Even if you can't afford a swanky Equinox membership but can't stand packing in among the masses at 24 Hour Fitness, you've got no excuse for letting your body go to pot over the winter. With these websites at your disposal and a bit of sweat equity, you'll be ready for beach season.
And, while it should go without saying, make sure you get checked out by a doctor before you start any exercise program.
Get Started on the Road to Health
Image: Warren Goldswain
No wonder Santa's such a fatty; dude survives on cookies and whole milk alone. Don't be like him. Instead, buck the national trend of holiday weight gain by eating right and establishing at least a rudimentary exercise regimen over the holidays. These general health and wellness resources can help.
Streaming Services: While you might associate them more with slovenly couch sessions, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and RokuTv all offer a wide variety of exercise and health-related programming ranging from diets, recipes, and low impact routines for unconditioned exercisers to high-intensity workouts that practically guarantee you'll end up dry heaving. They're a solid resource and readily available through the services you likely already subscribe to.
SparkPeople: SparkPeople offers a host of services including free diet plans, recipes, instructional videos, and blogs in addition to a large and active community of users. The site covers a wide range of topics like nutrition, weight loss, and pregnancy-related issues. Most of the sites resources are reserved for site members; luckily signup is free.
WorkoutsForYou: What SparkPeople does for you diet, Workouts for You does for your exercise habits. The site offers a customizable workout program with more than 2,000 variations that require very little room and even less equipment, progress tracking, and online support from the company's training staff. Subscribers can choose between a self-directed option for $90/year or, for $200 a year, a Made Just for You program designed by someone that actually knows what they're doing as well as regular access to support from a personal trainer.
Get Fit in the Comfort of Your Own Home
With polar vortices, stormageddons, and all the other extreme winter weather we've been seeing over the past couple of years, nobody will blame you for balking at an outdoor workout in that mess. Instead, turn your living room into an exercise studio with these minimalist workout regimens.
The Daily Hiit: If you're looking for a more comprehensive solution to your home workout needs, the Daily Hiit has you covered. This free home-fitness-focused website is updated, as the name implies, daily with new aerobic, calisthenic, and HIIT workout routines as well as a host of nutrition tips. It's free to sign up and even includes a pre-roll instructional section explaining what you're in for ahead of each workout so you aren't surprised mid-session with a new or unfamiliar exercise.
Fitness Blender: This for-profit site offers a series of both full length video routines and explanatory clips for individual movements at no charge, which is a great way to take a spin through the program and see if it works for you. If you want to go further, you can pick up one of five 8-week fat loss programs for $10 a pop and one of three specialized 4-week meal plans (omni, vegetarian, or vegan) for $15 each at FitnessBlender.com.
Daily Burn: This six-day-a-week regimen has something for everybody, also at a price. You can find full-length workout routines and instructional videos for a variety of Yoga, cardio, bodyweight, and HIIT training programs as well as nutritional and general wellness advice. After the 30-day free trial, however, you will incur a $10/month subscription fee.
Work Out for Free Using YouTube
If you're looking for pro-quality workout and health tips but can't afford a gym membership, just fire up YouTube. The video sharing megasite is chock-full of programs and advice from some of the top names in personal training (along with every other name in personal training). Here are three popular options:
Be Fit: With an expansive, nearly exhaustive, list of workout routines from the biggest names in personal fitness—from Jillian Michaels and Jane Fonda to Billy Blanks Jr. and Deepak Chopra—Lionsgate's Be Fit YouTube channel is on par with many for-profit sites. And these aren't three-minute instructional clips either; we're talking hour-plus sweat-drenching workouts from warm up to cool down.
eFit30 Online Gym: With a strict focus on Pilates, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), and Yoga, the eFit30 channel will have you sculpting every major muscle group in no time. There are more than 200 videos to choose from focusing on every limb and a wide variety of movements.
Runners World TV: If you prefer the allure of running the open road to a treadmill, then you're likely already familiar with Runner's World—it is one of the biggest fitness publications around. Well, this is its official YouTube site. It offers a slew of running news, fitness and technique advice for neophyte and cross country veterans alike—even equipment reviews. If it has to do with running, you can bet you'll find it here.
Stretch It Out
Image: Inga Marchuk
Getting in shape is more than just endless cardio and countless calisthenics. Developing and maintaining your flexibility is key to preventing injury and beating muscle fatigue. And nothing gets your tendons rubbery quite like Yoga.
Do Yoga With Me: Even if you can't touch your toes, you'll be able to follow along with DYWM's stable of free workout videos. The site is geared for beginner and intermediate level practitioners with dozens of hour-plus sessions. And if you can't seem to get the hang of a stance, the site is also home to a supportive and active user community.
Free Yoga Videos: Moving between the various yoga poses—even the most common forms—and be frustratingly confusing for new practitioners, especially when you don't have a knowledgeable instructor correcting your form. While the Free Yoga Videos YouTube channel isn't quite the same as having a live instructor standing next to you, its instructional collection of clips will walk you through, step-by-step nearly two dozen beginner movements as well as teach you how to flow from one form to another. It even includes a series of super-low impact videos geared for senior citizens.
Don't see your favorite web-based trainer here? Let us know what you use in the discussion below!
lead image: Hasloo Group Production Studio