There is a holiness to exhaustion –Carrie Fountain
A few months ago I was talking to a friend about our high school days. Remember when we used to go to school at like seven in the morning, sit through seven hours of classes, then two hours of hockey practice, go home, complete our homework, then wake up at six am the next morning to do it all over again?
Yeah, she said. And remember when we used to do two-a-days of practice in the summer?
How did we do that? The question passed between both our minds as we sat there in awe of our teenage selves. How did we do it? I asked, aloud this time.
I guess, she said, we just did it. But there were other reasons. It was just part of our life. Our schedule. Our routine.
I’ve been thinking back to that conversation recently. Mainly because I’m living back at home, under my parent’s roof and while I am over ten years older, I’m asking myself if I’m ten years better. Ten years happier. Or were those days, the ones where I had to get up, get dressed, get to practice, do homework, the happiest days of my life? Because even though they were filled with things I didn’t want to do, the doing of them made me happy. The exercise. The fresh air. The community. The pushing of myself.
We forget how powerful exercise is. At least one meta analysis suggests that prescribing a half hour of cardio every day is as powerful as a prescription of Zoloft for removing depression symptoms. We also know cardio exercise can bump up mood for long ranges of time. One study showed if you do an hour of cardio at 9 am on Monday, your mood will have stayed significantly bumped until around 1 pm on Tuesday.
Since being home, quarantined, I haven’t just found myself in a worse mood, but i’m also in this chaotic state. It didn’t make sense. For the first time in my life, I had more time in a day than I’d ever had. The open ended-ness of the days overwhelmed me, putting me in a chaotic frame of mind. And then, by accident, I stumbled across an online workout.
It was an Instagram live with Barre3. My finger flipped it open as I sat mindlessly tapping through my feed. Only when it started playing, I didn’t exit it. I stopped scrolling, thinking, moving and just listened. The voice of the instructor was hard yet soothing. Giving me, for the first time in years, a sense of structure and authority. I was in sweatpants and a t-shirt from sitting around all day, so I didn’t have to get changed, but simply follow her commands as she led me into easy enough workouts that before I knew it, I was ten minutes in and breaking a sweat.
When it ended, I didn’t feel relieved or tired, but energized. The opposite feeling I had when I poured myself a drink the previous night to sooth the restlessness in my soul. Instead of trying to mask the pain, I was leaning into it. Converting my psychological pain into physical pain and expelling it. For the first time in weeks, I felt good. I felt connected to myself. I felt grounded.
This is what I need, I thought. Not just the exercise, but the routine, the community, the challenge. So I signed up for the Barre3 free trial. Then I did Taryn Toomey’s, because I had taken her workout in the city. Then I asked my friends and family what their favorite workouts were and I tried those too. After all my free trials ended, I was left with just a few that I keep going back to. The ones I want to recommend to you.
I made this list because when I went to look for workouts in the beginning I was overwhelmed. Where to start? What to do? There’s so many options and so many communities and like everything in my life, the limitless options lead me to limited moving. So to keep it short and to the point, I’ve narrowed it down to the best four workouts for the four different things you may be looking for. Yes, they all have some subscription fees but for the $30 or $40 a month, it’s worth it – even if only to keep your mental well-being in check. I also tried the free ones on YouTube and Instagram live, and while they’re great once or twice, I needed something that I could use to build my own schedule around.
When You Need Grounding & Lifting
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.
– Audre Lorde
The Class by Taryn Toomey
Do It For: The Experience
Favorite Part: The Music
I took Taryn’s class when I lived in Manhattan. The experience was unlike anything I’d ever done before. I left the class in more pain than I’ve ever been but feeling better than I had in years. I had expelled something deep within me and felt…cleansed. To my surprise, her online workouts had the same result, but in half the time. With thirty, ten, forty-five minute workout options, you can pick and choose what kind of workout you need and receive the same magical uplift from each of them.
But beyond the burn, the cleanse, the way your body feels revitalized and alive, what I love most about the workout is the music. As a runner, I live by music. Certain songs I know have great uplift, beats I can use to sprint when I can’t find my own motivation. The teachers use that power of music- Florence & The Machine, The Killers, Atlas – to get you to reach to that deep part of you when you feel there’s nothing left.
