I’ve never been someone who likes to exercise at home. I like the accountability of training with other people, the adrenaline-pumping vibe of a fitness class packed with people I can silently compete with, and the focus that comes with putting your phone in a locker and just tuning into your body for the next hour.
But there’s nothing like a deadly pandemic to shift your perspective.
I live in New York City, and all of our gyms and fitness studios shut down in mid-March to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. That included both the boxing gym I go to twice a week and the communal gym in my apartment building that I use a few times a week. Similar restrictions are rolling out around the country, so if your gym hasn’t closed yet, you can expect it to soon.
And that’s a good thing. If we can learn anything from how other countries have handled the new coronavirus pandemic, it’s that small tweaks won’t cut it—we need as many people as possible to stay home (physically separated from anyone but their immediate household) as much as possible and as soon as possible in order to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases.
I get that this sucks all around. It sucks for gym owners, employees, trainers, and group fitness instructors. And it sucks for your fitness routine. It sucks for mine, too. One of my big intentions this year was to find a fitness community where I felt both at home and challenged, and I finally found that…right before everything changed. I finally felt like a regular at my boxing gym, I had a training schedule down, and gloving up after work was the highlight of my week. But then I had to stop going into the office for work—and going to the gym—and, well, you know the rest.
So, here we are. Sidelined by a pandemic in more ways than one and trying to find some semblance of normal life in a situation that is anything but normal. I realize that thinking about your workout right now might seem silly or inappropriate. It certainly does to me. It’s easier to think about all of my friends working in hospitals, all of my colleagues on the frontlines, all of the people who have lost jobs and businesses and money, and all of the people dying from this virus all over the world. But that’s the thing about a global crisis: What you can do often feels so small and insignificant, but if we all just did what we could do, we’d be a lot better off. And right now, for most of us, that’s staying home.
While doing your part by social distancing, you can still exercise at home if that’s something you need in your life in order to feel normal (I do).
1. First and foremost, support your local gym and trainers if you have one.
There is no question that this pandemic will have far-reaching consequences on so many businesses—gyms included. So, if you belong to a gym that you want to continue supporting and you’re in a position to do so, consider keeping your membership going or buying gift cards or swag to use later. Any incoming revenue would be greatly appreciated right now—especially as many gyms are offering up completely free virtual programming for you in the interim (which I’ll get to in a second).
The same goes for personal trainers. If you were previously paying a certain amount in personal training each month and you’re able to continue doing that, consider continuing to pay your trainer during this time. They may even be able to train you remotely over FaceTime or Google Hangouts, or even write programming for you to follow at home.
2. Stream workouts from some amazing gyms and trainers.
I was pumped to see my boxing gym, Gloveworx, immediately pivot to virtual workouts—both on YouTube and on Instagram Live every single day. Of course it’s not the same as being in the gym with them, but there’s something special about still being able to work out “together” while apart. So many gyms and trainers are taking a similar approach right now, which means you can try out a “class” that you may never would have been able to otherwise.
Here are some people and places I’m sweating with right now whenever I can. But I suggest getting creative and Googling whatever fitness trend you’re curious about or celebrity trainer you’ve been eyeing to see if they’re doing any virtual workouts right now. They probably are.
- Gloveworx: Apparently a bunch of the trainers live together and are quarantining together in L.A., which is wild, but their energy together really makes the streamed classes feel like the real thing. Follow them on Instagram to catch a new workout daily. You’ll get a mix of mobility work, strength training, and shadowboxing—no equipment needed. You will be very sweaty. You can also subscribe on YouTube to catch the founder, Leyon Azubuike (Jennifer Aniston’s trainer!!), giving daily workouts.
- 305 Fitness: I am horribly uncoordinated, but I love 305 classes, because they have very uncomplicated choreography, a live DJ, and just really good vibes. While their studios are shut down, they put together a whole calendar of programming that you stream either live (through a Zoom link) or on their YouTube channel. It’s a great cardio workout that I hope doesn’t sound as loud to my downstairs neighbors as jumping jacks would.
- Kira Stokes, celebrity trainer: Kira has been posting Instagram Live workouts with some of her celebrity clients, like Ashley Graham and Candace Cameron-Bure (they’re all joining virtually, of course), so follow her on Instagram to catch the next ones. I also love the Kira Stokes app, which you can download here for a 7-day free trial (after that, it’s $15 per month, which yes is a lot but her workouts and instruction/pep talks are really, really great.)
- Debbie Allen, actress/choreographer/actual legend: Everybody shut up, Debbie Allen is hosting live dance classes on her Instagram. Follow her Instagram and sign up for her newsletter here to find out when her next class is streaming. If this pandemic gave us one good thing, it’s this.
