In 1991, I moved from Portland, Maine to New York City. For the first 9 months or so, I bunked with my childhood best friend, a fledgling actress busy with auditions and photo shoots. Keeping fit was the name of the game in that apartment. My roomie had a series of VHS tapes called The Firm, which were, a then, revolutionary combination of calisthenics and weight training. We Firmed ourselves Firm every single night.
I absolutely adored my first experience with at-home, follow-along workouts and kept up with The Firm for years to come, eventually moving over to DVD’s as technology changed. Being able to do a full-body workout in the comfort and privacy of your own home was a revelation to me. Prior to that, working out had meant jogging outside, joining a gym, or finding a jazzercize class in a church basement somewhere.
Fitness options have exploded with the advent of the personal computer and then the smart phone. There are tons of online workouts (many free) and loads of excellent phone apps (yes, free!) If you are an experienced exerciser and know proper form on basic exercises, the info below will give you some terrific options to choose from. If you are a beginner, or someone who needs the accountability of other people to get your workout in, you probably will want to join a class or gym or hire a personal trainer. Know thyself.
- BodyBuilding.com has several free online programs. If you click on Find A Plan you will see the full list from beginners to advanced, from fat burning to muscle building and everything in between. Their plans give you exact workouts for each day, as well as meal plans (not vegan, sadly). Each move comes with an instructional video or you can search their database to find videos of how to do exercises listed or what you can do for substitutions if your gym doesn’t have a piece of equipment or if it’s something you’d rather not do. Most of these plans do require access to a well-equipped gym with machines and free weights. Two programs I have done and loved were: Jamie Eason’s 12-week Live Fit Trainer and Erin Stern’s Elite Body 4-week Fitness Trainer.
- SparkPeople.com is an online food tracker but it also has a gazllion of free workouts. Some you do right there in your office, in front of your computer, others are things like running and walking plans you can print and use offline. You do need to be a member, but membership is free. These are good for beginning exercisers.
- BodyRock.TV has tons of workouts online to do right there in front of your computer, some using easy to buy equipment, others without any equipment. You can find any workout you need here. There are some free sample workouts, but then series do cost a small fee.
- TheBettyRocker, aka Bree Argetsinger, is a trainer who posts free kick-butt online workouts and group challenges. Many are free, some are for pay. I have done several of her challenges and they are HARD but fun. She gives plenty of modifications for beginning exercises. You will sweat blood, but be happy to if that’s remotely possible. Check out her youtube channel where she posts free workouts as well.
- YogaToday posts daily yoga classes of all types. You can do a 2 week free trial before purchasing membership.
- For you beginning runners, Couch to 5K is a popular online program. I used Hal Higdon’s online plans to get me across the finish line of every half and full marathon I have ever run.
- Vegan calisthenics athlete Frank Medrano sells beginner to advanced calisthenics do-it-yourself programs from his website. I bought an earlier version of his beginner ebook and it got me hand-standing. There’s proof to the left…
- Nike+Running is a free phone app that tracks your mileage, pace, gives you encouraging feedback and allows you to compete against others. This is what I use personally for running. I like that it allows podcasts or music to be playing while it’s running in the background.
- Nike+Training Club (N+TC) is a free non-running workout app that gives you loads of workouts to follow with videos demonstrating each move, then voice cues while you are working out. You can workout at home or in the park or wherever. Some need equipment, some don’t. It’s a great app and I have used it a ton, but honestly the reason I don’t use it more is because I use an armband for my phone and if I can’t remember what an exercise is from the voice cue, it’s a total pain to unstrap my phone to look at it. Otherwise, it’s anything you could ever want.
- MadBarz is a calisthenics app, also free, also amazing. So many apps, so little space on phone!
- Freeletics, another free app, has a large European following which is fun to mix with other exercisers in foreign lands that have much worse weather than yours! (Hey look at those people doing burpees in the snow! Guess I don’t have any excuses…)
Working with a trainer online sounds impossible, right? But for more experienced exercisers who know how to perform basics like barbell squats, deadlifts, and chest press with proper form, having someone remote write you a plan works just great. I worked for about 6 months with Vegan Body Builder Claudia Lailhacar and absolutely loved it. Claudia would send me weekly workouts and I would send her bi-weekly pictures of me in my undies (didn’t so much love that part) so she could see how things were coming along and make adjustments to my plan. If there were ever any exercises I wasn’t familiar with, or needed to make a substitution for, I went to bodybuilding.com’s video database (as mentioned above).
There are loads of online trainers, but be careful because this isn’t a well-regulated industry.
If you read all of this and thought “Great, but too bad I can’t motivate myself to actually start exercising”, might I humbly suggest you book an Intro Session with me? We will talk through your resistance, blocks, obstacles, and fears, and map out a plan to get you on a consistent fitness path. There is no obligation to continue on past that first session. You can see my calendar and availability HERE. Sessions are conducted via phone, Skype or FaceTime.
Being fit, full of energy, flexible, and strong is not only a healthy thing to be, but it greatly improves quality of life across the board. I hope the above resources help you in your pursuit of a healthy life!