From yoga to boxercise, slick Californian instructors to joyful Mr Motivator, stay at home and get fit with one of the many classes streaming live to your at-home gym (or living room).
The strain that coronavirus has put on studios and gyms has led many of the country’s best workout spaces to move online, in many cases by livestreaming classes – an unparalleled chance to try out famous workouts with renowned instructors at half the price of a physical class or, in some cases, for free.
We tested the online offerings of some of the best gyms out there, looking primarily for great instructors and inspiring workouts to help lift your spirits.
We searched for routines that didn’t demand a lot of space or equipment: with the exception of the spin classes, all of these workouts can be done in a small room. And we looked out for individual teachers and trainers offering something unique.
Of course, no streamed class can quite rival the atmosphere of a group class, or the motivation you get from having the instructor there with you.
But there are some benefits to logging in from the privacy of your living room: take on classes you wouldn’t be confident enough to try out in person and push yourself into tougher workouts in the reassuring knowledge that you can take a time out, shame free.
With no commuting time built in, or busy locker rooms and showers to negotiate, you can get the day started with a high energy HIIT workout, go for a spin at lunchtime, and then wind down with a long yoga class and meditation in the evening.
But best of all is the sense of community you get from joining a livestreamed class. Whether you manage five minutes and then flop to the floor or power through 45 minutes of explosive squats, the real benefit of these workouts is the chance to socialise with your classmates, whether that’s by encouraging your kids to write in to the country’s favourite PE teacher, Joe Wicks, or posting an emoji to an Instagram live feed.
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Camp Fit dance classes: Free, Camp Fit
These 40-minute, retro dance aerobics classes got one of our reviewers through a fortnight in quarantine. It is impossible not to feel better after – to quote gleeful instructor Carl Harrison (Joe Wicks meets Jane Fonda) – “a bunch of Janet Jackson hip isolations and Bananarama shoulder rolls”.
The classes, which are shot from the winningly ordinary confines of Carl’s flat, are high energy – wear your best Eighties trainers and sweatband – with a fabulous soundtrack, but there’s a sprinkling of yoga and stretching (done, gloriously, to Natalie Imbruglia’s song Torn) in the mix to help you catch your breath.
These classes are perfect for anyone who misses dance fitness sessions or who needs a bit more sparkle in isolation. Even though Carl does a handy explainer ahead of every new sequence, we can’t pretend to have kept up the whole time. But that doesn’t matter, because the classes are a joy just to watch. Join in at 10am on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and 12pm on Saturdays.
Life Centre yoga classes: £10 drop in, Life Centre
One of London’s best yoga studios, the Life Centre’s daily online classes are expensive – although a month’s unlimited access is a good deal at £75, and classes are free if you work for the NHS – but you do get the support and individual attention of a closed Zoom meeting, which feels more intimate than an public Instagram live session.
The teachers are some of the best out there, and the studio offers a variety of styles – including some rarities like yin and jivamukti, as well as classes for teenagers and children. Perfect for serious yogis and anyone who misses their yoga community, the Life Centre is keeping up its extracurricular offerings too: there are regular gong baths, kirtan, mindfulness and meditation classes on offer. Life Centre is particularly good for ashtanga yogis who practice daily in the mysore style (with minimal instruction): there are a number of hour-long early morning classes that are about as close as you can get to running through the series at a studio.
Psycle: Barre, HIIT and yoga: Free, Psycle
Luxe London spin studio Psycle has pivoted effortlessly into online fitness classes, launching its own Instagram TV channel packed with barre, HIIT and power flow (yoga) classes. A large part of Psycle’s magic is the studio atmosphere – think dark rooms, club lighting, motivational slogans and block rockin’ beats – so it’s a tribute to its army of instructors that something of that energy transfers online. We particularly love Maria, who boogies on the spot while welcoming everyone “into the room” for her intense barre workout. There are usually three to four live classes a day, and you can find the schedule on Psycle’s Instagram account. Psycle classes usually cost around £20 a go, so this online offering is a bargain.
Mr Motivator daily dozen aerobics: Free, Mr Motivator
Kitsch, fun and perfect for anyone with less mobility, Mr Motivator’s short but sweet blast of gentle aerobics might as well be livestreamed straight from the Eighties. Mr and Mrs Motivator stream the videos from their home, which makes the short sequences – of low impact aerobics and lifts – feel even more approachable. There are plenty of modifications on offer – including an option to remain sitting, if that’s better for you, or to hold onto a chair for balance in lunges. Uplifting and uncomplicated, bust out your best Hawaiian print shorts and get crunching.