- Sky Ting Yoga: I’ve been wanting to try this NYC-based yoga studio for a while now, so I’m really excited that they’re hosting free daily yoga classes right now. Follow them on Instagram and check out their website to find out when the next livestream is happening.
- Y7 Studio: This is yet another yoga class I’ve been wanting to drop in on. They’re hosting free daily yoga classes on their Instagram. Follow them to get a schedule of classes each week.
OK, those are just the ones I’m most excited about, but there are so many brands, gyms, and trainers streaming virtual workouts right now. Here are some other recommendations from the SELF staff:
Gyms, studios, and brands:
3. Check out these free fitness apps.
Right now, a lot of fitness apps that typically cost money are offering free trials. Even if you’ve never been someone to exercise at home, now is a good time to play around with a few options to see if there’s anything you actually like.
4. Stock up on a few pieces of fitness equipment if you can.
I was tempted to try to sneak into my apartment building’s gym and sneak out with a few pieces of equipment, but honestly they have enough to worry about right now without me adding casual looting into the mix. Instead, I ordered some resistance bands and some dumbbells—both of which are now sold out online. But here are some other options that are currently available (if they’re gone by the time you read this, you may need to hunt around for something similar):
5. If have no equipment, you can find our best at-home bodyweight workouts here.
You don’t actually need to buy anything to exercise at home. Lots of great at-home workouts can be done with just your bodyweight. I also use two filled up S’well water bottles ($35, Amazon) when I need light dumbbells. If you just have a jug of water laying around, that works, too. Honestly, wine bottles, soup cans, whatever you got.
6. If you have dumbbells, you can find our best at-home dumbbell workouts here.
There’s a lot you can do with just a pair of dumbbells. If this kind of thing is what you’re looking for, make sure to follow us on Facebook—we’re going to be publishing a new dumbbell-only workout every week.
7. And if you just need a good stretching routine, we have that, too.
If the only exercising at home you can commit to right now is the occasional stretching that is perfectly valid. I’ve been working from home now for three weeks, and I never thought I would say I miss my commute, but I definitely miss the thousands of steps it added to my days. Now that I’m parked in front of my laptop for way longer than usual these days, my hips and lower back are starting to rebel. So I’ve started scheduling stretch breaks into my calendar and working through several of these moves. It’s also great to do once you log off for the day, if you’re also someone working from home right now.
8. Pencil in your workout the same way you normally would.
Whether you’re not working right now or you’re working way more right now, your routine has likely shifted. So, if exercise at home is the lowest priority possible for you right now, cool! Be gentle with yourself and do not feel pressured to come out of this pandemic in the best shape of your life. That’s a bunch of garbage. We have enough to worry about.
But if you’re someone who always feels better when they have a consistent workout schedule, or if you just need to move more right now to keep your joints—or, honestly, your bowels (roughly half my quarantine food is cheese)—happy, then I highly suggest penciling in workouts to make sure they happen. That could be as simple as saying you take 30 minutes for movement every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. Or it could be writing out a calendar of the virtual workout classes you want to take this week. Whatever makes you—and your body—feel good.
9. Designate a “gym area,” even if it’s literally a corner where you keep your fitness crap.
Listen, I live in a teeny tiny New York apartment, so my “gym area” is my living room once I drag the coffee table out of the way. But even if that’s the case, try to keep all of your stuff in one place so that it feels intentional and special. Right now, I have my dumbbells, resistance bands, water bottle, sneakers, and yoga mat all in one corner of my apartment. It’s nothing fancy, but seeing it reminds me that I have the tools and the time to get in a workout when I feel like it, rather than having to think too much about it. If you have a backyard you can work out in, maybe your “gym area” is just a pile of stuff by your door.
10. Set a whole vibe before you stream a class.
In my opinion, the best gyms and fitness classes have an element of escape to them that requires you to be fully present in the experience—whether it’s low lighting, an epic playlist, burning candles, essential oils, whatever. If you’re missing those kind of vibes, do what you can to replicate it at home, depending on the workout you’re streaming. No, it won’t be perfect. Yes, your kids will be able to reach you more readily than they would if you were at a legit class. But work with what you can.
11. Remember that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
I feel like I’m seeing “New Year, New You” levels of fitness happening online right now, and it’s pretty awesome but it’s also A Lot. My advice here is the same advice I’d give to someone wanting to jump into fitness in January—be realistic and be gentle with yourself. Maybe don’t go right into a 60-minute high-intensity dumbbell workout if you haven’t touched those weights in over a year. Maybe don’t expect yourself to work out every single day just because you’re home and you can. We’re all going through a lot right now. Let’s not add to it with the pressure to suddenly become a fitness influencer in the middle of a pandemic.