And the You Tube Workout Channel Award goes to... !

Are you looking for a "no excuses" way to stay in shape? In this article, I'll share my experience working out with YouTube for the past 5 years. I'll discuss the pros/cons of adding YouTube to your workout regimen and I'll provide a list of my favorite channels and workouts, regardless of what type of activity you enjoy doing.

 

When I was in my 20's, I used to work out at the gym several times a week for an hour minimum. I had the energy and but more importantly, I had the time to do it. Now I find myself in my mid-30's, and suddenly, I don't have the luxury of infinitely long workouts. For one thing, my career is exciting and dynamic but it's also one that doesn't lend itself to a consistent schedule. I interface with companies from all over the world, so it's not unusual for me to start my day with a 7 AM call with India, and end the night with a late call with Australia. Add work travel to the mix, and my schedule doesn't make for a gym rat lifestyle anymore. 

That said, the boost of energy and positive feelings that come from working out are an integral part of my well-being. Many of my friends and colleagues have asked me how I manage to workout given my schedule and my de facto answer is You Tube. About 5 years ago, I started looking for ways to get an effective workout in less amount of time and that's when I discovered You Tube as an invaluable tool.

    Here are my top picks for YouTube workout channels based on my 5+ years of experience.

    Yoga

    Winner: Yoga with Adrien

    Adrien has 2.6 million subscribers to her channel for a reason. She has a well-rounded mix of longer 45 minute flows and short (5 minute!) yoga workouts. She has a great 30 day yoga program and she has a few sections on her channel dedicated to foundation yoga and beginners yoga which is very important for anyone trying yoga for the first time. She is also really funny and doesn't take herself too seriously, ("Hold Simba over the cliff!"). I would totally hang out with Adrien if she lived in Seattle!

    Second Place: Yoga with Tim 

    My sister is from Orange County where Tim Senesi apparently teaches and says that the ladies love him. I can't imagine why (wink, wink, nod, nod). Shirtless yoga poses aside, Tim is a really great instructor. He has several morning total vinyasa flows that I love. Tim is my go-to when I want to bump my yoga up a notch, because I find most of his classes to be a somewhat intense, full body workout  (read: puddles of sweat on my mat). That says, he has a number of restorative and beginner flows for those yogis looking for a more relaxing yoga experience.

    Runners Up: 

    Fightmaster Yoga

    Leslie Fightmaster is certified at the 500 hour level and instructs teacher training. Her channel is a great option for just about any of your yoga needs. She has total body yoga flows, beginner flows, and she even offers some specific types of yoga such as Hatha, Ashtanga practice and relaxing Yin Yoga, which are somewhat harder to come by on YouTube.

    Sadie Nardini

    Sadie is the Director of East West Yoga in NYC. She created a style of yoga called "Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga" according to her it's more dance-like, fun and energizing. According to me, it's a really challenging, effective yoga workout that will give you amazing abs if you stick with it. She also offers "Yoga Shred" classes which is cross-fit/yoga hybrid. Sadie is also just an all around bad ass with punk rock hair and tattoos, kind of like the Anthony Bourdain of yoga. I recommend her if you are looking for a challenging and/or unique yoga experience.

    Hiit Cardio & Strength Training Workouts

    Winner: Fitness Blender

    With 4.4 million subscribers, Kelli and Daniel have been producing some of the best fitness content on YouTube for over five years. I have been working out with them from the beginning and cannot give them enough praise. They have excellent workouts in just about every category including non-HIIT and strength training. However, I am giving them the blue ribbon in HIIT because they really dominate this category with 100s of videos with every duration you could want (full length to 5 minutes). They also have a number of 5 day challenges that are short, effective, cardio workouts that will kick your butt into gear. They throw in great tips about healthy eating here and there, as well. Lastly, they are located in the Pacific Northwest like me, so I have been particularly excited to see members of my community have success in this space over the years. They end each workout with their catch phrase "This workout is complete!" and man, do I love hearing those words.