How It Works: $40 a month gives you access to their digital studio, which includes a schedule of live classes you can join (running every few hours throughout the day) or a library of pre-recorded classes that gives you a variety of options to choose from. Beyond just the different time lengths, there’s meditation classes, classes for kids, and classes for specific needs (focus, recover, learning the basics). Sign up for their 14 Day Trial.
When You Need To Be Pushed
If we go for the easy way, we never change.
– Marina Abramović
Do It For: The Motivation
Favorite Part: The Community
This class is the personal trainer you thought you couldn’t afford. No, it’s the boot camp you were too intimidated to try. It’s a personal trainer with the morale of a bootcamp.
I signed my dad up for this workout because he is someone who needs discipline. He is also someone who has been using a personal trainer the last ten years and expects that high level of intensity in his workouts. What he gets from this that he didn’t get from his trainer, however, is motivation after class. Because Manor isn’t just about how you’re working out, but how you’re living.
When you sign up, you’re sent a PDF with the training schedule along with the guidelines to get the most of your workout. How to keep track on how much water you’re drinking, how much and well you’re sleeping. It’s about your recovery as much as your conditioning. When you also sign up, you’re directed to follow their Facebook page, of which you’re only admitted to once they verify your subscription. Once you’re granted access, you follow the posted workouts from there. The great part is, others are posting themselves doing it, the food they’re eating after it, their water intake, so you can’t just walk away and forget. You’re reminded of what you need to always be doing, whether you’re working out or not.
How It Works: There is a workout posted everyday (5 a week) on the Facebook group, split between upper, lower strength/ toning, abs & core as well as cardio days. There are also 2 recovery/ stretching & mobility days included. £30 for six weeks. USE CODE WOW! to get 10% discount
When You Need To Sweat Without Realizing It
In knowing how to overcome little things, a centimeter at a time, gradually when bigger things come, you’re prepared.
– Katherine Dunham
Do It For: The Strength Building
Favorite Part: The Burn
The first time I tried Barre3 was online. The instructor spoke calmly and directly and the moves seemed basic and simple enough. This is nice, I thought. This is easy. Then I was doing twenty of them. And the simple squat was burning my inner thigh like it’s never burned before. How can something so simple ignite such pain? By the time it was over I felt as if I’d sculpted away all the frozen and dead parts of me. After a day’s rest, I told myself to try it again. This time the same squats didn’t hurt as much. But the burpees did. But that feeling that I’d done this before, I’d built off this move, invigorated me. It was that beautiful moment when you realize that everything you need can be built from yourself. From repetition From trying and doing it again. Tomorrow you will be better. Tomorrow you will be stronger.
I love this class because it’s not high intensity, but it’s deep results. You will feel the burn. You will ache. But you won’t dread it the way you would walking into an empty gym or an Equinox class.
How It Works: For $25 a month you get access to the entire digital library where you can stream different workouts geared from cardio to strength conditioning to inner calm. Workouts range from 10 to 60 minutes. Try the 15-day free trial.
When You Need To Calm The Mind & Soul
There’s nothing to achieve. There’s only letting go. As we let go, more and more, of ego identifications, desires, and support systems, bliss will arise.
– Ayya Khema
Sky Ting Yoga
Do It For: The Bright Spaces
Favorite Part: The Ease
I am not a yogi. Not only do I not know most of the position names, but I can’t do half of them. But the ones I can do, I do every day. I do them because they open me up, stretch me out and make me feel light. The main reason I never took yoga classes before was because I was intimidated. I am awkward and lanky and just inflexible. But these online workouts I can do. They are well explained, just the right pace and easy to follow. To be fair, I usually only do the 15 or 20 minute beginners classes, but that’s worth it to me. I use this class as my stretching class for in between workout days or before bed when I’m feeling stiff or restless.
How It Works: For $20 a month you get access to their entire library of online classes. From beginners classes to advanced, you can do ten minutes, fifteen, twenty-five, or longer. Try the 7-Day Free Trial.
Feature Image Courtesy of The Class by Taryn Toomey