We are now several weeks since the start of lockdown in the UK and there has been a huge rise in the number of people offering and taking part in online workouts.
Online workouts are a great way to be able to stay fit and healthy from the comfort of your own home. This makes them ideal during the current lockdown, as well as being a good option at any time for those who would otherwise find it difficult to get to a gym or studio.
There are various different types of online workouts out there, delivered in different ways, so how do you chose the best option for you and make sure you are getting the most out of the time you are putting in? I am going to discuss a few of the options available, including some of their benefits and considerations.
These may be available as free to view, pay per recording or via membership sites.
Pre-recorded videos are great for those who have an unpredictable schedule and find it hard to commit to classes at set times. You can fit them in whenever you have the time to spare. You don’t need to worry about interruptions as you can simply pause and restart the video as needed.
Free videos are often found on sites such as YouTube. Many instructors may post tasters or tutorials here as a way to introduce their work and drive business for paid for services such as classes, videos or membership sites.
Paid for videos are usually purchased from an instructor or company’s website, either on a single class basis, or in packages or courses. Some sites also offer membership options in which you get access to a library of videos for an ongoing monthly fee.
As with most things in life, you do get what you pay for when it comes to pre-recorded videos. There are some good free videos on You Tube but there are also some pretty questionable ones too! It is also worth noting that these videos tend to be aimed for large viewing audiences, which means that some of the technical guidance given throughout the session can be very general and in some cases quite minimal! Pay per recording and membership based sessions do, in my experience, tend to be more targeted towards specific audiences or exercise needs, so can often provide a better level of guidance throughout the session. Some paid packages may also offer some form of instructor support, with the ability to contact the instructor and ask for further guidance if you have any questions.
It is important to remember in a pre-recorded video that you do not have an instructor to observe your form and ensure you are executing the exercises correctly. Therefore I generally do not recommend using prerecorded videos for an exercise form that you are not familiar with. The same applies if you have an injury or medical condition that might be aggravated by certain movements, or if you are pregnant or newly postnatal.
Summary: A great option for those with limited budget or unable to commit to set class times. Do your research to find good quality videos. You will not receive individualised feedback from your instructor so it is important that you apply common sense when following the workout; work at a level that is appropriate for you and if anything feels uncomfortable stop. If you are not familiar with the exercise form, have an underlying injury/condition that might be aggravated by certain exercises, or you are pregnant or newly postnatal you may wish to consider attending some live instructor led classes first.
Social Media Live Classes or Open access online classes
Some instructors and companies are currently running live classes via social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, or running open access classes online (classes that anyone can attend without needing to prebook).
Some of these sessions may be free, with others run on dedicated groups for which you may need to pay an access fee or subscription to join.
Live classes can feel a little more personal compared with pre-recorded videos. You are joining your instructor in real time as they teach the class, and you may even get the opportunity to interact during the class via comments or “likes”. Some instructors may also save their live videos to their group for a limited time so that you can watch in your own time if you can’t make the session live.
As with the pre-recorded videos, these are still very much self-practice based without observation from your instructor. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are one way stream platforms meaning you can see the instructor but they can’t see you. Open access classes often have very high attendance, so even if a two-way streaming platform is used the instructor is unlikely to be able to observe participants during the class as there will be too many people on screen. You will need to apply good sense when following a live / open access class to ensure that you work at a level suitable for you, make adaptations where needed and not perform any exercises that cause pain or discomfort.
Summary: A more personal feel compared with pre-recorded videos, however in most cases the stream is still one way so you will not receive individualised feedback from your instructor and will need to apply common sense with regards to working at an appropriate level for you and maintaining good technique. Some people may find that attending a live class at a set time works well to improve motivation, but for others this could be a barrier if you have a busy or unpredictable schedule.
Live Streamed Dual View Classes (e.g. Zoom)
Many instructors are running their classes online via platforms such as Zoom whilst social distancing measures are in place. These platforms allow classes to be streamed live, and provide the opportunity for 2-way viewing. This enables you to see the instructor and the instructor to see you.
In most cases, this means that you will benefit from your instructor’s observation and guidance throughout the class. You will be surprised at just how much an instructor can pick up on simply by observing on screen! Class size is an important consideration here, however, as if the class is particularly large then your instructor is going to be limited as to how well they can observe each person on screen. Personally, I would consider 12-15 to be an absolute maximum to allow proper observation - ideally fewer. In specialist classes, such as pregnancy or postnatal, sizes should be restricted further.
To benefit from these types of online class you will need to use a device with a camera. Most smartphones, tablets and laptops have a camera and microphone built in these days. You will need to set your device up in such a way that you can see the instructor on screen, and they can see you clearly. For mat work, I encourage my clients to set their device up so that I have a side on view, and to ensure that the room is not too dark so that I can see you clearly. It might take you a couple of sessions to figure out how best to set up your device for the class. If you can connect your device to a TV screen this can help you to see your instructor even more clearly.
You will usually need to book and pay for a space in this type of class. Some instructors may require a block booking of a set number of classes, and others may run their classes on a pay as you go basis. The need to book and attend at set times may make this a less desirable option for those with very busy or unpredictable schedules. This can be particularly problematic when block booking is required, whereas pay as you go classes can offer more flexibility. Always take note of the cancellation terms when booking a class.
Summary: This approach has many benefits. The class can feel more personal as there is 2 way interaction between the instructor and class members. You will be observed and guided through the class to ensure that you are working with good technique and in a manner that is appropriate to you - thus getting the most out of the time you put into your workout. If you have a busy or unpredictable schedule then these classes might be more tricky for you to attend as they run at set times and days. With most classes requiring advance booking and payment then this may also be a less budget friendly option, however do remember that you are not only paying for your instructor’s time but also their many years of training and experience that they will be applying when teaching you and guiding your technique throughout the class.
In conclusion: There are many delivery methods for online workouts. Whatever your circumstance, there will be something out there to suit you. Do your research. Check that it is appropriate for your experience and ability. Find out if you need any particular equipment. Importantly, find something that meets your needs and that you will enjoy! If you are enjoying what you do, then you are more likely to stay motivated and committed to doing it.
About the Author:
Gina is a Pilates teacher and runs Precision Poise, based in Chichester West Sussex. In light of the social distancing measures in place during the COVID-19 outbreak Gina moved her group class timetable and private sessions online to enable people to continue to practice from their homes. Due to their popularity, she plans to continue to offer some online classes on a more permanent basis alongside her studio timetable. In addition to Pay As You Go live streamed classes via Zoom, Gina has also set up a free to join Facebook group on which she runs live mini-classes and posts short video “technical tips”.
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