The chaos that is 2020 has forced us all to switch up our workout routines.

The chaos that is 2020 has forced us all to switch up our workout routines.

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Like everything else in 2020, workouts have had to undergo some adjustments. When we can’t get to the gym like we used to, many of us have turned to a variety of virtually guided workouts—whether apps, videos, streaming services or other socially distant fitness-coaching options. Here are just a few of the many options out there.

I’m a longtime proponent of Zombies, Run!, a running app with an audio story that puts the user in the middle of the zombie apocalypse in England. This contagion-based storyline was compelling enough in the Before Times, but nowadays, hearing about how you and your friends are running to escape a deadly virus? Where the initial sign of infection is an ever-worsening cough? The current experience is, shall we say, quite immersive.

Even better: In response to the pandemic, Zombies, Run! has released “Home Front,” a free collection of simple, at-home audio-guided workouts that can be done with no equipment: think squats, lunges, shadowboxing, planks, etc. The hook is, these workouts are led by all of your favorite Zombies, Run! characters, who are, as they will tell you, currently trapped inside various buildings due to a particularly intense zombie horde outside. They’re generally upbeat, sympathizing with the plight of their isolated listeners, touting the importance of exercise for your physical and mental health, and encouraging users to take “dance breaks” in between exercises.

Recently one character lamented that some people in his settlement went out too soon and were themselves infected with the zombie virus, worsening the situation for everyone, and mid-jumping-jack I had to wonder if my silly little fitness app was going to make me cry. (Zombies, Run! is a subscription service, but the Home Front workouts are available for free for anyone who has the app, which is also free.)

Sarasota’s Circusoul Yoga livestreams a whole menu of yoga classes for just $10 a pop. Think Vinyasa, Vedic, Thai or special relaxation sessions, streamed live to your screen via fitDEGREE, an app that lets you sign up, pay and “attend” live classes or even watch videos after they’ve happened. Or you can pay up front for a “class pack” with unlimited virtual studio access for 14 days ($59).

Hardcore cycling enthusiasts have been raving about Peloton for years, but what you might not know is that it’s got a lot more than stationary bike workouts. The app allows you to stream all sorts of other workouts in a similar vein to the famed spin classes: Instructors in their own studios show up on your screen, tell you what to do, keep you motivated and even provide a jamming soundtrack. The workouts also vary by time, so you can stack shorter workouts together to create your own custom fitness experience. For instance, Corinne Deckard, general manager for Asolo Rep, likes to add a 10-minute Peloton core workout to her routine, which she streams on a television in her at-home office and fitness studio. “You feel like you're in your own private fitness class, which keeps me going even when I want to stop,” she says. “I leave feeling like I did some work.”

Former Sarasota resident Jess Macy stays connected with her Southwest Florida contacts via the three weekly Zoom-based fitness classes ($10) she hosts with her partner at the Nashville Personal Training Company. Because Zoom allows participants to show their own video streams, too, the key here is their tag-team approach: While one instructor demonstrates the exercises, the other monitors participants’ video streams and coaches proper form. They also encourage their clients to get creative with their home gym “equipment”: “A couple times we had people create a suspension trainer (TRX) with a bedsheet,” says Macy. “If people don’t have weights, we have them use a jug of laundry detergent or fill up a backpack with heavy things.”

Do-it-yourself-ers will find a whole universe of resources at Darebee.com, an extensive collection of workouts and workout plans communicated via simple pictorial guides—whether it’s weights, cardio, yoga or pretty much any other kind of exercise you can think of, plus meal plans and even recipes. The site provides full information about each program before you dive in, so you have an idea of difficulty level, exercises involved, equipment needed and the overall focus. Plus, it’s a donation-based service, so everything on the site is free. Sarasota’s Christine DeLeonardo, president of Five Star Consulting Services, started with a 30-day high-intensity interval training program. “We have just discovered them, but they have everything,” she says. “I think ‘Athena’s Playbook’ is next on my list.”

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