The Internet is the New Gym
Is it really possible to get a good workout at home without the comfort and equipment that a gym has to offer? With a little bit of space and effort….absolutely! Online fitness has really grown in the last few years. There are so many great websites and personal trainers at the click of a button that it's making for some serious competition for the traditional gym facility. A quick YouTube search for free full length workouts yields a plethora of options for you to try.
I’ve personally been working out in the comfort of my home for over a year and I’m loving the results. I started working out to expend some energy as a means to curb my insomnia but as I continued doing them I really enjoyed the other benefits as well. I feel more energetic, stronger, and I can definitely see the shape of my body changing in a good way. I’m not big into consumerism in general so if there’s anyway I can save some dollars and not buy into something that isn’t actually necessary, then I won’t. Therefore, I don’t subscribe to a traditional gym membership, and it makes free online fitness a big appeal to me. The lack of resources required also makes it ultra convenient. No commute, no big cardio equipment, and no pushy sales pitches from gym staff make it as easy as it can possibly get.
I’ve been working out with the help of Daniel & Kelli Segers of fitnessblender.com but there are plenty of other trainers and sites you can work with too. Fitness Blender appeals to me because their advice and approach is so honest. They believe that all you need to be fit and healthy is a mixture of hard work and real food. It also helps that a vast majority of their workouts require no equipment at all.
This great piece, “20 Of The Best Free Online Workout Video Series” from 2015 by Arti Patel highlights several other sources for online fitness. Most are free but some, including Fitness Blender, charge fees for pre-arranged programming. It’s worth exploring these recommendations in addition to doing your own research to find what style of workout and trainer personality suit you best. And its definitely ok to make use of more than one online trainer. Each one has something different to offer but they all result in the same thing; a stronger, healthier version of yourself. And none of them require commuting to a gym.
Big box gyms are a neat idea in theory though, and I definitely understand their appeal. Cardio and weight training equipment costs thousands of dollars, takes up tons of room, and isn’t necessarily practical for the every day person to buy. Logically, it makes sense to have them in one away-from-home collective where you can share and use them on your own time for a small monthly rental fee, aka the gym membership. But as I’ve discovered, you can do a lot for your body with very little equipment at all. I should note that I’m pretty fortunate to have a gym in my apartment building, where I often make use of their set of free weights. But if I didn’t have those available I would own a set of Power Block dumbbells that effectively reduce a traditional rack of heavy, space-devouring weights, into two compact dumbbells. That’s some efficiency I can get behind.
Then, of course, there’s the costs involved with the traditional fitness centre. Gym memberships across Canada can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 a month depending on what type of facility and services you subscribe to. In my research, the low end doesn’t get you much. You’ll have access to a facility but you’re on your own figuring out what exactly do with all that equipment. If you want to participate in instructor lead drop-in classes, registered programs, or personal training, those will result in additional fees or another tier of membership with a higher price point. So far, the best value memberships across Canada appear to be municipally-run facilities and the more costly ones are privately owned and “chain-store” gyms. After reviewing several famous fitness companies in Canada I also learned that they can be pretty aggressive in pushing these additional tiers and pricey personal training packages on you.
Personal trainers, although an amazing resource, are probably the biggest expense one would have on top of their membership fees. Personal training yields another wide range of prices and often buying sessions in bulk will result in the best value per session. You're realistically looking at $60 to over $100 per session depending on who you’re working with, and the number of pre-arranged workouts. From my experience however, I definitely recommend working with a personal trainer just to get you started on your fitness goals. I had been working out on my own using the aforementioned online programs and found I was experiencing quite a bit of pain in my knees and other muscles that didn’t feel right. There’s a good kind of workout soreness and a bad kind. Mine was definitely the bad kind. A personal trainer pointed out that I was using wildly improper form on my squats causing the discomfort in my knees, and that I was rounding my shoulders on everything plank- and push up-related. Since then, I’ve been working out on my own for over a year with zero pain in my knees, shoulders, and back. Proper form is everything and it’s good to have a professional set of eyes guide you into this form. It’s a small investment up front for long term benefits.
Even with my handy free weight set in my apartment basement , I only find myself using dumbbells 2 to 3 times a week at the most. I can do a lot of body weight-only strength training and cardio right in the comfort of my living room. The most I’ve spent on online fitness has been $20 for an 8 week program that has all of my workouts pre-planned. I simply check my calendar, press play, and follow/sweat along with my online trainers. So easy!
Every person's needs, goals, motivation, and work ethic is different. Ironically, online fitness works for me because I’m far too lazy to actually commute to a gym, (in addition to being too cheap to shell out the $70/month fee for my closest facility). I also find that between my various activities and workload that getting in a work out requires some careful planning. By being in the comfort of my home I only have to plan for 30 to 50 minutes of physical activity and no commute time. If I had to go out of my way to travel somewhere that time would significantly eat into my already busy days.
But, I’ve spoken with others who say they need the atmosphere of the gym to actually get their work out done. They like the bustle, and they like seeing others work hard as a means to motivate themselves. In addition to this, it’s also a great place to meet others and have a community of other fitness enthusiasts. This is definitely something you miss out when working on your own. It’s just you and a trainer that you can’t actually communicate with. The level of effort and difficulty you put into it is all on you. You’ll get the odd reminder from onscreen to be conscious of proper form, to push yourself, to lift an appropriate amount of weight, or work at a pace that challenges you, but it’s up to you to actually heed that advice and put it into action.
Overall, online fitness is a great, low cost, convenient option to lead a healthier lifestyle but it’s up to the individual to decide if it works for them. If you’re the type that truly needs a gym to motivate you, you might save some money, and up your workout game by adding a few of these online sources into you routine. This could potentially save you some personal trainer sessions, and drop in fees for other instructor lead classes. Even though these online trailers encourage you to work from home, there’s no rule saying you can’t watch along on your phone or tablet at your go to fitness centre. And at the price of free ….it’s worth trying, isn’t it?