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Work Out From Home: How to Up Your Virtual Fitness Game
8 fitness classes that keep you motivated even though you’re *still* stuck in your living room
During the early months of the pandemic, I found myself working out more than usual. I don’t know if it was my way of counterbalancing the increased number of gourmet meals and baked confections coming out of my kitchen, which was suddenly flooded with additional chefs sheltering at home with me — or that my fitness regimen felt like the only thing I could control as COVID-19 transformed the world around us. Still, I stayed in touch with my Pilates peeps via online classes offered through my regular studio, worked out virtually with my personal trainer, participated in yoga classes led by my daughter, a newly minted yoga instructor, and hiked beautiful nearby trails that I never even knew existed before COVID.
But as the pandemic wore on, I started losing my motivation. And I’m not alone: A University of California San Francisco study that gathered daily step data from more than 19 million smartphone users around the world found that physical activity dropped by an average of 27 percent within the first month of the pandemic — and by as much as 50 percent in some regions.
Getting Back on the Wagon
If you’ve fallen off the fitness wagon, forgive yourself. Then hop back on. Not only does exercise reduce stress, not to mention distract you from constantly obsessing over COVID-19, but staying active is a great way to avoid — or get rid of — the pandemic-related weight gain that many have dubbed “the COVID-15.” Exercise also helps keep your body — and immune system — strong. In fact, a recent University of Virginia study suggests that regular exercise could reduce the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome, a major cause of death in COVID-19 patients.
Though some gyms and fitness studios have reopened, many of us still don’t feel comfortable resuming indoor workouts in public places. And while you might miss your gym or your Orange Theory or Barry’s Bootcamp classes, the options are endless now that fitness has gone virtual. Not only have many popular workout brands launched online programs (i.e. Orange Theory At Home and Barry’s At Home), but you can now take classes with cult boutique fitness studios from across the country, and do dance workouts led by renowned dancers and choreographers. (This summer, for example, I danced with Fame choreographer Debbie Allen. You can also sample types of classes you may not have access to in your own area, from Zumba to Israeli Gaga.
Some CoveyClub members swear by homespun workouts using low-tech fitness tools like jump ropes and rebounders; others rely on smartphone apps to up their running game (Nike Run Club, Couch to 5K). Still others, like me, have embraced the sudden wellspring of virtual fitness options now just a mouse — or smartphone or iPad– click away. Here, after sampling some of the most buzzed-about virtual exercise regimens, I offer my take on 8 workout classes you can join from the comfort — and safety — of your own living room.
1. Peloton Fitness
Sensing that we might be confined to home workouts for the foreseeable future, I bought a Peloton bike for my husband, whose birthday landed at the height of the pandemic. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most original idea — Peloton Interactive, Inc.’s quarterly sales rose 66 percent as gyms closed and increasing numbers of Americans sheltered at home in spring. Still, I’m enjoying the gift as much as he is. But you don’t need the bike to participate in Peloton classes: The Peloton app offers thousands of live and recorded workouts ranging from yoga to strength training. Sign on for a 10-minute arm-toning workout or a 45-minute full body boot camp class — or select from an array of rides that cater to every taste. My husband’s favorite so far was a Grateful Dead ride; I recently spun to a soundtrack of Broadway tunes. Peloton digital membership costs $12.99 per month, but the company is currently offering a 30-day free trial.
2. Torch’d with Isaac Boots
The New York Times has called Isaac Calpito (aka Isaac Boots) “the breakout star of virtual fitness.” Indeed, it’s not uncommon for him to have 2500+ viewers tuning into his live-streamed classes on Instagram. A professional dancer, celebrity Hollywood trainer, and choreographer for pop stars like Ariana Grande, Calpito developed his Torch’d workout while dancing in the Broadway production of West Side Story. He would lead the cast in his 45-minute combination of dance conditioning, body resistance and intense targeted reps on the Palace Theatre stage before every show. Now, thankfully, his Torch’d workout is available to all of us. He has been streaming daily classes live since the beginning of the pandemic. The classes, at 11 am EST, are free, though he asks participants to consider donating to No Kid Hungry. He has already raised more than $1 million for the charity. The Torch’d workout is challenging — you will definitely feel the burn — but Calpito’s high energy, bursting-with-personality style and cheeky encouragement keep his fans (including Kelly Ripa, Vanessa Hudgens, and Jessica Chastain) coming back for more.
3. The Class by Taryn Toomey
Former fashion exec turned fitness guru Taryn Toomey has a cult following, including celebrity fans like Naomi Watts, Christy Turlington, and Drew Barrymore. Billed as a “transformative workout of the body and mind,” the class is a hard-to-describe combination of yoga, Pilates, high-intensity interval training, and freestyle dance. Bursts of activity accompanied by vocal release alternate with quiet moments of breathwork, where participants are asked to pause, place their hands on their body, and notice how they are feeling. The Class itself feels almost cathartic: With its emphasis on getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, it is as much a psychological workout as a physical one. Classes are streamed live daily from The Class’s Tribeca studio, or choose from a library of pre-recorded workouts. The Class By Taryn Toomey Digital Studio offers a 14-day free trial; after that it’s $40 per month or $400 per year to subscribe.
