Downloadable exercise classes
Downloadable exercise classes are professional enough to give you a workout in your home to rival the gym. And not a Wii in sight
Considering the ubiquity of the web in most areas of our lives, it’s surprising that the world of fitness has so far failed to exploit its online potential. Most gyms run a website, while the majority of personal trainers and fitness experts have an internet presence. However, few offer any degree of interactivity – remarkable considering the benefits of exercise demonstrations that users can see rather than just read.
This situation is set to change with the launch of VirtualGym TV, an online fitness centre offering a constantly expanding bank of full-length, professional health-and-fitness training sessions. Around 40 new classes are uploaded each week, all fronted by presenters who are qualified to at least Level 3 on the Register of Exercise Professionals. Indeed, much of the content has been developed by well-known fitness ‘face’ Nicki Waterman – accredited YMCA Personal Trainer, co-presenter of GMTV’s ‘Inch Loss Island’ and responsible for getting the likes of Robbie Williams, Mel C and Shaznay Lewis into shape.
You could just go to classes in a real gym, of course, but this virtual version helps to address some of the reasons why more people don’t do so. ‘You might be a busy professional and not have time,’ says Waterman, ‘or be self-conscious about your shape or appearance.’ With the regularly changing schedule it also means that you never get bored of your routine. Cost can also be a prohibitive factor. Membership of VirtualGym TV is £15 per month. For a typical user doing three classes a week, this works out at £1.25 per session. No contracts, no joining fees. Not even the most bargain-basement leisure centre can compete with such a figure – nor can the much-vaunted Nintendo Wii Fit, touted as the latest gadget to get us potatoes off the couch.
The technology, too, is pretty foolproof. You simply choose a workout then download it to a computer and watch it when you want, play it back through a PC or laptop, stream it to a TV if you have IPTV or Apple TV, or burn it to a CD/DVD and play it in your lounge.
So what’s on offer? Whether you fancy a boot camp circuit, abs blast, dance class or Pilates session, they’re all available to download at a time to suit. Most last 30, 45 or 60 minutes. A day-by-day planner details the new workouts coming on stream, replicating the schedule you might find in a fitness studio. Take a typical Thursday, for example: 9am Tour de Virtual Gym (aka spinning); 10am Dance; 12noon Six-Pack Workout; 6pm Pulse-raiser Aerobics; 7pm High-Energy Conditioning; 8pm Step to Go.
The quality is consistently high – all the sessions I tried were on a par with the level of instruction found in any decent London club. Waterman and her fellow presenters are confident in front of the camera, delivering safe, fun and effective routines. The backgrounds may be more mundane than the exotic beaches and elaborate sets used on many home workout DVDs – but, hey, who wants to be distracted by a swaying palm tree when you’re trying not to fall off a fitball?
VirtualGym TV (www.virtualgym.tv) membership costs £15 per month. Pay-as-you-go membership is £20 per year plus 60p-£1 session fees. A ‘try before you buy’ offer gives two free sessions on registration.
Websites for interactive workouts
Australian Army fitness testsFree downloadable tests for sit-ups, press-ups and ‘multistage fitness’ (aka the ‘bleep test’).www.tinyurl.com/4xls25
BodydoctorSample exercises in MP4 format you can download free to your iPod, others that are viewable online, plus a library of 74 exercises available as single downloads for £1 each, or £30 for the set.www.bodydoctor.com
Chek InstituteAmerican holistic health-and-exercise specialist Paul Chek’s site is crammed with challenging, provocative but always well-researched articles on cutting-edge fitness methods.www.chekinstitute.com
Dr Yessis sports blogHundreds of articles in more than 60 subject areas from Dr Yessis, president of Sports Training Inc.www.dryessis.com
Fit HavenCambridgeshire-based instructor Mel Thomas’s site includes a selection of workout clips – for free downloading.www.fithaven.co.uk
Sports coachHigh-level athletics coach Brian Mackenzie’s site includes hundreds of detailed articles on every aspect of sport and fitness training, from abdominal curls to the zigzag test.www.brianmac.co.uk
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