The Rise of Home-Based Training and Virtual Instruction

Home-based exercise and fitness training has long been a popular way to stay fit and healthy. In recent years however, there has been somewhat of a mass exodus from the commercial gym environment, with more people than ever now choosing to perform their exercise and fitness training from home.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly accelerated this movement, it’s important to acknowledge and underline the fact that the trend was already well underway, long before anyone had even heard of coronavirus.

In this article, we’ll explore the many benefits that are to be had from exercising and training at home, and how using a virtual instructor can help you to get more out of your training.

Home-Based Training

It’s important to recognise first and foremost that home-based exercise can include a wide variety of training methods and approaches, including, but not limited to, strength/ weight training, Pilates, yoga and cardiovascular or aerobic conditioning.

Those choosing to perform what has traditionally been known as ‘gym training’ from home, whether this is strength training, Strongman/ woman, CrossFit, cardiovascular (CV) exercise, or any other combination of these activities, usually set up a dedicated space in their home or garage from which to perform their regular training sessions. Within, they’d look to fit the space out with the gym equipment required to effectively follow their programmes and achieve their goals they’re going after. Most generally start with weights and bars or a home gym set, and can then look at adding to their space as they continue to benefit from their home set up.

Most people that perform more holistic forms of exercise, like Pilates, Yoga and Thai chi for example, will use a combination of professionally streamed, pre-recorded (on-demand) and/or DVD-based sessions that guide them through a specific sessions. Many of these are available for free on YouTube and other streaming services. In recent years however, many local instructors have also taken their classes online, choosing to stream them through services like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, but we’ll come back to this shortly.

For those endorphin junkies that enjoy nothing more than a good t-shirt soaking cardio blast, there are now more options than ever to get their daily cardio fix. Perhaps the most obvious consideration however, is the preferred mode of exercise? For runners, road running is perhaps the most accessible and affordable option, although in the cold and dark winter months, the appeal for this can often wane. This is where a treadmill would be of value. Once reserved for those with bigger budgets and lots of space, you can now purchase a new or used treadmill on a shoestring budget and many of these machines can now fold away and be stored with ease.

Other popular forms of home-based CV training include rowing, cross-training (using an elliptical trainer) and of course, cycling. With the growing interest of road cycling and the uptake of mass-participation events like triathlons, Ironman and Outlaw for example, there are now an almost endless array of indoor cycling equipment, streaming services, apps and social platforms designed to support cyclists to achieve their health, fitness and performance goals. Some of the more widely-known indoor cycling equipment includes Peloton and Wattbike, although it can often be just as effective (and cheaper) to use a turbo trainer. To break the monotony of prolonged cardio sessions, many cyclists will often use apps like Zwift and The Suffer Fest to make things more interactive and engaging, bringing an element of realism to their workout.

Virtual fitness Instruction

Virtual fitness instruction describes how an exercise professional, like a fitness instructor or personal trainer, might deliver fitness and training sessions to a client, or group of clients from a different environment.

Group Exercise Sessions

Common modes of virtual fitness instructing include group exercise sessions like exercise to music, yoga, Pilates and the more pre-choreographed and branded programmes, like Les Mills for example. Sessions are usually streamed over a service like Zoom, Teams or Vimeo, although many of the more premium commercial brands operating in this space will use their own apps and websites to deploy their services.

There are certainly a lot of benefits to using virtual services, not least the time and cost associated with servicing a membership and travelling to and from the gym. Many people using virtual online fitness services report that they save a considerable amount of time each week exercising from home. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits to using a virtual instructor is that you often get access to some of the most skilled and talented fitness instructors or personal trainers, regardless of your physical location or budget. This gives you much more freedom to choose who you want to support your exercise journey.

Online Personal Training

However, virtual fitness instructors aren’t just confined to group exercise classes. Many personal trainers and nutrition coaches now also operate entirely online, delivering their personal training and nutrition support services via the internet, either via email, phone or video streaming services like Zoom, WhatsApp and Teams.

Things to consider with a virtual service

However, there are a few things to consider when using a virtual service, both group and individual, including:

· Equipment – you may need to purchase or lease equipment to allow you to participate in the class or training programme effectively. For example, if you were performing an online Body Pump Class (a Les Mills programme), you’d need to buy the bar, discs and a step or weights bench at the very least. And with personal training, you may require a home gym set up to follow the programme.

· Social interaction – working out in a studio where other class participants are in the same physical location can be a great source of motivation to work harder. But it’s more than that. When people exercise together, they get a sense of camaraderie, they feel connected, and they support each other. It’s normal for people to become friends outside of the gym or studio, which is something that is often missing from virtual fitness sessions.

· Safety – if something were to go wrong in a virtual class, like a slip or a trip for example, there often isn’t anyone there to help you if you need it. For this reason, it’s probably not a good idea to perform some virtual fitness sessions if you are home alone! With home training too, there may be safety concerns especially when lifting heavy. It may be worth adding some safety attachments to your set up or training with a spotter when you can.

As was stated at the outset of this article, there really are an endless array of opportunities available to people that are keen to perform their exercise and fitness training from home. Many of the examples provided in this article really only scrape the surface and represent the popular, mainstream approaches that are widely adopted by home exercisers today.

Written by: Dr Dale Grant of HFE

PHD Graduate in Sports and Exercise Science