Hot home fitness trend: streaming workout videos
There’s a reason Miami fitness instructor Jessica Smith, 35, features her mom, Debbie Smith, age 59, in her DVDs.
“Our DVD fans love her because she is closer in age and ability to many of them and she is a real-life example,” she says. And Smith says that while she used to offer all sorts of workouts on DVD, these days she makes only walking workouts on disc — again, to appeal to an older crowd willing to wait for the mail.
Less patient, more tech-savvy exercisers, who often are younger, now expect to find their workout videos instantly, online, fitness experts say.
There’s plenty to find. Whether you are looking for a tranquil yoga session, a calorie-burning dance workout or an intense muscle-building program, it’s available to stream or download somewhere on the Web.
The fitness DVD is not dead. Sales were still rising in 2014, according to market researcher IBISWorld.
But online video “is the world we live in right now,” says Margo Donohue, a Brooklyn, N.Y., fitness instructor and blogger (at Brooklyn Fit Chick and Fit Bottomed Girls). She says she recently got rid of all her DVDs because they took up too much space. “DVDs are great if you don’t have a good Internet connection,” she says, but for the well-connected, “digital is always good to go.”
And some of it is free. Smith is among trainers who offer free workouts on YouTube and elsewhere. Her Jessica Smith TV channel features 300 videos and counting. Cost to the viewer: a little pre-workout advertising.
Other free options include BeFit (YouTube) and Popsugar (YouTube and Hulu).
For some money — often a monthly subscription fee — you also can work out at home to videos from:
- Real-world clubs and studios. Don’t have a trendy Crunch gym near you? You can access more than 70 workouts for $9.99 a month or $99 a year at Crunch Live. Or go to Booya Fitness to sample workouts from small boutique studios — the kind that cluster in hip urban enclaves and offer everything from “fusion yoga” to “extreme boot camp.”
- Online fitness brands. Daily Burn is among the best-known sites, charging $12.95 a month for access to more than 150 videos. There’s also YogaGlo, FitnessGlo, and male-focused StreamFit. Beachbody, which made its name in TV infomercials selling DVDs for P90X and Hip Hop Abs, now offers those workouts and others via streaming subscription. A new site, Live Streaming Fitness, offers real-time one-on-one training and virtual group classes.
- Celebrity trainers. For $475 for six months, you can stream a weekly “real in-class experience” from the studio of Tracy Anderson (tracyanderson.com), trainer to Gwyneth Paltrow and Lena Dunham. For a lot less, you can work out with TV trainer Jillian Michaels through an app available at jillianmichaels.com, or fitness DVD icon Denise Austin at deniseaustin.com.
Austin says that while 40% of subscribers to her new 10-week fitness plan still buy accompanying DVDs, she encourages all of them to try the streaming videos.
“I love it because they can do it from any platform,” Austin says. “They can do it on their phones, if they are traveling. They can do it on their computers or on their big televisions (if connected to the Internet). There’s no excuse for anybody now.”
Austin says she does not see an age difference among DVD vs. online video users. “I meet a lot of 50-year-olds who love to work out with their tablets,” she says.
Neal Pire, an exercise physiologist at HNH Fitness, Oradell, N.J., says online fitness instruction — even for professionals updating their skills — is catching on fast. “What we thought three years ago was really out there is becoming the norm,” he says.
There are drawbacks though: An online instructor, in most cases, can’t see your form and offer feedback, he notes. And the Internet makes it easy for anyone to set themselves up as an expert, he cautions. So “buyer beware — do your due diligence and check your trainer’s credentials.”
Pete McCall, a personal trainer in San Diego and spokesman for the American Council on Exercise, agrees: “Somebody might look good online. That doesn’t mean they can lead an exercise program that’s right for you.”
Some tips for getting the most out of online fitness videos:
- Make sure your Internet connection and devices are ready for a workout. There’s nothing more frustrating that having a heart-thumping workout halted by a lost or slow wireless connection, Smith says. Also: if you want to use your TV monitor, be sure you have a compatible way to connect (Apple TV, Chromecast, game consoles and other devices will work for many sites).
- Look for instructors who work out at a pace and intensity that is right for you or who show you how to modify a workout. Some videos include participants modeling modified versions.
- If you are considering a subscription, look for a free trial. Most sites offer at least a few days of free sampling.
- If you are trying something new to you and a bit challenging — yoga, for example — consider trying some in-person classes to learn the basics and get some feedback.
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