How I Used YouTube As a Home Personal Trainer (and Dropped 25lbs)

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I've recently signed up again for a trial gym membership after several years of foregoing the monthly fee (a Groupon I couldn't resist). But for the last seven months I've had a team of personal trainers help me get into the best shape of my life, one rep at a time, all from my living room on an iPad or smartphone.

It all started back when I purchased my first kettlebell. Like anyone first getting acquainted with swinging a heavy weight around, I was nervous about learning the proper technique with my new handled heavyweight friend (especially inside our modest sized apartment living room)...

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...so I turned to the seemingly endless archive of exercise vloggers over at YouYube for instruction, supposedly one amongst the legions, as recently noted by the New York Times' Jane Fonda Tapes? Not for a YouTube Generation.

From short 30 second clips showing just one exercise, to full 30 minute multi-exercise routines, YouTube proved to be an excellent online guide for introducing many of the basic moves which have in time, repetition after repetition, become second nature. It was also from the YouTube comments section – admittedly a minefield of bickering between fitness fanatics dotted with a few glowing gems of information – where another beginner directed me over to an iPad-optimized fitness app. 

If YouTube is where I gained initial insight about the basics of using a kettlebell, the FitnessClass app is where I put the newfound knowledge into practice. And for a couple months, I rotated between a selection of three (purchased) workout classes chosen from an archive of over 370 workout videos, doing one of them religiously every day becoming more and more confident using my small set of handled weights.

At first the "Half Hour of Power" would have been more accurately described as "Ten Minutes to a Dizzied State of Everything Hurts and I Really Need a Nap". I had to actually purchase a more modest weight to complete the full workout, ego humbled quickly and so glad I was doing this all from the privacy of my own home. As a renter and in respect of my neighbors below, it was important the workouts didn't involve any jumping, one of the reason I began using kettlebells instead of DVD-based Insanity or P90X style plyometric systems (I do recommend either laying a folded towel or purchasing a workout mat just as a precaution). What my neighbors may have thought while hearing the daily grunting, gasping, and occasional sound of my body slumping onto the floor may be best left undiscussed.

In a few weeks the signs of improved physical fitness led to better dietary habits, which in turn led to even more pronounced physical fitness...a wonderful cycle of self-fulfillment all done from the comfort of my living room. I dropped 25lbs while replacing my blogger butt with something more proudly sculpted, and I currently weigh the same as I did freshman year in college. Seven months later, I'm still turning to my iPad every week, now with a wider selection of routines bookmarked on YouTube or purchased on FitnessApp to launch, supplementing my trips to the gym or using one of the online workouts when time/schedule requires a short routine. 

Here are several of the fitness apps, YouTube channels, and websites I've used:

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PumpOne FitnessClass: available for iPad or on the computer, 370+ classes are categorized by goals, instructor, time, equipment, or fitness goals. The app was initially offered as an a la carte system, but now is sold in monthly or yearly access increments ($9.99/month, $69.99/year). Users do have access to a selection of free classes, some which are quite challenging (oh, my abs).

FitnessBlender (YouTube): The instructional video wing of a fitness website founded by a husband and wife team, there are over 260 full length workout videos + 3-6 new workouts every week available for the nice price of "free". The videos are well produced, easy to follow, and vary in challenge for all levels to reference, and I refer to them whether at home or while at the gym.

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7 Minutes Workout Pro (iOS): The 7 Minute Workout is comprised of 12 bodyweight exercises, done for 30 seconds with 10 seconds rest in between each. It's that easy, and when done correctly with appropriate intensity, is supposedly as effective in promoting fitness benefits as much longer workouts. I use this app for days when I'm too tired or lazy for the gym or for a run, since there's almost no excuse for a 7 minute exercise break. There are numerous versions of this app for nearly every mobile platform (my favorite Android flavor of this routine is, 7 Minute Workout), including a browser based version.

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Tabata-Timer: If 7 minutes still seems like way too much time, you'll be pressed for excuses when told 4 minutes is all it takes to get a very good workout daily. The Tabata Protocol is a high intensity interval training method (HIIT) based on a 1996 study by Professor Izumi Tabata working with Olympic speed skaters. His studies found working out at full-blast intensity for 20 second intervals with 10 seconds rest in between was more effective for aerobic and anaerobic gains than steadier, longer workouts. I just call this app the cure for insomnia, doing it a few hours before bedtime using swings and presses with a single or pair of ketllebells. Guaranteed deep sleep. And since Tabata doesn't necessarily require any equipment (try push-ups, squats, or burpees using this timed method), it's fantastic for travelers to do from a hotel room or park use.

Global Bodyweight Training (YouTube): I discovered this YouTube channel while trying to expand my repertoire of push-up routines, since many of my home exercises rely upon bodyweight. Pick up a chinup bar and some push-up handles and load up a few of these videos onto your mobile device, and you're set.

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Pinterest Monthly Fitness Challenges: a few months ago, someone I follow on Instagram posted completing a continual wall-sit for 6 minutes. I attempted to follow suit, but soon slid onto my backside after just 2 minutes in the quadriceps-burning position. I was directed over to a schedule online, and thus opened a whole new world of month-long exercise challenges, conveniently collected on numerous Pinterest boards. Great for beginners, each of the challenge schedules ramp up slowly, but steadily push followers toward a 30 day goal (I'm now up to 7 minutes sitting on my invisible chair).

(Images: Gregory Han; as linked above)

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