Finding the right online exercise program is an iterative process. Below are some things to think about as you’re choosing your online exercise options or programs. I’ve made a few recommendations that I personally have used and enjoyed. We’ll explore many of these topics in greater detail in future posts.
Do you want free videos or are you willing to pay?
If cost is a big issue, you can find many free options. The main difference is that they’re not curated for you day by day, so you have to figure some things out for yourself and be self directed in what type of exercise you want to do. The free options are easiest to use if you have a specific type of workout in mind — “20 minute dance cardio workout” or “30 minute yoga program”. Some great sources of free online workouts are Fitness Blender, Pop Sugar Fitness, and HASFit.
Those free videos are free for a reason. They’re often the gateway towards paid content that is more tailored or curated for the user. For example, Fitness Blender has curated programs on their website for $15-20 that provide an online calendar with daily workouts. HASFit has 30 day programs for sale geared towards different goals for around $10 — for example, beginners or muscle building.
An increasingly popular method is subscription based, where you pay a monthly fee for access to a variety of workouts. Some of the most popular are Beach Body on Demand or Daily Burn, where you can get access to 100s of fitness programs. Subscription fees vary widely, from $10-100 a month. The fee generally gives you access to all of their content, and many will give you a free trial for a week or more.
These sites give you a ton of content so you’re unlikely to get bored, but if you’re new to exercise, the sheer volume of content can be overwhelming. Another downside to a subscription based program is that it’s often a “set it and forget it” payment, meaning you get billed automatically over the billing period until you manually stop the subscription payment. I’m not the best at tracking these types of things, so I’ve been billed for months after I stopped using a program because I forgot to stop the subscription.
What’s you space like ? How much equipment do you have ?
You don’t need a lot of space for an online workout. I’ve used the strip of space between my bed and my closet in some smaller apartments, and I’ve also had some dedicated spaces. Here is a picture of my current workout area.
I try to keep things as simple as possible — weights, a ball, and a mat. When I have more space, I’ll introduce a weight bench into the mix, or I keep a study chair nearby for certain types of workouts or moves (step ups or barre). If you want to lift weights, you’ll need a variety of weights that allows you to challenge all of your different muscle groups. Most people need much heavier weights to work their legs than for their arms. I like to maximize my space, so I use a nested set of dumbbells that give me a wide variety of weight options but don’t take up much space. I’m currently using a set of Powerblock weights, which I absolutely adore, but there are much cheaper options out there. I started with a set of adjustable Reebok dumbbells I bought at Walmart ten years ago, and I still use them on occasion. Here are some current options.
If you have the space for a weight bench but aren’t sure you want to make the investment, start with an exercise ball. I don’t have a bench at the moment, and I find that I can easily do the weight bench exercises on my ball — chest flies, presses, thrusts, pullovers, skull crushers — with the added benefit that you use your core for stabilization. Bonus!
Are you new to exercise or experienced?
If you’re an experienced exerciser, you probably have a sense of what type of routines you like to do. Maybe you like to do full body workouts three days a week. Or you like to focus on one or two muscle groups per workout. Maybe your bliss is dance cardio or high intensity interval training (HIIT). In that case, it’s easier to whittle down the types of videos you want to do through some smart key word searching in YouTube. There are plenty of mornings where I just search for exactly what I am looking for — “low impact butt and thigh workout with weights.” It works better than you’d think.
If you’re new to exercise, it’s best to begin with a more curated program that gives you all of the building blocks of a strong exercise foundation. Many workouts on YouTube don’t come with a built in warm up and cool down, which is critical for avoiding injury. The curated options tell you what to do on a daily basis or provide you with a program to follow. One really easy option is Daily Burn’s 365 workout — a new workout each day, 365 days a year. I found it a really simple way to get in a 30 minute workout without having to give it much thought. Another benefit is that it features trainers who have their own programs on Daily Burn, so you can get a sense of what types of workouts and trainers you like once you’re ready to move onto something more targeted. I hope you found these suggestions helpful.
Please post comments and questions below!