The new trend in fitness: Streaming workouts

Mary Helen Bowers started streaming her classes online in 2010. Credit: Provided
Mary Helen Bowers started streaming her classes online in 2010.
Credit: Ballet Beautiful

Move over, boring fitness videos — fitness studios are now conducting classes that you can stream online, in real time. Expect all the same rigors of your gym workout, minus the communal showers.

Virtual class instructors and personal trainers, like Marc D. Thompson, are able to charge nominal fees for live sessions.

Thompson runs his Skype-based personal training service, VirtuFit, from his home in South Florida. In 2008, his wife passed away, leaving him home with his 4-year-old daughter, who was not yet in school. He was looking for a way to continue his personal training career while caring for his daughter. He tried a Skype session with one client that went so well, he’s spent the last five years training exclusively via the video platform. He charges $30 per half-hour session.

“I was like, ‘Wow, this is not only easy for me, but this is very valuable, and now I can do something at home with my daughter,’” he says. “Now I’ve trained almost 20 others to do this, and I’m referring more work than I’m taking.”

One concern that Web workout phobes might have is that they won’t get helpful feedback without a trainer in the same room, at the ready to adjust their form or assist in a move. Thompson is quick to negate this, telling us that he can see “what happens visually to a body” when it’s in an improper form.

“We have to eliminate this hands-on approach because it’s easier for the client but it’s a disservice,” he says. “Throughout the long term, you need to be able to get yourself into position. … I would rather spend five minutes with my client having them get in position on their own, than five seconds of me putting them into position and them not being able to do that the next day. The learning curve is a little slower than when I’m in a studio, but the retention is immediate and I never have to deal with it again.”

Elaine Meier, a public relations professional in Florida, has been a client of Thompson’s for about six years. She says “the flexibility of being able to work out anywhere I am” is what she most enjoys about her Web-based workout, which she takes part in three times a week.

“I skip a lot of lunches I’m supposed to be at — I sort of work my schedule around his workouts,” she says. “I know how easy it is to let it go and it really means a lot to me, so I try to participate wherever I am — I’m between Delray Beach and Atlanta and Key Largo. Wherever I am, I don’t need to miss class, even if I’m on vacation.”

The leader

As Natalie Portman’s trainer for “Black Swan,” professional ballet dancer Mary Helen Bowers found that traveling with the star meant she couldn’t always be in NYC for her clients, so she took her business, Ballet Beautiful, online in 2010. She was one of the first in the industry to do so, she says.

“I think it’s the future,” she tells Metro. “From a business perspective, you have [a larger] scale.” Bowers’ clients around the world log on to take part in her private and group ballet classes. You might think that an A-list trainer’s class is out of your budget, but similarly to Thompson, Bowers charges $35 for a group lesson.

The instructor says that streaming workouts are a next best option for those who can’t get to a class on the regular.

“Maybe I’d prefer to sit down in person and have coffee with a friend, but sometimes all I have [is] FaceTime,” she says. “You’re getting all the benefits with the added bonus of saving time. And you’re still getting an incredible workout.”

Another option

Crunch’s Crunch Live recently launched with a variety of classes in five categories: Chill Out, Chisel It, Dance Rhythms, Sexy Series and Throwback. Signature Crunch classes, like Yoga Body Sculpt and Rear Attitude, are on the menu, which is open to Crunch members and non-members alike. The streaming workouts are not real-time classes taking place at Crunch gyms; they are pre-taped, with actual Crunch members in the background. New workouts and playlists are continuously uploaded to the site. The subscription rate $9.99 per month.


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