Since the coronavirus pandemic, digital workouts have exploded. In addition to fitness professionals on YouTube and fitness apps, many health clubs now are livestreaming and offering on-demand group ex sessions. The sheer volume of content is great for promoting home exercise, but can be overwhelming.
Whether or not you have fitness equipment at home or belong to a gym, this year has reinforced the value of variety in home workouts. If you find yourself seeking some new motivation or different regimens, virtual sessions are a great option.
Of course, just because a group ex class is posted on YouTube doesn’t necessarily make it safe, effective or automatically appealing. So it’s important to be discerning. When evaluating the thousands of choices that are literally at your fingertips, here is what to look for in virtual workouts.
What to Look for in Virtual Workouts
- Modality – This seems kind of obvious, but with the myriad choices today, ensure that you actually get the workout you want. For instance, restorative yoga is an entirely different experience than ashtanga. HIIT doesn’t always mean Tabata style. And if a routine requires equipment, you’ll need that on hand to be able to participate fully.
- Safety – This is critically important, especially because virtual workouts don’t include an instructor in the room with you to correct your form. Evaluate the instructor’s form and cues about proper execution to see if they align. Listen for guidance on how to modify exercises to make them easier, as well as progressions to add challenge.
Note that movements should be intentional and controlled – even when moving quickly. If the class has you swinging weights or performing jerky, fast movements that use mainly momentum, skip it. Don’t risk an injury simply trying to keep up with an overzealous instructor.
This doesn’t mean you can’t challenge yourself. It simply means that safety is a priority, and you should always be in control of how your body moves. Install an inexpensive full-length mirror where you exercise, if possible, to keep an eye on your form, just like you would in the studio.
- Content – This encompasses several categories, including:
- Warm-up: Every workout should have an approximately 3-8-minute warm-up to prepare the body. By nature, a warm-up is lower intensity, and is NOT comprised of jumping jacks, burpees or mountain climbers. If there is no warm-up, pause the workout at the beginning and do your own first, or simply find another class.
- Options: As mentioned above, classes should include modifications, such as side taps instead of jumping jacks; as well as progressions, like jump squats versus grounded squats. These accommodate the broadest range of fitness levels and give you permission to make the workout suitable for your body.
- Cooldowns – Classes should incorporate a 3-8-minute cooldown as well to decrease intensity, instead of abruptly stopping. Most workouts also should end with static stretches to reduce muscular tension and enhance flexibility.
- Instructor – This is mostly personal preference, but consider:
- Qualifications – Some workouts will display the instructor’s certifications, academic degrees and/or experience. Or you may be able to research the teacher online to check this. If you can’t find anything, just be careful in the workout and watch for red flags.
- Style – Do you have a preference for a male or female instructor? A drill sergeant versus a gentle encourager? Someone who offers constant cues or limited comments? Stick with those who motivate you and bypass the others.
- Tone – Similar to style, tone takes into account how the instructor relates to the class. Is the person down-to-earth or all about themselves? Do they use positive comments or resort to shaming and competition?