but if you’re after some high-kicking, thigh-burning, butt-toning activity this is your workout lolly shop.

Pop Sugar’s at-home 15-minute abdominal workout

Fitness Blender

Fitness Blender is a subscription service that provides sessions, programs of 4-to-8 weeks, custom workouts, meal plans, as well as health and nutrition advice. Some of it is free and some of it requires a membership or pay-as-you go. It’s a great one-stop shop for all your health, fitness and nutrition needs. Before you sign-up though it’s worth checking their free stuff available on YouTube as there should be plenty to keep you going through the summer. The workouts are excellent and many don’t require any equipment but there are few where you’ll need dumbbells or a skipping rope. My favourites in their range are the ones that have a timer in the top-corner so you know how much suffering you need to endure, while in the other corner they offer a preview of the next “move” so you can mentally prepare for it and not spend the first few seconds watching the instructor to figure out what’s going on. There’s sessions that range from just 5-minutes to 45-minutes and they cover strength, core, toning, HIIT … plus there’s some great video recipes to boot.



Be Fit

If you’re of a certain vintage, you will remember that this at-home fitness started with actress Jane Fonda. Her 1982 video tape Jane Fonda’s Workout, based on a best-selling book of the same name, sold 17 million copies. You can watch the original version on YouTube – but word of warning it runs for almost 90 minutes (obviously people had a lot more time in 1982 for jumping around their lounge in leotards and leggings). Fonda is now in her 80s and until recently she was still doing workouts – and looking great in her 70s – with Be Fit. Unlike others in the online fitness industry, Be Fit doesn’t have a website as such – it’s a totally streaming service running on Amazon Prime and YouTube. It has dozens upon dozens of workouts for any time duration, any age and any intensity from beginner right up full on HIIT. Plus, there’s “health hack” videos and lots of celebrity content, including Fonda herself presenting videos such as “good fat vs bad fat”. However, also like Fonda, a lot of the videos on the YouTube platform are a few years old now. There doesn’t seem to be much content produced since Be Fit owner Lionsgate lost a multi-million court case to Biggest Loser star Jillian Michaels over using her workout videos on YouTube. Still, there’s plenty there to inspire you.




Michael Donaldson has a degree in Physical Education from Otago University.


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