4. Sweatfest with Ryan Heffington
Award-winning LA choreographer Ryan Heffington (known for music videos such as Sia’s “Chandelier” and Arcade Fire’s “We Exist,” the movie Baby Driver, and the Netflix series The OA) has inspired people from across the globe — not to mention celebrities like Pink, Emma Stone, and Reese Witherspoon — to dance with him throughout the pandemic. Vogue called his joyous dance workout “the ultimate lockdown therapy.” It features a dancer’s warmup, easy-to-follow steps like Grapevine, Chaîné, and “Happy Hippie,” and bouts of freestyle dance that Heffington cues by shouting “Dance party!” or “Dance it out!” as he prances and twirls around his studio. He offers “Sweatfest” on Saturdays or Sundays and “Wet Wednesdays” on — you got it — Wednesdays, via Instagram Live. Classes are free, though donations are accepted. All proceeds from a recent class — attended by 800+ Heffington fans hailing from as far away as Morocco, Copenhagen, and Vienna — went to the Biden/Harris campaign; he has also raised thousands of dollars for other causes throughout the pandemic, including #BlackLivesMatter and the Child Mind Institute in New York City. He announces class times on his Instagram page (@ryan.heffington).
5. 305 At Home
This super high-energy (and high-impact) dance-based cardio workout lives on YouTube. 305 Fitness Founder Sadie Kurzban closed her New York City studios even before she was mandated to do so to protect her community — going virtual was her attempt to keep people moving during the pandemic. The YouTube classes, like the studio classes, are sweat-inducing workouts set to DJ-curated music mixes. You can also choose from pre-recorded classes ranging from Hip Hop to Latin dance to “Lower Body Twerkouts.” Try it free for 14 days; after that, it’s $28.99 per month or $229.99 per year.
6. The Boss Family Workout
Professional Dancer, choreographer, and resident Ellen DeGeneres Show DJ Stephen “tWitch” Boss and his wife, dancer Allison Holker, developed the Boss Family Workout to keep their family active during quarantine. Then they shared it with the world — literally. During a recent class, the couple gave shout-outs to participants from multiple countries, including the Philippines, Brazil, and Amsterdam. “We see you guys,” Holker assured the couple’s fans while doing the two-step. Boss and Holker met through dance — they first danced together on So You Think You Can Dance — and as Boss told People in an interview this summer, dance is “one of our love languages.” The couple has been sharing the love — and spreading the fun — via Instagram Live throughout the pandemic. Work up a sweat by dancing along with tWitch and Allison during their family-friendly “Groovealong” classes, which are accompanied by great playlists curated by tWitch (who also solicits requests from fans), and stream live every Friday at 10 am PST.
7. The Sculpt Society by Megan Roup
This boutique NYC and LA studio’s dance cardio and body-sculpting classes — which boast supermodel devotees like Sofia Richie and Elsa Husk — have gone virtual due to COVID-19: Live classes can now be streamed via The Sculpt Society app. The app also provides an array of 10- to 50-minute recorded workouts ranging from cardio dance routines that don’t require any dance expertise to sculpting classes that will have you doing many, many intensely targeted reps, to various combinations of the two. Short on time? Choose Roup’s “Quickie” Arms, Abs, Legs or Butt classes. On the road? Try a “Hotel Room Workout.” There are also pre- and post-natal classes, yoga and stretch routines, and guided meditations. Roup offers gentle encouragement, modifications, and good explanations of proper form to Sculpt Society newbies. She also offers a 14-day free trial. After that, it’s $19.99 per month, or $119.99 per year.
8. Yoga with Adriene
Adriene Mishler’s YouTube channel, Yoga With Adriene, was popular before the pandemic, but as an increasing number of yoga devotees tuned in during quarantine, her subscriber base surged to over 8 million. The Austin-based actress turned yogi, who created Yoga With Adriene in 2012 with the goal of making yoga accessible and affordable to all, is down to earth and eminently likeable. She leads yoga classes from her living room, often with her dog Benji sprawled out on the mat beside her, and her voice is incredibly calming. Her yoga offerings literally cater to everyone: There is Yoga for Beginners, Yoga for Strength, Yoga for Back Pain, Yoga for Busy People, and, to my delight, Yoga for Writers. The “Yoga for Uncertain Times” collection is especially apropos in the age of coronavirus, with titles including Yoga for Loneliness, Yoga for Anxiety, and Anchor in Hope. “You are not alone,” Mishler told fans from around the world in a video “love letter,” which she streamed live in late March. “Thank you for letting me be your stay-at-home companion.”