Our own bed, our favorite coffee shop, a friend’s party – there can be things we miss out on when we travel, but regular exercise needn’t be one of them. If you have a laptop, you could use pre-recorded videos. If you have wi-fi, you could organize live virtual training sessions.
The use of home fitness apps and videos has surged during the last three years, largely due to the pandemic when fitness facilities were forced to close their premises. According to a study by the World Economic Forum, during the first half of 2020 downloads of health and fitness apps grew by 46% worldwide.*
Online videos and apps can be convenient, cost-effective ways to keep active while traveling and a great addition to your selection of travel apps. But are they any good? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of training online, both live and pre-recorded:
PRO: Fits your schedule
Online fitness videos and workout sessions offer flexibility to work out when time and energy are available. Pre-recorded videos offer the most flexibility.
CON: Too easy to skip workouts
Perhaps the biggest drawback to recorded workout videos is that you don’t have the accountability of an appointment. Scheduling the workout in your calendar is one thing, but knowing someone is expecting to see you is another matter entirely.
It’s the accountability of the physical appointment that makes live exercise so much more powerful, and this is where online fitness videos can let you down.
PRO: No thinking necessary
Pre-recorded videos will usually give plenty of instruction; one of the greatest advantages of this type of training is that someone has already done the thinking for you.
If you ever go to a gym when traveling and struggle with knowing what to do or what not to do (and how to do it), an online fitness video can provide structure from a professional resource.
This will make the process of exercise easier because all you need to do is show up.
CON: Lack of equipment and/or space
You may have a wide variety of weights at home, but you’re not going to pack them on your travels. No access to equipment can be limiting.
A balanced fitness program will require you to move in different directions: forward and backward and side to side. If you don’t have enough space to move in these directions freely, your movement is limited. Therefore, your results will be limited.
However, some exercise is better than none, and if you give your online trainer advance warning and details of the environment you’ll be training in, they’ll be able to adapt to provide a satisfying workout.
PRO: Pre-recorded means more control and less guilt
If the workout is too challenging for your energy level, just hit ‘pause’, take a breath, and continue when ready. If you are unclear about how to do a particular exercise, then stop, rewind and repeat the explanation.
Even if halfway through you decide to stop, and let’s say go for a run instead, you can always return to the same session when energy levels and motivation improve.
The guilt factor decreases dramatically because you haven’t actually ‘missed’ anything – only delayed it until you have more time/energy/motivation.
CON: Lack of correction
A pre-recorded fitness video cannot correct you when you’re doing an exercise incorrectly. This can result in an untargeted workout or worse, an injury.
Additionally, if you struggle with instructions and then figure it out later on in the workout, you’ll have no reassurance that this is actually a breakthrough. You may even repeat the incorrect exercise many times over, exacerbating the problem.
So, if you are a complete beginner a pre-recorded video may not be the best option. If you can, better to use a live professional.
But if you’ve been exercising for a long time and you are confident your technique is correct, then an online video can provide a routine without you needing to think too much about it.
Summary: Online fitness pros and cons
Pre-recorded online fitness videos work well if you are highly motivated and are already very experienced and confident that you can do each exercise correctly and safely. For everyone else, pre-recorded videos are best used as a supplement to a custom-made fitness routine.
Online virtual training provides all the benefits of face-to-face training with a personalized programme, constant checking that exercises are being performed correctly (and therefore avoiding injury), and the accountability of a live trainer.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to exercise for exercise’s sake. You’ll feel better, have more energy, and the rush of endorphins post-workout alone is worth the physical challenge. But if you are aiming to achieve a goal, and you want to maintain your fitness plan while traveling, then professional, personalized guidance that sets targets (and monitors progress) based on your needs is the way to go.
James Staring is the founder and lead fitness coach at Fit to Last Personal Trainers – @fittolastlondon – which offers a high-end, all-inclusive fitness solution for those who’ve tried everything in the past; crash diets, exercise fads, regular gyms, etc., all with little to no success or results.
He works in partnership with you to create a custom-made program of exercise, nutrition (no calorie counting or weighing), and small, simple lifestyle changes, to keep you on track to your goals, injury free and bursting with energy.
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