Marin Independent Journal
Fit technology gives home workouts a healthy boost
Though I cannot say many nice things about the pandemic, I will concede that it ushered in a few improvements to how we live. We mastered Zoom, for example. Now we can go to a lot fewer meetings in person and to more in yoga pants. We learned to use our homes in new flexible ways as they morphed into offices, classrooms, workshops and 24-hour diners.
But perhaps the healthiest development was the rise of the home gym. As health clubs rolled up their yoga mats, gym-germ phobia changed our fitness routines — assuming we had a fitness routine — and drove committed exercisers to create workout spaces at home or make the ones they had better.
Sales of home fitness equipment in the United States jumped by 84% in 2020, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm. It would have grown even more if suppliers could have kept up with demand. Nearly three years later, the trend shows no sign of slowing, analysts say.
Now, I am not suggesting that the pandemic contributed to a nationwide boon in health and fitness. On the contrary, many Americans fell sick and died from COVID-19, others have long COVID. For those who did not have a fitness routine, COVID was the perfect excuse to skip the gym. However, for those who felt the need to occasionally do something better with their time than binge-watch episodes of “Friends” and eat potato chips, home workouts provided a healthier alternative.
And guess what? Once folks outfitted their spaces, they liked it.
“While the pandemic drove many fitness enthusiasts to create fullblown workout spaces at home, rapid advancements in fitness technology are now keeping them there,” says Matt Berenc, head of training and technology for FORME, a home fitness company that offers smart training and fitness services.
In other words, home gyms are not only on the rise, but they are also here to stay.
Floridian Carol Zurcher is among those not turning back. Before the pandemic, Zurcher had a small home gym, which she used twice a week.
She also swam at her club two days a week and went to barre class or to aerial yoga three days. I don't know about you, but this makes me feel both tired and inadequate. Yes, she works full time.
When quarantine prevented her from going to her classes, she decided to amp up her home gym. She remodeled to make it larger and replaced her low-tech treadmill with a NordicTrack outfitted with iFit technology.
“It is unbelievable. It takes you all over the world,” she says. “I just finished hiking through Vietnam and felt like I was really there.”
When, during the gym remodel, workers discovered a large support beam, she used it to hang an aerial yoga hammock. Of course, she did.
Now, she swims twice a week, and works out five days a week at home either visiting foreign countries on her treadmill, or streaming aerial yoga classes online.
“I don't think I'll ever go to an outside gym again,” she says.
New technology is indeed what's making working out from home work. Here, according to Berenc, are some of the ways digital solutions have made exercising at home, once a boring slog, a lot more fun:
• Apps for all. You name the workout — Pilates, weightlifting, yoga, boxing, cycling — and you can find an app that will play a workout program on your
mobile device or television putting professional home workouts at your fingertips. What often makes the programs, such as those available through platforms like Peloton and iFit, so popular are the world-class trainers who are also fun to hang with, the option of working out on any continent, in addition to the ability to go where you want when you want on your own.
• Classes get personal. Today's technology lets you take classes with your friends across the country or around the world, and dial in the instructor, workout duration and environment (beach, rain forest, mountain) you crave. For those who want to go beyond working out with fit personalities and get more feedback, companies like FORME and Lululemon Mirror can beam personal trainers into your home on demand. Through a member app, users can meet online once a week with a trainer who can send a personal program to guide them through more sessions. “The ability to digitally connect those working out at home with a trainer live through their devices has really rocked the home-fitness movement forward,” Berenc says.
• Tele-trainers. Smart mirrors with built-in cameras can provide training as well. You work out facing the mirror and the camera watches to give feedback on your form. “The camera has builtin software that looks for anatomical landmarkers on your body as you work out, so it can let members know if they're moving the right way, or not,” Berenc says. Artificial intelligence prompts you to adjust if you're too low, too high, or too fast, and to step it up if you're slacking.
• Get away in place.
The built-in videos that let you work out while taking virtual adventures is what makes working out at home work for many, including Zurcher. “I just did a free weight class at the Rose Bowl.”
Join me next week for budget-friendly ways to set up a home gym.
Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books, including “What to Do With Everything You Own to Leave the Legacy You Want,” “Downsizing the Family Home What to Save, What to Let Go,” and “Downsizing the Blended Home — When Two Households Become One.” You may reach her at marnijameson.com