FREE At-Home Fitness Options You’ll Actually Want to Do

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When I became a mom, I had a few delusions about just how much time I’d have to work out. The teeny tiny newborn stage tricked me,too! My daughter napped so much that I jumped back into 75-minute workouts when I was cleared at six weeks. In fact, there were many times when Edie slept next to me while I exercised in my home gym space.

Then at four months old, her naps became shorter. Those long nap stretches that allowed me to sweat my butt off and shower afterwards morphed into 45-to 60-minute stretches. Time for ourselves is precious, and never has that been more true than in parenthood. For some, those free minutes might be spent cleaning up because a tidy home is sanity-giving. Others may see a window to get lost in a book. For others still, it may be that that particular nap time begs for a Real Housewives of New York episode. (Might I recommend season 3, episode twelve “Sun, Sand, and Psychosis” where an iconic Bethenny Frankel tells Kelly Bensimon to go to bed? Seriously, nothing will make you feel more sane than watching Kelly talk about candy on Scary Island.)

For me, if I have 45 minutes of time to do whatever I want, I’m going to squeeze in a workout.

Fitness for Sanity

Working out keeps me from being a full-blown monster. I have always struggled with nervous energy and catastrophic thinking. And now, as a mom, those anxious/worried/scared/terrified thoughts have been exacerbated 100-fold. But if I’m engaged in a challenging feat of physical exertion—whether that’s a HIIT session, a barre class, spin class, or some random dance cardio situation that makes me look like a straight-up baby giraffe learning to sashay—I have all those minutes to move and exist instead of worrying. I’m in my body for those moments instead of being in my head. And that’s a welcome break.

My home gym/sanctuary/torture chamber
For me, this space has been a sort of sweaty sanctuary during the pandemic and these early months of motherhood

Of course, the pandemic has changed the way many of us do our normal activities. This is especially true for working out. I, like many others, have had to alter my fitness regimen to something entirely home-based. The upside is that this works out well since I have a baby and we’re home all the time together. The downside is missing the group fitness environment that ruled much of my twenties and early thirties. This is where at-home fitness classes hosted by a variety of apps and subscription services are clutch.

But is it really cheaper than therapy?

In full disclosure, I have a Peloton. I LOVE my Peloton. I do not now, nor will I ever, hold the Peloton responsible for Big’s death on “And Just Like That.” But here’s the thing: A Peloton is EXPENSIVE. On top of the $1,500 you pay for the bike itself, you have to subscribe to their classes to the tune $39 per month. This All-Access pass is required with your bike purchase.

There’s a free-er way, y’all: YouTube.

Free and Freakin’ Fabulous Fitness

Now, I will share my secrets of online fitness content. I’d be lying if I said that I’m not a little scared the popularity of these trainers will soar and thus render them so valuable they’ll start charging their own monthly fees. But hey, they’re good, and they totally deserve it.

With that said, in no particular order, here are my all-time favorite YouTube fitness personalities. They’re all free, they all post regular workouts, and they’re all guaranteed to help you get your sweat on.

Raneir Pollard

I was introduced to my sweat soulmate (he doesn’t know we’re sweat soulmates, though he has reposted my IG stories that mention my love for him, so maybe there’s something there?) via his PopSugar workouts on YouTube at the start of the pandemic in 2020. His Tabata beatdown classes made me fall in love with him (and taught me that a tuck jump ain’t no joke), but his sense of humor elevated him to soulmate status.

His workouts are shared on YouTube weekly via his IG live classes. They include everything from upper body and lower body focused sessions, to core work, Tabata intervals, and unilateral work. Most workouts just require a set of dumbbells and a mat and the playlists he uses are awesome! His motivational cues are equal parts hysterical and focused on proper form. Raneir will hook you up with plenty of options for modifications and frequently hits you with a sing-songy, “You can make it!” when things get especially challenging. Give yourself an hour with him and you’ll be hooked (and freakin’ sore the next day).

Heather Robertson

Oh, Heather, you beautiful, beautiful beast. My girl Heather’s workouts are HIIT, barre, and Pilates-based with all kinds of month-long programming to take the guesswork out of what you should be doing each day. The equipment she implements is typically basic (mat, weights, and maybe a mini-band here and there), and the class times range from 10 minutes to 60 minutes.

If you’re someone who doesn’t love to hear an instructor’s voice throughout your workout, Heather’s classes are a must. While she doesn’t “instruct” with verbal cues, she demonstrates each move along with you and does a great job of creating programs that are easy to follow. She picks solid music choices for her workouts, allowing you to focus on your body with the background beat driving the energy throughout class. I am a HUGE fan of her “no-repeat” workouts because if you absolutely have to do burpees, it’s nice to know you’re only having to do them once!.

Action Jacquelyn

I taught barre for the better part of 10 years, so it’s a workout that’s near and dear to my heart. It even made my butt an asset I’m actually pretty proud of! (Shout out to Pure Barre on 18th Street in Homewood. I love you, I miss you, and I’ll be back again someday!) Action Jacquelyn is a barre instructor on a mission to help women tone and stretch, all while pushing them beyond their comfort zones. Her barre-based workouts are challenging-but-doable, and she often encourages participants to spice things up with an ankle weight or a light hand weight. These instructor-led sessions are as close to a legit barre class as I’ve ever experienced via a free online platform. So, while they’re no Kelly Campbell Pure Barre class (if you know, you know), they are an excellent substitute if you’re relegated to your home.

Barre is such a solid complement to other high-impact fitness plans. It creates body awareness and strengthens a lot of the oft-neglected smaller muscles surrounding the joints. I don’t buy into the whole “barre creates longer, leaner muscles” refrain because that’s more of a genetics/ body type thing. You build muscle how you build muscle. However, I do love barre for its ability to tone the body with minimal equipment in fun ways that don’t put additional strain on joints. This channel offers everything from barre fitness 5-day plans and song-based workouts to no-equipment sessions and more focused workouts designed to target a designated section of the body. Each class is high-energy, chock-full of body knowledge, and is sure to help you sweat, sparkle, or glisten (depending on your worldview).

Let’s Go!

4 months post-partum, post sweat-sesh
At-home workouts have been my sanity (and have given me back my abs post-partum).

I look forward to the day when I have the time to return to in-person group fitness classes. (And, you know, coronavirus isn’t lurking around trying to ruin everyone’s lives.) In the meantime, these YouTube workouts have been giving me life and helping me get my abs back post-pregnancy. So grab your mat, turn the volume up on your phone or computer, and get after it.

 

 

 

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My name is Jamie, and I'm a writer, editor, fitness instructor, and self-proclaimed hype woman. I've been in B'ham almost 10 years, but I grew up in Eufaula, Alabama (yep, the town with the pretty houses on the way to the beach). I received my M.A. in English/creative writing with a focus on creative nonfiction from UAB in 2015, and I have an undergraduate degree in creative writing with a focus on poetry from UAB as well. I am the content marketing manager at Alabama Media Group, overseeing all sponsored content, blog, infographic, and white paper content. My husband and I have been married just over a year, and we've been together for 6 years. We live in Homewood, and in June 2021, we added a new member to the party: our baby girl, Edie. When I'm not working, I'm spending a large chunk of the day figuring out this tiny human. But during whatever free time I have, you'll catch me doing HIIT and barre classes, reading (memoirs and feminist lit are my favorite), and experimenting in the kitchen.