Barry’s Bootcamp HIIT and bodyweight: Free, Barry’s Bootcamp
You don’t have to be familiar with Barry’s renowned bootcamp classes to take part in its live HIIT and bodyweight routines, which are streamed multiple times a day. In fact, these thirty-minute workouts – which vary depending on the instructor, but can be relied upon for a plethora of planks and burpees – are a brilliant and non-intimidating way to have a go at a famously difficult fitness class. Relatively high in intensity and impact, you need to be very careful with form; listen to the instructor’s advice about how hard to go and when to slow down. That said, if you mess up, our reviewer appreciated the fact that you can faceplant onto your exercise mat when it gets too much and lie there until you recover – unlike at the offline classes.
Spin Stream cycling: Free, plus a membership option, Spin Stream
A great alternative to shelling out £1k+ on a spin bike and subscription service like Peloton, Spin Stream is perfect for cyclists with turbo trainers (an accessory to turn your road bike into a gym one), or anyone with a stationary bike who misses their spin class at the gym. Spin Steam has always provided an online service, so is better at integrating music and camera cuts than most other video spin classes we tried. As well as its online database of recorded classes, it (usually) offers a live class daily on Facebook live. The recorded videos are sorted into workouts for spin bikes and turbo trainers, and any stationary bike will do for the spin classes. The live classes offer a little less variety but are free and always deliver a tough workout. The schedule is pretty changeable, so keep an eye on the website and Facebook page for information about the next class.
Joe Wicks P.E. with Joe: Free, Joe Wicks
By now a borderline cult, P.E. with Joe Wicks is the bandwagon to star jump onto if you want to be part of a fitness craze that has swept the nation during isolation. The workouts are – theoretically – aimed at children, but are simple, cheerful and challenging enough for literally anyone to take part in. There’s no need to turn your nose up at the nation’s favourite workout if you’re used to CrossFit style HIIT blasts: our (reasonably) fit reviewer got a satisfying blast of muscle soreness from one of Joe’s leg days. As well as modifying moves for people with less fitness and flexibility, Joe changes moves to make them harder – suggesting hand weights for certain poses if you want more of a challenge. Add in the community spirit – letters from kids and the “spot the difference” in Joe’s living room challenge – and it’s hard not to get swept up by the hype.
Rumble boxercise: Free, Rumble
Extremely peppy, these boxercise workouts from US-based franchise Rumble are an enjoyable slice of glossy escapism – good luck not getting distracted by some instructors’ living room views out onto palm tree-lined beaches. You don’t need to have joined one of the Rumble choreographed classes before – or any kind of boxercise class – because instructors take you through all the poses at the start. That said, our reviewer found it a little hard to keep up – the high octane EDM soundtrack is fun and high energy, but also relentless. That doesn’t matter really for an at home class, as it’s easy to pick up the routine again if you lose track, and even with the odd perplexed pause, our fitness tracker rated this as the most effective workout we tested. The classes stream from the US, so the timings can be a little strange for the UK – we liked lunch breaks with the morning (Eastern time) workouts.
Classpass HIIT, pilates, yoga, barre, cycling: Free or membership service, Classpass
For an unparalleled variety of live workouts, try Classpass. The service normally offers you the chance to drop into gyms and classes that are usually restricted to members, but since we can’t hit the gym right now, we tried the virtual version which lets you buy credits for live online workouts, offering everything from HIIT and pilates to spin or bikram yoga. Most classes we tried were between £5 and £10, and the constantly updating timetable of workouts meant we were never short of inspiration. Because you can search for live workouts by location, Classpass is a great way to find new studios and classes to try out after lockdown.
Third Space kettlebells, HIIT and yoga: Free, Third Space
One of the UK’s most expensive and exclusive gyms, Third Space membership costs between £175 and £200 a month, but it is currently streaming a huge variety of its online workouts, from bodyweight to yin yoga, for free. Our reviewer loved the kettlebell workouts – well, maybe not “loved”, but was satisfyingly destroyed by. Once again, form is very important here: instructors assume a fair amount of experience but do talk you through intensity and warming up and cooling down. The live workouts of the day (WOD) are ideal for anyone missing a community workout with a lot of burpees. Many of the classes require a small number of props – hand weights and resistance bands, for example – so have those to hand.
The verdict: Online fitness classes
For a mood booster that sets you up for the day, don your brightest headband and log in to Camp Fit’s fabulous dance aerobics. If it’s serious training you’re after, Third Space is hard to beat, both for intensity and variety of workouts.
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