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Eliminating the WFH Post-Pandemic Pudge

A low impact, low cost path to fitness

As we crawl out from our work from home caves this summer, there seems to be a shocking phenomenon in the community. Many people appear thicker around the middle or, ahem, bottom heavy. Count me in that category. Ugh! How did this happen in just 15 short months?

Well, being inside with an easy commute to the fridge didn’t help. We lost the pre-pandemic act of getting in the car and driving to and from work each day, which at least created some small measure of physical activity. I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite ready to return to the gym for group fitness classes. And while we always have the capability to exercise at home, it’s hard to get motivated, especially when work and home life lines are blurred. 

If you are in the same WFH boat, and feeling a bit like a potato, I’ve compiled a list of the best exercise apps, equipment and my own inexpensive home gym ideas. Are you with me? Let’s get fit!

Best Quick Workout Apps

When a daily workout only takes a few minutes, there is no excuse for not getting it done. 

Woman cycling at home

Workouts on Demand
One could get lost in the sheer volume of workout apps out there. However, a few rise to the top with quality features and instruction at free or reasonable prices. Here are some that are popular.

  • Personal training app Shred focuses on fun motivation for those of us that take fitness seriously but not ourselves. This joyful app is $99 per month, or free for a basic version.
  • It’s kind of hard to believe that the FitOn app is totally free, including tapping into celebrity workouts, plus nutrition, wellness and a blog full of free guides.
  • If you’re the type who likes variety, Forte allows you to stream live and on-demand boutique fitness classes from top studios worldwide. A subscription runs $39 per month.
  • One thing I like about Keelo is you can use the app for High Intensity Interval Training at home, or port it with you to the gym, and plans are customized to address the needs of your whole body — the musculoskeletal system, central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and metabolic system. Keelo is free to download and use. However, Keelo Premium, which includes access to all workouts and allows you to chat directly with your coach on the app, costs $12.99 per month.

Workout Music Apps
Add high energy tunes to your workout to help keep you motivated. 

  • If you are doing kickboxing, yoga or anything in between, tap into different categories of professionally curated music on Fit Radio. There is a free version with a variety of mixes, or pay $3.99 a month for customized, commercial free music for your workouts. 
  • For those running—on a treadmill, the street or trail—check out RockMyRun. The app matches your running tempo with professional DJ mixing and a variety of genres. Though the app works on Android, there are more features on Apple, such as heartbeat monitoring and syncing up to Apple Watch. RockMyRun is $7.99 a month after a free trial. 

Tracking Apps
Sometimes we think we are doing ok, but when you start to track the food you eat and the activity you do, the gaps become clear. Working from home, I often find myself head down in a project, not surfacing for air for hours. 

  • MyFitnessPal offers a free, straightforward way to document what you put in your mouth every day, and how much exercise you accomplished. Even with a primarily plant based diet, I was surprised by my initial calorie counts using the app. You don’t have to count calories or monitor your fitness achievements forever, but it is a really great place in starting to identify where you could improve.
  • You’ve probably heard that sitting is the new smoking, not to mention the ill effects of too much screen time. One study from DeskTime recommends getting up for a break every 52 minutes. Whether you take a walk outside, do some stretches or grab a small protein snack, breaks are important and actually increase productivity. To be consistent, consider scheduling your workday breaks with one of these five free timer apps.

Spin at Home
If you are already a fan of indoor cycling classes at the gym, owning a Peloton at home may be a good option. Demand for these premier studio cycling systems exploded over the pandemic, and for good reason- built solidly, they come preloaded with an interactive app for live-streaming and on demand classes. The friendly ecosystem is so well developed, it will replace going to spin class. Plus, there is built-in comradery, being part of the Peleton “Pack.” After the initial $2,500 equipment purchase, the $39 monthly fee could actually save you money if you previously attended four or more studio classes a week.

You can read a full review of Peleton, and some cheaper alternatives, on Wirecutter.

Look in the Mirror
If you are not creeped out by a semi-translucent figure talking to you during a workout, Mirror (or one of the similar competitors like Tonal), is one of the most innovate products to come along. A sleek stand-up mirror design has a built-in camera to provide real-time optimization for your workout. Certified trainers from the country’s top fitness studios provide motivation and live feedback. Add a music playlist from a variety of genres to really get things pumping. The device is currently $1,395 and membership is $39 per month, which includes up to 6 family members.

Darla’s Affordable Home Gym Hacks
Pre-pandemic, I attended a group strength and fitness class at the gym. I loved the suspension training—using my own body weight to work out muscle groups via straps attached to the wall. I ordered a personal suspension system, TRX, via Amazon, which is affordable and works great.

Emulating some of the other gym lessons, I also picked up a kettle bell, weighted ball and step platform at a local discount store, TJ Maxx. Together with my existing yoga mat and ball, I built my own home workout area for less than $200. The best part, all equipment (except the yoga ball) can be stowed in a small chest in my guest room / workout room.

I also discovered that my Roku TV had some free workout apps, and found some fun beginning Zumba lessons. My neighbor turned me on to the “Fabulous 50” free workouts on YouTube. A low impact cardio workout, this series is great for anyone with a prior injury, health issue, or those that just want to start out slowly like me. Her hubs likes this quick 16-minute low impact workout that is also quiet, so he can get a fast morning session in while the family sleeps in.

Final Thoughts
The next step is yours. You probably don’t need me to tell you the health benefits of being active, like lowering blood pressure and reducing cancer risk. So let me just leave you with this. Exercise increases metabolism and how many calories you burn each day. So, while those leftovers call to you from the fridge while working from home, you can indulge and still sculpt a leaner body when you include daily exercise.

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