Now that fall's here, the days are shorter, and between tighter schedules and darker mornings and nights, it's tempting to sleep in an extra 30 minutes before work or to cozy up on the couch after instead of hitting the gym. But thanks to the Internet, you may be able to fit in an effective, quick workout without leaving the comfort of your own home. Check out the advantages and disadvantages of the different workout offerings on the web so you can figure out which is best for your fitness goals.
1. Paid Workout Programs
The pay-per-month subscription model, employed by websites like Barre3 and ZuzkaLight, includes hundreds of workout videos and progressive workout plans, and usually offers nutrition advice and recipes, all for a monthly rate ranging from $10 to about $30. This category also includes DVD workout systems such as P90X or Insanity, as well as yoga sites including YogaGlo and YogaToday.
1. They're convenient. “Ease is the number-one benefit of our online workouts,” says Sadie Lincoln, founder of Barre3, which offers 10- to 60-minute routines so you can pick what fits your schedule. And of course there's the accessibility. “Not everyone has an amazing yoga studio or instructor nearby," says Heidi Kristoffer, a yoga instructor a New York City's Strala Yoga. "Any yoga is better than no yoga, so the computer is a great option if that’s your access point.”
2. There's no intimidation factor. Working out at home removes the anxiety that newbie exercisers may have about going to the gym. “People often tell me that they want to get in shape before coming to class, so this enables them to do so,” Lincoln says.
3. They save money. “Doing online workout videos is a lot less expensive than a gym membership," says Zuzka Light, online fitness personality and founder of ZGYM, a $10-per-month program. "And you can do a complete workout in the time it would take to drive to the gym so you save time too."
4. There's a plan. Most of these websites offer specific programs—such as Barre3's 28 to Great or Insanity's 60-Day Challenge—that can lead to a complete lifestyle change. "The people behind the best programs are really smart and have tested their programs for years, so they know how to get results," says Lacey Stone, a celebrity trainer in L.A. and New York.
5. Zero boredom. You can access brand new workouts each week. “We’re able to post new workouts online even faster than we can implement them in our studios,” Lincoln says. Other sites also post workout tips and schedules.
1. There's little interaction. “Live classes offer an energy you just can’t replicate online,” says Lincoln, who also teaches group classes. “The connections that are made in a class or training session can boost your health just as much as the actual workout does."
2. You won't be corrected. Class instructors can give you specific modifications and hands-on adjustments. To offset this downside, make sure to listen carefully to the instructor’s directions about form when you work out at home, advises Light.
2. Online Personal Trainers
If you’re serious about your fitness goals, the best option may be hiring an online personal trainer who can give one-on-one consultations—usually via Skype—and can create a personalized workout plan for you to reach your goals, whether it’s to build muscle or lose weight. They’ll also provide nutrition consultations and design specific meal plans.
1. Things are customized. “These programs can be tailored to your specific needs, plus you can develop a personal relationship with the coach,” says Dan Trink, director of training at Peak Performance in New York and online personal trainer at Trink Fitness.
2. You'll get specific nutrition advice. A trainer can also provide eating advice to complement your workouts. "Without nutritional intervention, you won't see much improvement. You simply can’t out-train a bad diet,” Trink says.
3. Motivation is built in. “They’ll keep you moving forward and provide a constant feedback loop and a level of accountability if you have to check in with them every day,” Trink says.
1. They're pricey. Hiring a trainer is still a hefty financial investment: It can cost between $150 to $300 a month. However this is less than a personal trainer at a gym typically costs, which can range from $60 to $150 per hour (and you’d probably meet more than once a week). You can sign up for a progressive three-month program, then take what you've learned and work out solo at the gym, Trink suggests.
2. You're limited equipment-wise. Another reason to commit to only three months is that after a certain point, you'll likely need to join a gym to keep challenging yourself, Trink says. "A gym offers much more equipment than you could ever fit in your living room."
1. One word: free! If you have a base level of fitness, you’re likely able to figure out which videos are effective and which aren’t, Stone says.
2. There are good videos you can trust—as long as you stick to well-known fitness sites. For example, check out Kristoffer's Shape.com yoga videos.
1. There’s a reason they’re free. "It’s more of a popularity contest than a ranking of expertise,” Trink says. “Anyone with the right keywords can appear at the top of your search list, and their promises—like 'get rock-hard abs in one day!'—are often exaggerated.”
2. Fitness newbies need more. If you don’t know a burpee from a bench press, you could seriously injure yourself trying to follow an advanced-level video.
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Buyer (or watcher) beware, Trink says. Make sure any trainer is certified by a professional fitness organization such as the NACSM, ACE, or CSCS-NSCA. And if you find an online workout program you love, no matter what the price, stick with it! Experts agree that the key to fitness success is consistency, so if you stay with a workout you enjoy doing, that’s all that matters.