Fitness

Working Out Through the Pandemic, Inside, Online

When office workers across America (and around the world) started working remotely six months ago, my life didn’t change as much as some people’s. I’ve run my business, a creative marketing agency, from home since 2003. My colleagues and I have become adept at long-distance connecting. So as everyone adjusted, practically overnight, to conference calls and virtual meetings and digital collaboration, I smugly thought . . .

“No big deal. Been there, done that.”

Of course, I missed leisure activities, but as far as my workday was concerned it was business-as-usual — despite these very unusual times. Except for one hour every day. For years, I’ve carved out time between clients and copywriting to drive over to our local Y and work out. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I enjoyed lunchtime yoga. Tuesdays and Thursdays (plus most Saturdays and Sundays), I did Zumba. The workouts were great (and enabled me to indulge my insatiable sweet tooth without tipping the scales too much). But, more important, I had developed good friendships with instructors and classmates alike. Trust me, once someone has seen you shaking your 50-something-year-old booty to Justin Bieber, or trying to master crow pose without falling on your face, there’s an unbreakable bond. I miss these women more than I imagined.

To stay in shape, I developed a new early morning routine. A half hour of yoga, followed by an hour walk with our dog. But the walk is dependent on weather; here on the New England coast, the forecast changes every five minutes. And the yoga relied on 19 VHS tapes collected a couple of decades ago, plus a working VCR. And there’s the rub. 

The working VCR is no longer working.

Before you say, “Who still has a VCR?” don’t bother. My younger brother has made its embarrassing obsolescence perfectly clear. The problem is . . . do I go out and buy the DVD versions of nearly 20 titles? Or do I find a used VCR on eBay, pay exorbitant shipping, cross my fingers, and hope for the best?

The solution, it turns out, is Amazon Prime.

Amazon has a wealth of workout options available to stream and another long list available to rent. (At $1.99 to $2.99 per class, they’re still considerably less than a gym membership.) A quick search uncovered the following options:

 

The Original Jane Fonda Workout

Fonda was the first celebrity to publish a workout book, then videotape (I actually had the workout on an LP in 1983; you had to get up and turn the record over halfway through the class). The book was the number one bestseller for six months, and the video was the top-selling VHS tape ever. Fonda’s workout comprised calisthenics set to popular music, and she introduced the motivational catch phrase “Make it burn.” You’ll find several (newer) Fonda classes on Amazon as well, but there’s nothing quite like the original to take you back to the days of leotards and leg warmers.

Zumba

Zumba’s tagline is “Ditch the workout, join the party.” So, if you’d rather dance than do sit-ups (or Fonda’s even more humiliating exercise, Rover’s Revenge), world-music-based Zumba is worth a try. Amazon has several options, including Zumba Max, with the fitness program’s creator and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Pérez; Zumba Cardio Dance Party; Zumba Fitness Concert Live; and Strong by Zumba, which includes strength training as well as cardio. The key to Zumba (online as well as live whenever that happens again) is to park your ego at the door and keep moving. As the instructors (all of whom are gorgeous, fantastically fit, and unendingly encouraging) will tell you, “There’s no such thing as a wrong step. There are just unplanned solos.”

There are many other styles of dance available, including ballet-based barre (and barre-less), ballroom, tap, and  modern. Here are a couple of the more colorful options.

Shimmy

The 26 episodes of Shimmy combine gentle stretches and warmups with traditional belly dancing routines. Shimmy promises to help you “increase flexibility and burn calories while maintaining your beauty and exploring your sensuality.” You can shimmy your way through the classes in any comfortable clothes, but you might want to invest in one of those beautiful scarves with the coins around the edges to really get into the mood.

Doonya, the Bollywood Workout

“Doonya,” which translates to “world” in Hindu, Urdu, and Arabic, is a fitness program that blends Eastern and Western approaches to movement. The workouts are easy-to-follow fun, combining popular music from India with choreography that raises your heart rate as you focus on abs, glutes, and overall conditioning. You’ll find yourself smiling and laughing out loud through the routines . . . as long as you do them when no one else is home.

Working out is a fact of life when you begin in your teens or twenties. But, it can be a daunting proposition if you’ve never started or taken years (or maybe decades) off. Fortunately, there are classes purpose-built for older or less agile athletes.  

Ageless Fitness

This series, led by British instructor Lucy Lloyd-Baker, is a great option if you’re new to working out or  recovering from an injury. Lloyd-Baker’s videos are low-impact and low-pressure. The 50-minute classes range from Total Body Toning, Posture & Balance, and Back & Core workouts, to Forever Pilates and Forever Yoga. You can easily work at your own pace, although Lloyd-Baker offers suggestions if you want to increase the difficulty or intensity of any movements. The classes themselves are filmed in a comfortable home studio setting and don’t require special equipment, fancy workout clothes, or expensive athletic shoes.

And, finally, if (like me) you’re missing the centering and calming effects of yoga — especially valuable in these times of unprecedented worry and stress — you can browse through dozens of choices. After trying several (since the demise of my ancient VCR), I’ve found a favorite.

Namaste Yoga

“Namaste” is derived from Sanskrit and means “the divine in me honors the divine in you.” Choreographed and narrated by acclaimed instructor and coach Kate Potter, Namaste Yoga combines traditional asanas or postures with breathing and meditation. Each class includes a warmup, flow sequence, and stretch and relaxation. The practice is filmed in various scenic locations — from dramatic lofts to waterfronts, forests to urban landscapes — which switch back and forth throughout, providing visual interest and adding to the overall Zen. Namaste Yoga was originally created as half-hour segments for commercial television, so on Amazon, each episode is only about 23 minutes, perfect for a busy schedule. The show ran several seasons, so you won’t get bored with the routines. Some of the sequences are a bit challenging, but they all return to a center prayer position again and again, so you can stop, collect yourself, and rejoin when you’re ready. Some tips: don’t worry about keeping up with the women onscreen; be gentle and compassionate with yourself; and, move your coffee table out of the way (I speak from experience and a nasty bruise on my elbow). 

Whether you try Namaste Yoga or any of the other yoga courses, just remember what one of my (pre-COVID, real-life) instructors always says: “If it hurts, it isn’t yoga.”

There’s a funny, but may be grounded in too much truth, meme on social media, that warns, “After Coronavirus, you’ll either emerge as a hunk, a drunk, or a chunk.”

Maybe you’ll emerge as a yogini instead. Namaste.

All of these titles — and many more — are available to stream or rent on Amazon Prime. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new fitness routine.

 

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