Anne Stein, M.S.
Sports & Fitness Journalist/Author
Whether you’re a serious athlete, a brand-new exerciser, or fall somewhere in-between, MP3 workouts can be a valuable, motivating tool. These guided workouts that are downloaded from exercise/coaching sites can take you through yoga, Pilates and strength training routines, as well as encourage you through walking, running or cycling workouts, from beginner through advanced levels. Some are audio only, others offer videos or still images of exercises, while others combine audio and video.
“If you dread exercising alone or want some purpose to your workouts, a downloadable coach can be extremely motivating,” says Gregory Florez, CEO of FitAdvisor Health Coaching Services, and spokesman for the American Council on Exercise. MP3 workouts can freshen up an old routine or guide and encourage new exercisers who are unsure how to start a program.
“The reality is that health clubs have millions of members who join and never go, and personal training is pretty expensive. Anything that gets people moving more than they are is a pretty good thing in my book,” Florez says.
While MP3 workouts can be a great tool, there are some caveats; you won’t receive instant feedback or benefit from the collaboration you’d get with a personal trainer or coach. To avoid doing moves incorrectly, you might want to supplement with a class or a couple of personal training sessions. And while some programs are coached by certified fitness professionals, buyers should beware of poorly coached programs. To avoid pitfalls, Florez suggests the following:
- Download programs written by experts with solid educational backgrounds in fitness.
- Make sure workouts are appropriate for your age, goals and medical conditions.
- Are there opportunities for progression within the workout you download? You don’t want to do the same routine over and over.
- Instructions should be as simple and demonstrative as possible. You won’t have a trainer nearby to correct you.
- Make sure you have access to equipment needed for the workouts you download.
- Coaching sites should offer e-mail, toll-free numbers, and/or user forums to answer your questions.
- Don’t download workouts that are too difficult or too easy. You risk frustration and/or injury.
- Warm-ups and cool-downs should be a part of every workout.
- Review the workout before you do it. Some routines are based on heart rate and others may take you through unfamiliar exercises. Figure them out beforehand or you’ll be pausing mid-workout.
Most MP3 workout sites offer free samples; listen before you buy. Do you like the music? The instructor’s style? Are the workouts long or short enough for your needs? Are they at the right level for you? Is audio enough, or do you need photos or video of the routine?
There are a number of MP3 workouts available through iTunes. The following sites are also good sources for downloadable workouts:
- www.cardiocoach.com. Eight audio workouts for use on any cardio machine (or with any cardio workout) where you can increase/decrease workload. Original music brings you into the zone; intelligent coaching based on your heart rate and perceived exertion.
- www.iTrain.com. Dozens of audio workouts ranging from Spin, yoga, strength, sculpt, to treadmill, elliptical and more. If you enjoy group exercise classes with cheerful trainers and hip-hop/club music, this is the place to go.
- www.PumpOne.com. Want to see how to do your exercise? PumpOne offers programs for MP3s and cell phones that can handle photos and video clips. Workouts include strength training, Pilates, yoga, stretching and cardio.
- www.SoundBodyTrainer.com. Fitness pro and voiceover artist Traci Godfrey offers strength, Spin and yoga workouts. Clear instruction, with emphasis on fat-burning and good form. Foldout guides available for each workout.