Your Guide to Virtual Workouts

Whether you work with a personal trainer, pay for an app, or use free YouTube workouts, virtual training is an excellent option. You can pick a class according to what equipment (if any) you have and often do it anytime, anywhere. Whether you’re a bodyweight HIIT die-hard, have been curious about boxing, or love to try dance cardio today, Pilates tomorrow, and strength training the next, you can satisfy your thirst for some serious sweat or incredible stretching.

At the same time, virtual training is certainly not the same as in-person one-on-one sessions or group fitness classes. So keep the following things in mind in order to get the most from your video workouts.

Stay injury-free. Without a trainer to point out when your chest is falling forward in a squat, how are you supposed to know if you’re using proper form? Look for instructors and videos that cue you through each exercise, saying where you should be feeling every movement and how to breathe, recommends exercise physiologist John Ford, ACSM, founder of JKF Fitness & Health. And, of course, listen to those cues. If what they describe isn’t what you’re experiencing in your body, stop and adjust your form. Also be sure to pick a workout that’s appropriate for your fitness level and if any exercise is too hard, modify it.

Build in accountability. Paying for a workout often creates more incentive to show up to the fitness studio. So does having a rapport with the instructor and workout buddies who sweat with you. On the other hand, when you’re doing free workouts online by yourself, you need to keep yourself accountable. For some, that means scheduling your workouts every week and blocking out those times so nothing can get in the way. For others, that means “meeting” friends virtually to do the same workout together, while adhering to social distancing. 

Still others may prefer to have someone they check in with at a set time every day to tell them, “Yep, I went for a run today.” Or perhaps you choose a reward like a new outfit or a massage gun and only purchase it if you work out three times a week every week for a month. Find what works for you!

Push it. It can be harder to give it your all during a workout when nobody is right beside you encouraging you. “We often settle into the habit of getting things done,” Ford says, and just go through the motions. “But workouts are unique, in that you can do them really well to the degree you’re capable in that moment.” 

He works with his clients so that they do workouts with intention: You focus on using good form over quantity of reps, even if that means doing a solid 15 seconds of an exercise and resting the remaining 15 seconds of that 30-second interval. This gives you a baseline so that the next workout, you can try to do more reps with proper form. “It’s a good gauge of how you are improving over the weeks,” Ford explains.

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