The gyms are closed. The snacks are now always within reach. Venturing outdoors is recommended, so long as you maintain six feet of distance between you and other humans. But if you’ve tried running at a park recently, there are a whole lot of people who clearly have no concept of what six feet looks like. Experts say that exercise is crucial to reduce stress and anxiety and may boost your immune system. So in the year of covid-19, how does a person keep from atrophying into a giant slug or going stir-crazy with cabin fever? Especially if you live in a city apartment that’s more or less a glorified closet?
Provided you have a working internet connection and enough space for some kind of mat, social distancing doesn’t have to shatter your dreams of getting shredded—you just have to get a little more creative with the options available to you. Below, we’ve compiled a few tips on how to get activity in while the gyms and fitness studios stay closed. Many of these are either cheap or totally free options that involve minimal equipment.
YouTube is your fitness friend
There are a lot of YouTube channels dedicated to keeping fit—and the best part is that those channels are ad-supported for those of us who are trying to keep expenses low. So long as you have a data plan or can mooch off your neighbour’s wifi, YouTube is one of the more budget-friendly options out there right now.
If you don’t know where to start, Popsugar Fitness is a great channel, especially if you don’t have a lot of equipment at your disposal. The channel is helpfully sorted into categories like “30-minute workouts” and “beginner’s workout.” There’s also a category for no-equipment cardio workouts, in case you want to get your heart pumping but outside exercise sparks anxiety or just isn’t feasible right now. Popsugar has also a free app, which you can use to cast workouts to your smart TV.
Fellow Gizmodo writer Catie Keck has been evangelizing Popsugar’s channel to anyone who will listen in Slack: “The thing I love most about it is the variety of classes. It’s mostly bodywork, but a set of dumbbells or two cans of soup are really all you’ll ever need for most of the videos.”
Blogilates is another major YouTube fitness channel that currently has 4.85 million subscribers. The channel, which has been around for more than a decade, also offers a playlist of apartment-friendly workouts that target various areas of the body. The workouts are mainly focused on Pilates, PIIT 28 (a mix of Pilates and interval training), and bootcamp-style workouts, which are more challenging than you might think and solid if you’re looking to tone up as opposed to bulk out.
Two other worthwhile YouTube channels include Men’s Health, which has a handy playlist where you can check your form if you really want to get jacked, and FitnessBlender, a channel run by a husband-and-wife team with a massive catalogue of relatively quick workouts.
Yoga is also extremely YouTube friendly, especially if it’s an activity you want to check out for dealing with coronavirus-related anxiety. Yoga With Adriene is probably the best-known channel—you can browse workouts by length, skill level, weight loss, or even specific ailments like back pain or neck tension (which those of us lucky enough to WFH will eventually get after hunching over our keyboards.) But really, there’s no shortage of yoga channels for nearly every type of practice out there. A note: If you’re a total beginner (or even if you’re not!), it’s probably a good idea to lay off inversions. The last thing you want to do is end up at a doctor’s office when healthcare systems could be overloaded.
The options on YouTube are endless. The aforementioned channels mostly focus on things you can do without equipment, but if you’re bummed your boxing gym closed and you have a bag at home, there are also channels for that. (Nate Bower is a good one, for example.) The same holds true for the bodybuilders among us. YouTube is your friend.
Take advantage of free trial periods!
If YouTube isn’t your jam, there are plenty of fitness apps. Many require premium subscriptions, but they offer free trial periods that you should absolutely take the most advantage of while you shop around for what works best. Cycle through them until you find one you like. Or, if you can’t afford another subscription right now, there are also free apps (see: the Popsugar app I mentioned above). A few services have slashed prices or extended free trial periods in light of the coronavirus crisis.
Peloton—ye olde on-demand stationary bike that made a terrible holiday commercial—has extended its 30-day free trial period for its eponymous app in the U.S., UK, and Canada. If you’re looking for an instructor-led experience, or if you happen to have a non-Peloton bike at home, signing up now will get you 90 days of free classes. The app also offers non-bike workouts, including strength training, yoga, bootcamp, cardio, stretching, and meditation, in addition to outdoor/indoor running and spin classes. The app also works with Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV streaming devices, and most computers and tablets.
ClassPass, which normally acts as a hub for booking boutique studio fitness classes, has also shifted gears in light of covid-19. Given that many gyms and studios are closed for who knows how long, you can now create an account and access a free library of video or audio workouts.
I happen to like Aaptiv for audio-based strength exercises. It is $US15 ($26) a month, though you do get a free trial period. Some of the workouts require some dumbbells, but there are options that you don’t need any equipment for. I also like that you can scroll through gifs of how a specific exercise or movement is supposed to look. Mostly, I just appreciate somebody telling me which strength exercises to do, because I’ve never been all that great at coming up with my own circuits.
These fitness apps probably don’t have much to offer seasoned gym vets. That said, they can be helpful if you’re trying to figure out how to make do without your gym’s equipment. If you are going to take advantage of free trial periods, however, just be sure to stay on top of cancelling before you get locked into annoying auto-renewing services.
Break out the video games!
Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure is hard to find now, because everyone had the same idea. (Also, the arseholes reselling it at jacked-up prices can truly go to hell.) But if you have games that incorporate movement or an old Dance Dance Revolution mat, that’s one way to get in some activity without actually having to go anywhere. There’s also Fitness Boxing for the Switch, which doesn’t require hardware like Ring Fit Adventure.
The games you choose also don’t have to be overtly fitness-themed either. Arms for the Switch will help you work up a sweat if the idea of lifting weights feels boring and unpalatable. Or remember 1-2 Switch? That’s another option for just getting up and moving around with your housemates. Even games like Mario Party can help get you off the couch and serve as a much-needed break from the endless stream of horrible news. If you’re into VR, Beat Saber is another option.
Here at Gizmodo, plenty of our staffers are turning to Just Dance 2020, which is available for the PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Google Stadia. And believe it or not, Zumba also has a series of video games.
Come to terms with running (or hiking and biking)
Outdoor running is one of the few remaining activities left that experts agree is still safe. And it’s dirt cheap! All you need is a serviceable pair of sneakers and some appropriate running pants/shorts/shirts to get going. Just remember that you need to do it solo, maintain six feet of distance from other people, avoid touching your face, and stay mindful of whatever surfaces you may touch before you get the chance to wash your hands.
This is a troubling option for everyone who absolutely hates running, and I completely empathise. Even for those of us who love to lace up, there are days when running can be brutal. But if you’re thinking of starting up, there are plenty of free apps that can get you started. Strava, RunKeeper, MapMyRun, Endomondo—the list is long. There are also specific couch-to-5K apps to help newer runners build the endurance to run 3.1 miles in a single go.
For the time being, it’s probably a good idea to take it easy out there. Instead of crushing PRs, focus more on minimising injury and being aware of your surroundings. Give your fellow runners plenty of space and adhere to good passing etiquette—especially for city dwellers on narrow running paths. It might be a good idea to map out your route so you know where bottleneck areas are and go at times where fewer cooped-up residents are taking their daily walks.
That said, not everyone can run due to underlying physical conditions like bad knees or back pain. Luckily, many of the same apps for running apply to walking and cycling. Strava is a good example of that. There are also plenty of hiking apps, like Alltrails, ViewRanger, REI National Parks, and Yonder, for helping you get outside without getting lost. All of these are free (or have free versions), and are available for iOS and Android.