If you're anything like me, it's likely you think that working out is a chore and a misery, gyms are little better than torture chambers, and science should already have figured out a way to get and stay fit without any actual physical effort on your part, (if they can create a whole artificial womb to potentially grow babies in, weight loss and muscle toning shouldn't be too hard, right?). Though there are some advances being made in that direction, we're still far from having a miracle fix for achieving the Olympian body of your dreams.
In the meantime, though, there's no way around it. Cardio and some sort of weight training (i.e. sweating copiously) are still the best tried-and-tested methods to get healthy and fit. However, this doesn't have to mean that hitting the gym is the only way to go about incorporating exercise into your life. Maybe you have a demanding work schedule, or are a parent with limited time on your hands, or maybe you just live far away from the nearest gym. In any case, it may well turn out that your resistance to exercising might to have anything to do with the work in and of itself, but rather with the approach.
If gyms with their myriad of exercise machines aren't your thing, or if the thought of putting on some sneakers and jogging around the neighborhood induces automatic hyperventilation, maybe an alternative workout method would be more to your liking. Perhaps Israel's Defense Force training, Krav Maga, or the Afro-Brazilian martial art Capoeira seem like better ways of spending an afternoon, with the added benefit of teaching you some self-defense techniques. Yoga could be fun—you can choose between the traditional, yoga mat kind, or the adventurous anti-gravity sort, which suspends you from the ceiling with a hammock. Maybe an Afro-Caribbean dance class can get your blood rushing, or even pole-dancing... the real point is to move those bones, and start raising that heartbeat.
However, if your problem has more to do with time and budget constraints, gallivanting off to three lessons a week may not be too practical. In that case, an online workout program could be just the solution you've been looking for. Though not new by any means, the online fitness training industry has been growing exponentially, with options available for every level of fitness, time slot, and type of exercise. Gone are the days of popping a Richard Simmons video in the VCR (or Paula Abdul's Get up and Dance in the DVD player)—most online workouts now are streamed straight to your computer, tablet, or cell phone.
You can choose between streaming dance-oriented workouts, different types of yoga, pilates, pure cardio, weight training, or even high intensity interval training (HIIT, an innovative method that combines bursts of intense activity with shorter, less strenuous intervals) from the comfort of your home. Many programs have added a myriad of features such as online one-on-one sessions with trainers, tailored nutrition or meal programs, supplements, mobile apps, live chat, online progress trackers, and community resources like message boards or buddy systems. Let's take a look at some of the most interesting proposals, in no particular order.
For the Lone Ranger
Aaptiv and BeachBody on Demand are excellent for people who 1) get bored doing the same routine day in and day out, until they know the trainer's every word by heart; and 2) enjoy people and feedback as much as the next guy, but find they like this a lot more when they don't have to share the same physical space with others. Both apps function off the same basic premise: variety is the spice of life. They offer easily streamable workouts for virtually every interest and activity level, from true beginners to fitness experts. Though they do charge fees, costs are very reasonable (between $10-$16 a month), especially for the amount of different workouts you can access.
Aaptiv is an audio-based service only, with unlimited access to hundreds of classes in outdoor walking or running, cycling, spinning, elliptical, treadmill, stairclimber, rowing, strength training, stretching, meditation, HIIT, and even yoga. They work on updating their selection diligently, with approximately 150 new uploads every month, as well as different challenges to help motivate users. Since you can choose your own routine each time, it's easily tailorable to your needs and initial fitness level, with time frames that can vary from as little as fifteen minutes to as much as a hardcore hour and a half. The large selection of music and trainers is also a definite plus, as is the accountability motivation from their large online community.
BeachBody On Demand is similar to Aaptiv, but with video streaming instead of audio classes. Users are given unlimited access to a gigantic catalogue of workout videos to choose from, which they can do as stand-alone classes or as parts of set programs. There are personalized meal plans, progress trackers, and workouts that target every body part individually or focus on a full-body sweatfest. One huge advantage is the fact that you can see the trainers and their crew doing the workout, and get tips on form, which is essential to staying safe and uninjured. BeachBody provides support through live chat, a wealth of community resources and message groups, and many videos that have Spanish- or French-language options.
Personalized and Monitored
Workouts For You and LIFT Session offer the twin unicorns of online fitness: personalization and monitoring. One of the main concerns that many trainers and users have with online training is its high potential for injury due to a lack of professional supervision. Often, we could swear we're doing the exact same move that Steve or Sarah are showing on-screen, only to discover later that our arms were positioned incorrectly by the time we're attempting to demonstrate the exercise to the nice doctor in the emergency room, wincing through excruciating pain and potentially torn ligaments. The point is, it can be hard to know if you're replicating postures and placements correctly, especially when you're new to exercising.
Another common issue is knowing which exercise to choose and how to structure a workout. Again, this is usually a problem for people who have relatively little experience with fitness; but a little guidance in this direction is generally useful for everybody, and can help you out of a workout rut, forcing you to challenge yourself and push your body to your limits.
Workouts For You offers just that. Their Made For You training program (less than $4 a week) has a comprehensive structure that incorporates cardio, strength training, and stretching, and is designed just for you by a professional, real human trainer. It features 24/7 access to a trainer, for questions and support, as well as a nutrition plan, a 10-day mini-challenge, and a fitness tracker.
LIFT Session, for its part, makes top fitness coaching easily accessible to anyone. Their fitness sessions are offered completely online via streaming, with trainers not only doing the workout with you, but also monitoring your every move, either in individual personal sessions or in groups of up to twelve people (who see you and you can also see). Essentially, LIFT replicates the experience of a personal trainer, just remotely. Each class takes thirty minutes, requires no extra equipment, and you can choose between HIIT training, strength training, or flexibility/stretching. The price tag corresponds to the program's hands-on nature, and is one of the most expensive we found, at $48 a month for just four sessions.
The Important Thing is To Do It!
Whichever type of person you are, and however much you may resist the thought of exercise when you'd rather curl up on the couch with a warm blanket or cat and binge-watch a show or read a good book; the fact of the matter is that unless you're perfectly comfortable with keeping your current fitness level (or lack thereof), some sort of workout is called for. There's no way around it. Some things can make it easier, though.
Studies have found that working out in the morning can ensure that you can fit it into your daily routine, before you're exhausted from all the many things in your working day. It also has the added benefit of jump-starting your metabolism, giving you more energy for the day (this may take a while, but trust me, it will happen), and helping you burn more calories the rest of the day. Don't underestimate the psychological advantages of exercise, as well. The feeling of accomplishment from having set a goal and meeting it can be just as satisfying as checking a box off a meter-long list of things to do. Working out will even help you sleep better, making you productive and generally more efficient.
Getting motivated is often the most difficult part of working out, but treating it like a non-negotiable assignment, even going so far as to schedule it in your appointment book, may make it less likely for you to skip a session. Giving yourself little rewards for working out has also been found helpful in making you stick to a program. Finally, make sure that the workout is something you enjoy. If you find yourself mentally berating the trainer even when you're not working out, and truly heartsick at the thought of having to do one more misery-inducing burpee, maybe the program you've chosen isn't the right one for you. Luckily, there are a huge amount of options available. For more ideas, take a look at our top-reviewed fitness training programs.