Don’t let another lockdown get in the way of your fitness goals. With winter dampening – or freezing out – a lot of the motivation to get outside that we had in the summer, there’s never been a better time to try an online workout.
From yoga to boxercise to CrossFit, there are plenty of apps and channels out there to guide you into a new workout. But there’s nothing quite like a live class: having a solid commitment in the diary can be as much of a mental health boost as the workout itself. Knowing that you’re working out with dozens of other people can be a great help if you’re feeling isolated, and knowing that the instructor can see what you’re up to (in some cases) might be just the impetus you need to hold that plank for a second longer.
A lot has changed since March lockdown. The tech behind live-streamed classes has improved a lot, with better music and more camera angles, and most of the big gyms have started offering something. The issue now isn’t so much the number of online workouts, but quality.
This is where our team of locked-down reviewers came in. We have tested all of these workouts, having a go at more than one if the platform offers a variety (yoga and spin, for example). None of our reviewers have a lot of space (think rented rooms in shared houses), so these sessions have all been rated suitable for a bedroom workout. That includes going light on the equipment and the leaping around – unless otherwise noted, the people in the flat below should have no idea you’re giving Beyoncé a run for her money.
As in March, what we love most about these live workouts is the sense of community, even when that community is invisible. We love workouts where it is possible to interact with the instructor and get a shout-out – Marion Pearce’s Zoom spin classes, for example, or Peloton. But we also loved the freedom to have the camera off, and to spring about like Sia (we wish), knowing that hundreds of others were doing the same.
So wheel your office chair out of the way, roll out your exercise mat, and try out some of the best workouts you can do live from home.
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DigMe at home: £6 per class, DigMe Fitness
Part online workout space, part lifestyle, DigMe is one of those fitness communities that can sound intimidating until you try it. Its classes – Matrix Core, Combat HIIT – conjure up a room full of designer yoga gear and impossible levels of fitness. No longer, because now you can dive in wearing your comfiest pyjamas, and flop to the floor during HIIT, shame free. DigMe’s instructors are brilliant, and they’ve nailed the kind of music and lighting that you need to recreate a studio experience at home.
We loved the schedule, which has obviously been created with the working week in mind: spring into action with a guided morning walk or virtual running club, power yoga your way through your lunch break, then sign into a restorative breathwork session at the end of the day. The free community classes are a great way to test the waters. First-timers get 21 days free.
Camp Fit dance aerobics classes: Free, Camp Fit
How Carl Harrison (“Joe Wicks meets Jane Fonda”) has managed to maintain his pep through three lockdowns, we have no idea. But he has, and these roughly 40-minute retro dance aerobics classes – a lifeline for one of our reviewers during the first lockdown – are still among our favourite pick-me-ups. It is impossible not to feel better after – to quote Carl – a bunch of Janet Jackson hip isolations and Bananarama shoulder rolls. Wear your best Eighties trainers and sweatband – classes have a fabulous soundtrack, and a sprinkling of yoga and stretching in the mix to help you catch your breath.
Don’t worry about joining this joyous community midway through: Carl does a handy explainer ahead of every new sequence, and if you get lost, it’s a joy just to watch. Streams are on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 10am.
Marion Pearce spin and yoga: £12, Marion Pearce
One of the brightest lights of the early spin-as-therapy scene, much-loved instructor Marion Pearce has taken the leap (or, in her case, elegant pirouette) away from a mainstream studio to start her own at-home version. Her Zoom rides are intense and exhilarating, and it’s testament to Marion’s skill as an instructor that she can get you into the same headspace as a studio class even if you’re working out in a poky corner of your bedroom.
Her social media is brilliantly refreshing, too: as well as the community of riders and yogis she’s amassed, she’s upfront and Gallically refreshing about balancing motherhood, a career, and her own business during Covid. Classes are twice daily.
Barrecore livestreamed classes: £6, Barrecore
This is the place to start if you’ve ever been curious about barre, which is a sort of middle ground between ballet and pilates. Forget your preconceptions: there’s rarely a tutu in sight, and you don’t even need your own barre – just comfy clothes, room to stretch, and the occasional easy-to-find prop like a chair or ball. We recommend starting with the two-week introduction series (handily, there’s a two-week free trial on offer, so they know you’ll be hooked). After that, jeté your way into the livestreamed classes with confidence. There are multiple daily sessions, and your first class is free.
Peloton spin, strength, yoga, HIIT: £12.99, Peloton
If you’ve felt priced out by Peloton in the past – its bespoke stationary bikes start at an eye-watering £1,700 – this is the perfect way to try the company’s world-famous spin workout for an absolute fraction of the price, using any budget exercise bike currently functioning as a clothes rack in the corner of your room.
Following live workouts on a basic bike means you’ll miss out on some of the features – like the leaderboard and so on – but you’ll still get all of the high-octane instruction and the rave-vibe soundtrack. And it doesn’t end there: there are also all the live HIIT and yoga classes you need to recover from one of its iconic spin sessions. Our reviewer got worryingly hooked on the classic rock ride.
Ryan Heffington dance: Free, Ryan Heffington
Dance instructor to the stars – literally, he’s choreographed routines for Sia and Britney Spears – Ryan Heffington has become the patron saint of locked-down clubbers. If you’re missing nights out, or are feeling low at the prospect of another year without a festival, this is the workout for you: a simple dance class that’s part aerobics, part yoga.
The timezone is tricky for UK ravers – although 2am Sunday might be exactly the moment when you most want to pull shapes – but all his classes are available for free on demand. You need a little more space for this one (think the occasional grapevine) and there is some light springing involved. Classes are currently on Sundays at 10am US Pacific Time (that’s 6pm GMT, or on demand) – but do check Ryan’s Instagram as he often changes up his schedule.
The Life Centre Yoga: £10, The Life Centre
One of London’s best yoga studios, The Life Centre is still our favourite online yoga community. An early adopter, instructors have really found their stride, and its schedule of classes has everything from slow yin to vigorous vinyasa. We love that it’s starting to bring in some of the physical studio’s time-tested offerings online, like the wonderful six-week beginners class with Sandi Sharkey.
The 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. There is a current lockdown offer of £39 for one month of unlimited online classes.
Barry’s bootcamp HIIT and bodyweight: £12, Barry’s
You don’t have to be familiar with Barry’s renowned bootcamp classes to take part in the company’s live HIIT and bodyweight routines, which are streaming multiple times a day. In fact, these 30-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 face plant onto your exercise mat when it got too much and lie there until you recover – unlike at the offline classes.
PE with Joe: Free, Joe Wicks
No review of the best livestreamed fitness classes would be complete without Joe Wicks, who has returned to the PE hall for the winter lockdown. By now a borderline cult, PE with Joe Wicks is the bandwagon to starjump onto if you want to be part of a fitness craze that has swept the nation during isolation.
Workouts have evolved: while there are still plenty of the joyful, PE-style classes that made Joe famous in the first lockdown, there are also more taxing workouts available for free and on demand if his warmth and encouragement has given you a taste for something more. PE is on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9am.
Classpass, HIIT, pilates, yoga, Barre, cycling: From £5 per class, Classpass
For an unparalleled variety of live workouts, try Classpass. In the same way that offline Classpass offers you the chance to drop into gyms and classes usually restricted to members, the virtual Classpass lets you buy credits in advance then book into everything from HIIT and pilates to spin and 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.
The verdict: Online fitness classes
DigMe is a brilliant live online platform, and is a great way to try out a new workout routine. For a mood-booster, though, we still switch over to wonderful Carl Harrison to boogie away the blues.
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