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The Internet has videos for everything, including some great exercise routines. If you can find them, that is.
But as I stood in front of Gray Boutique the other day, admiring the beautiful arm- and back-bearing sundresses in the display window, I realized that my cardio-only focus has left me unprepared for spring fashions.
Granted, I don't exercise to look pretty. In fact, exercise usually has the opposite effect on me. When I run, my face gets so red that strangers on the street stop to ask if I'm okay. Biking leaves me with helmet marks on my forehead for hours. And after spinning, my hair, which looks limp even when freshly washed, ends up plastered to my head by a layer of sweat. Pretty, it's not.
Looking at those dresses at Gray, I recognized the error of my ways. Suddenly I was jealous of the Pilates devotees and the barre worshippers. They may not get the endorphin kick that comes from a hard run, but they probably look fabulous in summer clothes. My need for an all-over body conditioning routine became clear.
However, the last thing I can handle right now is another activity. Would a personal trainer three times a week get me some fab Michelle Obama-esque arms? Possibly, but that would require both time and money. So, I decided to see if I could buff up a little bit on my own. The question was where to begin.
I've already extolled the virtue of phone apps, and I've turned to the on-demand cable options for some ab workouts in the past. This time I decided to check my laptop, specifically YouTube. With all those videos of cats on treadmills, there had to be some decent arm-toning workouts, right?
It turns out, there are quite a few. About 20,000, in fact, and those were just the upper body ones. Clearly, I needed some better search parameters. I tried narrowing my search for exercises that did not require weights. Then I narrowed it to videos aimed specifically at women.
Still, the options were endless, and a lot of them, quite frankly, were goofy and amateurish. The celebrity trainer workouts, such as those featuring Denise Austin and Jillian Michaels, were more polished, but it took a while to find them, and when I did, it was all I could do to avert my eyes from the idiotic comments that people posted beneath them.
After surfing around for a while, I decided to stick with the videos on BeFit, a YouTube channel that features celebrity trainer workouts. But even then, there were a lot of videos slog through (I'll pass on the Dancing with the Stars workout, thanks), and the ads became annoying. I liked some of the Jillian Michaels workouts, but there were a lot of opportunities for my innate laziness to creep in. Jillian would say “Now do 12 sets of those,” and instead, I'd check my email.
In the end, I decided that while YouTube exercise videos might be great for many people, they just aren't right for me. Instead, I think a subscription service might be a better option, more similar to actually hiring a personal trainer.
One I checked out was The Regimen, which was started by Chicago personal trainer Katie Morse. The videos are structured to go in order, from easy to hard. I'd probably get the most out of the premium membership, but the limited-access membership is free, so I'm going to start with that and see how it goes. In the meantime, I plan to swing by Gray a lot. Hopefully, admiring those summer dresses will keep me motivated.
About this column: Sue Gelber writes about all things fitness in The Workout. You'll find everything exercise-related in this column, from new ways to stay healthy and fit, to staying motivated during the winter, to Sue's stories about training for marathons. Have a question, tip or story idea for Sue? Send her an email or leave a comment.