This summer, I developed an addiction to workout classes. After about two months of taking indoor-cycling, yoga, barre, and strength-training classes, my memberships ran out—and I started going through some serious withdrawal. Trying to come up with my own set of moves, having to remember those moves, and motivating myself to work hard throughout the whole workout was a struggle. Plus, it was boring without my screaming, dancing, high-on-life instructors. In short, I got really, really lazy (insert googly-eyed poop emoji here). (It's not too late to get your beach body in gear. Check out the 28-day Tone It Up plan to get in bikini shape ASAP.)
So I set out to DIY my exercise high by sampling a few apps and programs that promise to make your sweat sessions feel like a fun class. Here, the experiences that kicked my butt, pushed me to my limit, and felt a little weird (but in a good way).
Pearl Street Fitness Periscope Workout
The kickass team at Pearl Street Fitness in Denver had the genius idea to stream 25-minute fat-blasting workouts via the magic of Periscope. Luckily for me, you can do them live or within 24 hours of when they air—which is a definitely a bonus if you have a crazy schedule. I ended up watching the workout on replay about 20 minutes after it finished airing.
Scott St. John, the owner of the gym, got us psyched up with a pep talk pre-workout—which was definitely needed considering I was about to hit this class from my living room instead of a chic gym. Then we started going hard. Between the squat jumps, planks, pushups, and tuck jumps, Scott encouraged us to "land like ninjas" and showed us how to modify the movements if we had to. I definitely appreciated the human aspect of this virtual class. Since it's live, people could chime in via Twitter with questions or motivating words like "let's do 10 more seconds!"
Even though there wasn't any music, good ol' Scott cheered us on the entire time, which made the class go fast and kept me from giving up like I normally would if I was exercising by myself. P.S. Sorry to patrons of the nail salon below my apartment. Those tuck jumps hurt me as much as they annoyed you.
Nike+ Training Club App
As a recovering class addict, I was intrigued by the crazy variety of workouts on this free app (it has strength training, barre, yoga, and more). Plus, you can select your class according to your fitness level and your goals (like losing weight or building muscle). Score. Though you can have the app create a program for you based on those two factors, you can also combine a bunch of 10- to 45-minute training sessions into one giant sweat fest on your own, which is what I did.
I was totally pumped to keep my body guessing with two 15-minute interval workouts, but when I started the routine, the trainer asked me to start doing "alternating froggers" and I was stumped. Since the app doesn't use videos during the workout to show you what the moves are, I had to pause my session to watch a clip of how to do the move. And in case I didn't emphasize this enough, I enjoy being totally brain-dead while exercising. So having to stop to learn a move mid-workout was a problem.
Granted, this was totally my fault for not reviewing the list of moves in the workout before jumping into it. Once I figured out WTH I was doing, I appreciated that the monotone trainer counted down 'til we were done with each move. Those robot-sounding voices made me feel like I was training for the Hunger Games or something...in a good way.
Adidas Mi Coach App
After taking really cool treadmill classes, I missed having someone to push me to run faster than I thought I could. When left to my own devices, I keep a slow and steady pace, which doesn't torch nearly as many calories. This app allows you to make a program that fits your goals to run faster, run longer, or lose weight. Then, you choose how many times a week you want to work out, and it creates a monthly schedule for you with runs of different lengths and intensities. That means I had a set workout on a set day, just like a class. Except, unlike my classes, I didn't have to pay $20 if I missed it—though money is motivating, I liked keeping my cash.
This free app also used a monotone trainer to tell me what to do and when to do it. Yay for mindless exercise! Though I did miss the entertainment factor of my human instructors, I liked being told when to go faster and when to slow it down during my runs. Plus, the app pairs up with the Adidas Fit Smart fitness tracker ($150, adidas.com), which monitors your heart rate and lets you know if you're working hard enough. FYI: Some fancy gyms I tried while on my class binge give you the option to pay extra to rent a heart-rate monitor during class to find out how hard you're exercising. So take that, expensive classes! (I still love you, though!)
Peloton Cycle App
If there were ever an app to make you feel like you're living in the future, it's this one. Peloton Cycle is a cycling studio that holds live classes in New York City and broadcasts all of those rides—both live and on demand—onto the screens of bikes customers can buy for home use ($1,995, peloton.com). If you want to use a bike other than the official one from Peloton, you can also access the 10- to 60-minute rides via an iPad app for $12.99 a month.
To be honest, I was kind of dreading doing this workout on my own at first. Since cycling classes are kind of my jam, I thought there was no way this virtual class could compare to my favorite workout ever. I love the music, the cool lights, and the crazy personalities of the instructors who make me forget I'm working out. When I got to my blindingly bright gym with other people pedaling super close by, I was kind of embarrassed to bust out my iPad and go to town—solo.
But once Cody, the Peloton instructor inside my screen, hopped on his bike and queued up the Michael Jackson, I started to get into it. Despite the fact that I wasn't riding a Peloton bike (mine had no hand weights or metrics to tell me my exact resistance and speed), I felt like I was in class—well, kind of. The music wasn't as loud as it is in a typical class, and I didn't want to groove out in full view of the cardio room at my gym. But the instructor did keep reminding me about form and counted us down during sprint intervals. I got to be a sweaty zombie—just how I like it.