Is a Digital Gym Right for You? 9 Top Picks
Once you're done with the excuses (too tired, gym too far away), one of these 9 virtual workouts should help you break a sweat…right in your own living room. See which one is right for you.
If you want: Personalized treatment
If ’80s-style group classes make you shudder, check The GymBox app ($10 per month for unlimited classes). You’ll access videos of an instructor leading you, not an entire class, through a workout, creating the sense of a highly personalized training session. Choose a class based on the trainer—each is taught by one of eight GymBox coaches, who cover details like what your posture should look like and how your muscles should feel throughout the session—or your favorite exercises, which might include strength training, kickboxing, dance, step, extreme cardio, cycling, and even “Easy Does It” (small weights, gentle core training).
If you want: To work with celebrity trainers
Though many fitness apps showcase some superstar names, the website FitFusion ($9.99 per month) seems to pack in the biggest celebrities of today’s industry—take “One Week Shred” with The Biggest Loser’s Jillian Michaels, “Morning Yoga in Bed” with model-turned-yoga-guru Tara Stiles, and “One Day Fat Blast” with Bravo’s Toned Up team Katrina Hodgson and Karena Dawn. A subscription gives you access to more than 260 workout videos with 24 different trainers; also, all single videos are also for sale as digital downloads, many as low as $1.99.
If you want: Bootcamp—for free
The app Nike Training Club (free) is designed just for women, and makes it easy to pinpoint what you want to work on and how to get it done. Choose a goal—“Get Lean,” “Get Toned,” “Get Strong,” or “Get Focused”—then a level. You’ll get suggestions for 15- to 45-minute workouts—like 30 seconds of froggers, followed by 30 seconds of burpees, and so on, with step-by-step instructions and video demonstrations of each. Settings allow you to choose music from your phone, like a Pandora station, to accompany the workout. Best of all, the app showers you with tidbits of encouragement from top athletes and celebrities throughout (for example, you may hear Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova say: “Great job on completing a really tough workout!”) to keep your motivation as strong as your muscles.
If you want: Nutritional advice too
The website Daily Burn offers dietary advice including everything you need to know about nutrients like carbohydrates and protein, recipes based on your calorie range and timeframe, and the option to buy workout-boosting vitamins. Plus, it streams group exercise videos ranging from cardio to dance, and from strength training to Tabata and MetCon (short, high-intensity workouts). You choose the amount of time you have to train—workouts last from less than 15 minutes to an hour—and the difficulty level.
If you want: To train your mind
Strength training doesn’t always break a sweat. The site Vidergize lets you join fitness stars like Danielle Diamond and Kristin McGee for typical workouts, and also partake in guided meditation and motivational talks to work your mental muscle. With the site’s wide range of video offerings, you can stretch your brain after physical workouts by clicking on options such as “Total Body Relaxation Meditation” or “Goals & Success: Managing the To Do List.” Other life-coaching videos cover relationship problems and tips on handling negative emotions. The website is set up like an online rental program, with no annual or sign-up fee. Pre-buy credits ($0.99 each), and then use them to rent videos starting at 1 credit (though a few are free, too). The number of credits per video and rental time, normally about one to two days, varies by video.
If you want: To have fun
Sometimes getting motivated takes apocalyptic measures. Zombies, Run! 3 ($3.99) is the latest version of the North London-based app that takes runners through a fictional high-action course to “collect” supplies you might need to survive your neighborhood’s zombie invasion. Turn that street corner? You just picked up your medicine supply. Turn up the treadmill speed? Congrats! You just survived the horde of monsters chasing you. Try the related 5K Training ($1.99) to continue the game in a more training-intensive environment, and review your speed, pace, and maps of your running course throughout the eight-week program.
If you want: The gym experience, without the gym
If pre-recorded videos just don’t inspire you, EMG Live Fitness streams live videos of classics like step and kickboxing, but also fun twists like yollet (yoga + ballet) and piloxing (pilates + boxing + dance). The New Jersey-based company selects cardio classes from around the world in cities like Los Angeles, Amsterdam, and New York City, and streams them directly to you in real time. If you miss a class, no sweat—for now. You can access the full library of classes on-demand as a one-time user or with a subscription. Purchase by credits ($1 each, or $40 for 50 credits), or buy an unlimited monthly subscription for $19.99.
If you want: To raise the barre
Remember that ballet barre you used while practicing pliés as a child? It’s the inspiration for the trendy barre workout that has sauté-ed into the fitness industry. Physique 57 is a boutique chain that, in addition to its New York, California, and Dubai locations, also offers online videos that combine barre workouts with intervals of strength training, cardio, and stretching. The classes target sculpted abs and long, lean arms and thighs—good for those who want to avoid getting “bulky.” Barre classes are typically more costly than standard workouts, but this online program is much cheaper than taking Physique 57 studio classes (which are $36 each or $250 for a month). A month of online unlimited classes costs $57, or you can purchase individual classes for $5 to $10 each.
If you want: More live action
Another great option for live-streaming videos, the new FitFIT website ($10 per month) will soon offer live streaming coverage of gym classes in Southern California (eventually to expand to other U.S. cities) so you can get that gritty, go-hard feeling you would at the gym without leaving your house. The company has a target launch date of Nov. 17. Try yoga, body sculpting, or a dance class—your instructors will even give you a live shout-out from the gym so you’re not tempted to power off midway.