NETFLIX AND DRILLS

The complete guide to working out using only free online videos

For years, I paid about $150 a month for a membership at a boutique gym in Manhattan that made me feel fancy, but didn’t make me any healthier.

I believed that by joining an expensive gym, I would be more likely to keep up with a consistent regimen. But as time passed, I came to expect the monthly charge, and what at first seemed exorbitant began to feel reasonable. I started going to the gym going less frequently and working out less hard when I did drag myself in.

Behind-the-scenes with FitnessBlender.
Behind-the-scenes with FitnessBlender. (Courtesy Kelli Segars)

YouTube star Kelli Segars, who along with her husband Daniel runs the FitnessBlender franchise, said while working out at the gym is ideal for some people, it’s not for everyone. “I used to go kill myself at the gym,” she told Quartz. “Now I do 30 minutes at home, three to five times a week and I get better results. It’s hard for people to grasp, but it really does work better.”

The FitnessBlender YouTube channel has amassed more than four million subscribers (this reporter included) by offering more than 500 free workout videos for all levels.

“Life is a huge juggling act, and fitness is something that tends to be pushed toward the end of the list because you don’t have to do it,” Segars says. “When you work out at home…it’s so simple that it smashes every excuse you can think of.”

Tips for working out using free online videos

I’m certainly not a trainer nor a medical professional, but here is what has worked for me over the past two years—along with a few best practices from Segars.

Do you have other tips? Please tweet me and share them—I would love to learn from you.

    1. Be really specific in your search terms and create a workout that is custom for you. I like to keep bookmark folders that focus on certain parts of the body so I can mix and match.
    2. Look at the length of the video before you get started. If it’s billed as a “full-body workout” and the video is seven minutes long, this should be a red flag from the start. Most online workout videos will set aside some time for a host intro as well as a cool-down stretch at the end. If you actually want to be working out for 45 minutes, look for videos that are almost an hour long.
    3. Segars suggests setting aside a part of your home, whether in a corner of your apartment or the side of a garage, as your workout zone. “Even if it’s a little spot in the house, signify to your brain, ‘This is where we do this,’” she says.
    4. Consider investing a small amount of money in items that will make working out at home more varied and more comfortable, such as free weights, a yoga mat, a foam roller, a resistance band, a kettlebell, and, my personal favorite, ankle weights.
    5. Set up a mirror next to your TV so you can track your form while you exercise. This helps guard against injury and will ensure you’re getting the best results for the time you’re putting in.
    6. Segars also suggests ditching the all-or-nothing attitude that many people feel when considering whether or not they have time to work out on any given day. “Just because you don’t have an hour doesn’t mean a half hour isn’t good enough. Just because you don’t have a half hour, doesn’t mean ten minutes isn’t good enough,” she says. “Those little bits of activity can change your entire mindset—your feelings, your mood, your nutrition—for the whole day.”
    7. Lastly, you are likely not going to feel like doing a boot-camp class every day, so I would recommend flagging a variety of workouts you enjoy, such as barre, yoga, and pilates. This way you have a selection bookmarked for every mood. Here are a few to get you started:

    Free workout videos for every mood

    Cardio

    Tip: Pick online classes where at least one of the instructors is doing modified versions of each move.

    In the video above, the woman in the back left is using a smaller range of motion and doing slightly easier exercises than her counterparts. I like being able to see what the modifications look like to better understand where I fit in along the spectrum. This can make a workout that is very challenging easier to keep up with.

    High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

    Tip: Look for videos that have the instructions written out in text on the screen for the times when you want to work out while watching something more compelling.

    Barre

    Tip: Look for classes that incorporate household items, like a chair or towel. In my experience, these videos are really tailored for at-home fitness and often lead to creative ideas for future workouts.

    Kayla Itsines’s Bikini Body Guide (BBG)

    Tip: Many workouts that go viral, like Kayla Itsines’s Bikini Body Guide (BBG), will cost you a fair amount of money if you buy the app or work-out book.

    As a hack, look for videos posted by bloggers that go through the same steps. These videos may not have the highest production value, but it won’t cost you anything to follow along.

    Nalini method

    I’ve been a longtime fan of Rupa Mehta’s Nalini Method classes, which cost $35 each at her gym in Upper Manhattan. Luckily, she also offers some online videos in this YouTube playlist, which you can piece together yourself for a custom workout at home.

    Boxing

    Yoga

    What are your favorite ways to work out for free? Tweet me and let me know.

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