Which online workout is best for you?

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It’s 7am on a Tuesday and I’m in the kitchen. Nineties fitness guru Mr Motivator is bellowing ‘WORK IT!’ at me, while I swing tins of baked beans above my head.

Outside, a bin lorry’s deafening beep throws my concentration and I keep thinking the pile of washing beside me needs sorting. Welcome to working out, 2020-style.

Of course, Mr Motivator, dressed in his fluorescent pedal-pushers, is not actually in my kitchen. 

He’s broadcasting, via YouTube, from his own utility room. I’m joining the 20,000 fans who tune in daily.

As the latest lockdown lifts, gyms are allowed to reopen, even in the highest tier. But surveys suggest that 70 per cent of gym-goers have handed in their memberships and have no plans to return for the foreseeable future.

Instead many have embraced the digital fitness revolution.

Pictured: Eve Simmons works out in her kitchen at home with a Mr Motivator online class

Since March, there’s been an explosion in the number of workouts on YouTube and Instagram as gym brands, fitness gurus and social media influencers jump to meet a surge in demand for at-home exercise routines.

To find out which ones to choose, I tried out as many classes as I could in 48 hours – 20 of them. 

The biggest surprise was Mr Motivator – who takes us through a mixture of leaping and squatting in time to feelgood music. 

Aged 29, I’m just about old enough to remember him on breakfast TV, and I’m proud to last the full 15 action-packed minutes – until I discover later the videos are aimed at older adults.

FIVE BEST CLASSES FOR ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS 

1. THE 1,000-CALORIE ROUTINE

What’s it good for?

Two of these sessions a week will hit your NHS-recommended amount of exercise. The 90-minute video includes kick-boxing, Pilates and weight-lifting.

Where can I find it?

fitnessblender.com

2. THE WEDDING PARTY WORKOUT

What’s it good for?

Anyone bored by standard workouts will enjoy these body-strengthening and cardio workouts to pop songs.

Where can I find it? Instagram

3. ONE FOR KEEN WALKERS

What’s it good for?

People with joint and muscle pain. It’s a ‘walk to workout’ series, gradually increasing walking pace to get the heart pumping – without overdoing it.

Where can I find it?

youtube.com

4. STRENGTHEN MUSCLES – WITH NO STANDING UP

What’s it good for?

15-minute seated routines for those with musculoskeletal problems to reduce the risk of trips and falls.

Where can I find it?

youtube.com

5. GET BENDY WITH BECKS’ YOGA TEACHER

What’s it good for?

THE woman credited for David Beckham’s flexibility films short, revved-up yoga routines that tone muscles while helping you wind down.

Where can I find it?

shonavertue.com

 

Next, I move on to improving my muscle tone and balance through ballet, courtesy of the National Ballet’s digital beginner lessons. I join the instructor in a series of leg bends and squats. It’s slow and rather boring.

Before setting out on my marathon, Dr Mike Gleeson, Emeritus Professor of Exercise Biochemistry at the University of Loughborough, advised me to keep changing things up so I don’t end up ‘over-working’ muscle groups. 

It’s a good tip for anyone doing home exercise: if it’s a leg-heavy aerobics routine one day, try something totally different the next time.

Next I pick an arm-strengthening workout – developed in partnership with the British Rowing Olympic team.

Professional powerlifter Hendrick Famutimi is my teacher. First, there’s non-stop weight-lifting – Famutimi is lifting two 20kg dumbbells, while I manage a pair of 4kg weights.

‘Keep going! Get the work done!’ He yells. Within five minutes, my arms feel like they’re no longer attached to me.

After a quick fridge-stop for a few mouthfuls of pasta, I move on to something lighter. US-based dance company StepFlix offers a variety of Latin dance tutorials. 

How hard can a little merengue be? Turns out, very hard. Dance instructor Sonia Jucht tells me: ‘It’s simple! Just move the tips and sole of the feet to the beat of: One Two Three.’ Sorry, what?

‘Now the hips and arms get involved,’ she says. As I jump on the spot doing a ‘hula’ motion with my hands my boyfriend pokes his head around the door to see why the floorboards are shaking.

Prof Gleeson explains that aerobic classes such as dancing are particularly effective for boosting endurance, because they strengthen the heart muscles. 

‘But,’ he adds, ‘doing lots in one day will just make you tired – do one or two sessions a week.’

Now for my never-ending quest for a six-pack with personal trainer Alice Liveing and her 40-minute core strength workout. 

Perfecting each crunching movement is more important than speed, she says. It works. 

After two minutes in the plank position (trying to ignore the crumbs of cornflakes on the floor) I don’t collapse, as I usually do. 

Then, a spot of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT – popular with Instagram fitness gurus. 

Said to burn fat – fast – both during and after the workout, my instructor is personal trainer Kate Rowe-Ham, who has 13,000 followers on Instagram. 

The workout involves intense bursts of sprinting or jumping for 20 seconds, followed by ten seconds of rest, for a period of 20 or so minutes. I’m immediately clammy.

‘People hit the wall quickly with HIIT and only end up exercising intensely for a few minutes in total,’ explains Prof Gleeson. ‘You’ll burn more calories going for a 30-minute, brisk walk.’

Pictured: Mr Motivator, who  is broadcasting to his 20,000 fans throughout lockdown

Pictured: Mr Motivator, who  is broadcasting to his 20,000 fans throughout lockdown

Pictured: Mr Motivator, who  is broadcasting to his 20,000 fans throughout lockdown

I wind down with two 20-minute sessions of yoga by Adriene Mishler, who attracts 8.6million viewers to idiot-proof stretching and breathing routines. 

I stay slightly too long in my favourite pose – Shavasana – which means lying motionless on the floor.

I’m about to crawl to bed when I spot fitness Barbie doll Maeve Madden at the top of my Instagram feed, willing me to jump aboard her ‘energy train’ for a 50-minute ‘arms and abs’ workout. 

When I hear the warm-up music – Shania Twain’s Man! I Feel Like A Woman – I can’t resist. ‘Woop! Come on Queens!’ Maeve shouts. 

Every time the song changes, so does the set of exercises – said to prevent fatigue. And suddenly, I’m not tired any more.

I spend 30 minutes punching, crunching and planking to dancefloor classics, imagining I’ve been teleported to Ibiza.

‘How we all feeling? I’m feeling spicy!’ After a short weight-lifting routine, it’s time for the big finish. 

‘We all know this one!’ The opening bars to YMCA roar through my kitchen.

 I march along, beaming like a lunatic, singing ‘YOUNG MAN’ to my reflection in the oven door. When the workout ends I’m disappointed. 

At least I get to do it all again tomorrow!

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