I have never formally joined a gym, so when government orders forced gyms to temporarily shut down and/or operate at reduced capacity due to COVID-19, I wasn’t fazed. From my 13-inch computer screen, I continued to grapevine and hop alongside dance cardio trainer Simone De La Rue and challenge my core with pilates trainer Lisa Corsello.
Like myself, many people enjoy working out at home: in a survey of 3,500 Americans carried out by The New Consumer and Coefficient Capital, it was found that 76 percent of people have experimented with exercising at home in the pandemic, and 66 percent of people prefer it. Peloton and Nordic Track products, including bikes and treadmills, aided in the shift to at-home exercising. I don’t own either—my equipment includes three-pound weights, a towel and a can of seltzer from my kitchen. Due to the pandemic, many trainers have made their workouts accessible by posting videos on their personal YouTube channels that are filmed in cluttered living rooms and empty fitness studios. Some have even live-streamed on Instagram while others have continued to record videos with POPSUGAR Fitness.
Associate professor of history at the New School Dr. Natalia Mehlman Petrzela wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times in February about the rise of fitness instructors who yearn for celebrity status and have created cults of personality that both uplift people and abuse them. Keeping in mind Petrzela’s call to question the cheery attitude and positive spirit that these trainers maintain in their classes, the following trainers and their workouts have helped me create my exercise regimen and develop an affection for movement.
Raneir Pollard is a professional comedian and a fitness instructor, so his workouts feel more like a stand-up comedy club performance than a sweat sesh. Raneir’s workouts consist of tabata intervals and strength-training. His witticisms make his signature moves, skaters and fast feet, endurable. I recommend starting with his 30-minute cardio tabata and then advancing to his 45-minute cardio tabata.
Kit Rich’s workouts are a mixture of pilates, yoga and cardio. Kit’s voice is soothing, and her reminders that it is okay to modify exercises such as push-ups and planks have allowed me to free myself from judgement. Kit believes in the connection between mind and body, and she asks viewers to set an intention for the workout and imagine how they want to feel at the end of it. She concludes her classes with a short meditation in which she encourages viewers to think of one thing they are grateful for. Her workouts can be found on the POPSUGAR Fitness YouTube channel and her personal YouTube channel. My favorite is a Tabata Fusion workout that combines HIIT and pilates.
Jeanette Jenkins’ (fun fact: she’s Queen Latifah’s wife) workouts are quite intense and include cardio and toning circuits. Jeanette replicates the group fitness aura by cultivating camaraderie through encouragement. In her 45-minute workout video, during a cardio abs circuit, she says, “I told you once, I told you a thousand times, my love is real because I sweat my hair out for you!” The upper cuts and jabs in her kickboxing circuits are great opportunities to release any pent-up anger or tension. Imagine the air is filled with COVID particles that you’re attacking!
I didn’t know who Tracy Anderson was before I stumbled across a video of her full body workout routine on Vogue India’s YouTube channel. Tracy has a keen ability to move her arms ever so slightly, with and without three-pound weights. She extends her arms laterally, moves her palms up and down, and reaches to the side and forward as well as upwards and downwards. Her knees bend and extend, her hips move to the side and outwards, and her feet pivot. There is a method behind these tiny, fast moves: Tracy conducted research and found that long muscles can be created by engaging the small, accessory muscles. The first few times I did her arm workouts, I struggled to keep up with the air punches and side hip thrusts. I felt as though I were trying to weasel my way into a clique composed of popular girls who wouldn’t talk to me, as Tracy does not offer verbal cues during most of her workouts. She even has formed a clique of her own, as she has celebrity clients including Gwenyth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham and Jennifer Lopez. However, after I sought out more of her videos, the repetition of the movements became soothing and I felt a sense of pride and solidarity. It was as though Tracy’s hands were cupped around my ears and she was telling me which arm was to be raised, and in which direction my hips were to move. Her workouts can be found on the Goop YouTube channel, Vogue India YouTube channel and the Luxury Collection YouTube channel.
The beauty of working out at home is that you can access a variety of styles of exercise and trainers. However, the seemingly infinite amount of videos can be overwhelming—these trainers’ videos are a great place to start!