So you’ve made it a goal to increase your movement this year. You decide you want to work, but you don’t want to leave the house (baby, it’s cold outside). Or maybe you’re just not ready to get back into the gym life just yet.
Fortunately, online workouts can help you achieve the same results you can get at a gym from the comfort of your own home. “Results are up to you, so you can get them with anything,” says Justin Borden, CPT, an online fitness coach and owner of Precision Fitness in Nashville, Tennessee. A silver lining to the pandemic’s industry-wide disruptions is that we now have more digital options than ever: You can hire a coach to coach one-on-one on Zoom, follow YouTube videos, or sign up for a customized online program.
But where should you start? And how do you make sure it’s actually going to be worth your time?
How to find the best online workout for you
To get the most out of an online workout, the first step is to choose a tough one Because not all online fitness programs are created equal. Borden shares five things he recommends looking for.
1. Check instructor qualifications
Perhaps the most important thing is to make sure you’re following someone who has the right training credentials. Unfortunately, being fit doesn’t mean one can safely create a fitness program for someone else. “Do they have certification, or does social media have too much influence?” asks Borden. Look for a certified personal trainer—the initials CPT after their name will make it clear that they are properly certified.
2. Check the reviews
Just like you might look up a Yelp review before going to a restaurant, you might do the same for a trainer or even specific workout videos. Browse through the comments to get an idea of other people’s experiences with the workout.
Borden recommends finding a trainer’s Google Page if they have one. “These reviews are valid,” he says “You can also understand the types of clients you’ve worked with to see if this person is the best fit for you.”
3. Figure out exactly what you need
To find success from a home workout, you need to evaluate your starting point. Maybe you love cardio but don’t know about strength training. Maybe your body wants to move. Or maybe you have a habit of starting hot but losing steam after a few weeks. “In my experience, that’s the accountability that most people need,” Borden says. This can come from your instructor, an online community, or even just a group of friends.
Zero in on what’s going to be most essential to you, then search for programs or videos that will offer it.
4. Understand what is included
If you’re doing an online program instead of individual workout videos, learn what you get with your purchase. Borden advises to figure things out, is my program custom for me or a template for the masses? Is my instructor available 24/7 or what is the turnaround window?
There’s a big difference between getting a one-on-one session with an instructor or just having access to a library of pre-recorded classes. If you’re looking for something specific, such as a nutrition plan, make sure you’re going to get what you want before you sign up.
5. Find the right level and style for you
Borden recommends finding a workout program that you can do consistently. “A tough, military-style bootcamp might look great, but if you need three days to recover after a workout, it might not be right for you,” he says. Not every workout works for every person. If you’re a beginner, find something that caters to your level until you’re ready to progress.
Different instructors have different teaching styles, and you may gel with some more than others. Try different videos, or do a trial a week to find what feels right for you.
How can I work from home safely?
While there are many benefits to being able to work from home, one downside can be security risks. When you’re exercising with a personal trainer, you have someone who can help you with your form, make corrections and adjustments to help you avoid injury. At home, you don’t have that same advantage—especially if you’re just following a pre-recorded session.
Borden’s safety tips for a home workout? “Stay in your lane! Most people get hurt because they go too fast. Be realistic about where your fitness level is and don’t try to rush everything at once.”
His golden rule: “If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.” If you’re ever unsure about exercise, always play it safe and skip it or find an alternative.
Also be sure to listen carefully to the instructor’s form cues and do your best to follow them. If you have a mirror nearby, check your body alignment from time to time. An advantage of following a video is that you can pause or rewind to carefully inspect how the instructor demonstrates a move before you try it yourself.
How often should I do online workout videos?
For the average person, Borden says something Day-to-day activities are huge. “My primary goal for all new clients is to learn consistency,” he says. This doesn’t mean you have to crush yourself every day. But try to find ways to work in regular movement.
“Maybe our workouts are 30 minutes instead of an hour,” says Borden. In fact, research shows that working out frequently can be more effective for building strength than working out for long periods of time. Even brief “exercise snacks” can be of great benefit.
With this in mind, Borden recommends working each muscle group at least twice per week. “So it could be two upper and two lower-body days, two full-body days, or any combination your heart desires, but get everything in double,” she advises.
Can I get the same results from online videos that I would at the gym?
The results you get from a workout depends on your effort. Borden believes the hardest part of working at home is the lack of accountability. No one else will know how many you set; No one will see if you close your laptop early.
Try looking for online programs that provide a community if you don’t have a one-on-one coach. Feeling like you’re part of a team can provide support on days when you need extra stress. Even something as simple as receiving a virtual compliment can motivate you to move when the couch is calling.
Whenever his clients lose steam, Borden reminds them of the “why” to keep them motivated. Go back to the reason you signed up for a program or started searching for online videos in the first place and let that motivate you to keep going.
But understand that it may take some time to see the results. “Find a program that can give you multiple ‘wins’ a week, if not every day,” advises Borden. A regular sense of accomplishment will help you stick with it. Which will ultimately bring you closer to your goal.