To limit the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, in Washington, local health officials have recommended that people over 60, people who are pregnant, people with underlying conditions and folks with weakened immune systems should stay home and avoid large gatherings, and that everyone should telecommute when possible and minimize close contact with others. The guidelines define “a large gathering” as one of more than 10 people — about the size of a yoga class with decent attendance. That’s bad news if you’re used to getting your exercise at a studio or a gym. Here are some alternatives you can do at home: from a local mom-and-pop fitness team to the surprising shelf life of a certain VHS workout. Many are free; all are sanity-saving.
Unless you have a home gym, body-weight workouts — strength-training routines that employ your own body weight rather than relying on external equipment — are a no-brainer for home training. You can browse many of them at Fitness Blender, a local repository of more than 600 free workout videos (418 require no equipment at all) spanning all manner of body-weight workouts, plus everything from high-intensity interval training and Pilates to core conditioning and breathwork to combat stress.
Online fitness videos are easy to come by, but Fitness Blender is a homegrown option. Operated by Seattle-area residents Daniel and Kelli Segars, the site prides itself on being “gimmick-free” and it is — the videos are shot against a plain white background, with friendly, relaxed instruction, and a wide range of difficulty levels that will appeal to people of most fitness levels. The Segarses actually sweat and exude effort in their videos, too, so you won’t have the discordant feeling that comes with exerting yourself along to a cheerful video instructor who clearly isn’t breaking a sweat.
Yoga & meditation
If you don’t already have a home yoga practice, it’s easy to start one, with several options for streamed workouts. One comes from yoga instructor and body positivity advocate Jessamyn Stanley. Instagram is rife with yoga-promoting influencers, but Stanley is a cut above the rest. She’s a yoga practitioner who’s unafraid to get into the nitty-gritty of how yoga works for different bodies, and even her Instagram stories — usually off-the-cuff chats about everything from racial politics to complex relationship dynamics — are essential viewing.
Stanley’s app, the Underbelly, is a studio’s worth of classes you can follow along with from your phone or computer, with three different tracks: Air (exercises that integrate breathing), Earth (grounding postures) and Fire (more challenging postures). Stanley’s instruction is friendly, knowledgeable and disarmingly funny. If I could take a class with her in person all the time, I would. This is the next-best thing.
If you’re just yoga-curious, Stanley’s first book, “Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get on the Mat, Love Your Body,” is a wonderfully no-nonsense guide to yoga for beginners — one that drives home the message that yoga is for people of all sizes and backgrounds, regardless of what the Lululemon-derived stereotype might suggest.
To supplement your yoga routine with meditation, Washington, D.C.-based psychotherapist and meditation teacher Tara Brach has a number of guided meditations, dharma talks and reflections available for free on podcast platforms. “A Practice of RAIN” is a good place to start if you’re struggling to manage feelings of fear and anxiety right now. Brach’s talks are also good to listen to while out walking the dog, doing chores at home or as a bedtime ritual.
Sometimes the key to a home workout is tricking yourself into doing one, and Ring Fit Adventure for Nintendo Switch is one such distraction, building exercise into an ongoing video-game narrative. Per Nintendo’s description: “Traverse grass-swept plains by jogging in place, attack enemies with overhead shoulder presses, and refill your health meter by striking some yoga poses.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds much nicer than being barked at by a lithe fitness instructor in a real-world scenario. A predecessor, Wii Fit, is another virtual alternative to outdoor exercise (it even includes boxing!). Maybe you (or your kid) have one lying around?
Also worth considering: an in-house dance party (free)
Embrace Flashback Friday
Remember “Jane Fonda’s Workout” from 1982? The high-cut leotards may be dated, but the instructional videos are actually challenging and available on YouTube in full (I recommend the advanced class), no VCR required. Follow along with fitness-guru-era Fonda and her crew of incredibly toned friends as they pulse, lunge and circle their arms frenetically over some sweet, sweet saxophone and upbeat jams. Fonda studied ballet for years, and it shows in this regimen, which combines elements of yoga, step aerobics and dance into a vigorous, boppy routine.
Listen carefully for the cheerful whoops from the enthusiastic woman in the back row, and Fonda’s gentle but serious narration — “Hang in there,” “Hug your knees tight,” “Be sure not to slouch!”
Old-school fitness videos are charming because they lack the self-seriousness of so many contemporary workouts (the pastel tights of yore are a lot of look), and they’re not about perfection or charting your progress: “Jane Fonda’s Workout” is the same as it was in 1982. But flashback workouts can add some novelty to your routine, and because they were always intended for home use, you rarely need any equipment to follow along (although a yoga mat would probably be helpful during the surprisingly intricate leg-lift section of Fonda’s workout).