    Second Place: Millionaire Hoy

    I've been working out with "Ya Boy Mil Hoy" for about 2 years now and I'm so happy I stumbled upon his channel. He has a great mix of very challenging, military boot camp style, fall on your face challenging workouts. He tends to do a lot of the basic moves we all know (and love?!) but in really killer combos - think lots of lunges, squats, and tons of push ups. I'm pretty sure he has invented a few new ways to do push-ups. Funny enough, he also has several "quiet HIIT" workouts that are my go-to when I'm traveling and don't want to get kicked out of my hotel. More on the low impact workouts below. He cracks me up with his "fist bump" to the camera at the end of every workout. Give Ya Boy a try - you won't be disappointed (but you will be sore).

    Runner Up:  Kat Musni Fitness

    Kat Musni is relatively new to the YouTube workout scene, but she should not be overlooked. She has amazing upper body, strength training videos with free weights that I've been incorporating into my weekly routine. She's also a proud geek just like me and will often make hilarious, unexpected commentary about Star Trek and other pop geek culture that cracks me up. Pokemon fans - hold onto your Pikachu hats, she also has several Pokemon themed workouts! I kid you not - she works out dressed like Pikachu. She's adorable but also strong as an ox. I would fight a Pokemon battle with Kat on my team, any day of the week.

    Runner Up:  PopSugar Fitness

    Don't be fooled by the bubble gum colors and the gorgeous ladies that host these workouts. These ladies may be HOT but they workout really hard to maintain their killer bodies. PopSugar has a great selection of workouts including some fun cardio dance classes that I throw in the mix when I'm bored of the same old burpee routine. Since they're based in LA, they also have a number of celebrity trainers in their videos. Want to know how Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lawrence, Taylor Swift and Victoria Secret models stay in shape? This is the channel for you.

    Pilates & Barre & Other Low Impact workouts

    Winner: Jessica Smith

    Jessica Smith is probably best known in the workout world for her "Walk Strong" walking videos which I must confess, I have never done but I'm sure they're good because Jessica is a pro. I stumbled upon Jessica years ago because I was looking for a YouTube video channel that offered barre classes. Though you may not guess it from looking at her channel since she's been advertising her walking series, she has a bunch of amazing barre classes hidden on there, if you know where to look. Her adorable little dog Peanut often makes a guest appearances and makes her adjust her workout because he's being naughty - eating her plants, or lying behind her when she's trying to do abs. If you're a dog lover - Peanut just adds to the appeal. Here are links to some of my favorite Jessica Smith barre workouts!

    Barre: full length ballet workout

    Barre: full length 30 minute ballet workout

    Fat Burning Ballet

    Second Place: Millionaire Hoy (low impact workouts)

    As mentioned above, Millionaire is my go-to for quiet hotel workouts that still get my heart pumping. He has a series called "Silent but Deadly" which are amazing low impact workouts. Here are a few links to my favorites.

    35 minute: quiet 500 calorie workout

    Silent but Deadly workout series

    Runners Up:

    Fitness Blender's Pilates workouts

    PopSuger Pilates workouts

    The above channels should be more than enough to get anyone started working out on YouTube. Still not convinced?

    Here are a few reasons you might want to consider adding YouTube to your workout regiment: 

    1. Workout in the comfort of your home: Maybe you don't like working out in public or maybe you have kids and can't get a sitter to get to the gym for lengthy periods of time.
    2. Save Time: No need to worry about the time it takes me to get to/from the gym or what time that yoga class is. Furthermore, the duration of workouts available on YouTube vary from 1 hour, 30 minutes, 15 minutes, and even 10 minutes.
    3. Save Money: If you're on a budget and don't have money for expensive gym memberships or subscription workout services, guess what? YouTube is free.
    4. Avoid the dreaded workout "plateau": Introduce variety to your regimen with just about every type of workout you can imagine. And you can try it in a "judgement free, non-commital zone." Whether you're in the mood for yoga, pilates, barre, HIIT cardio, weight lifting, kickboxing, or low impact workouts - there is a workout for you on YouTube.
    5. You keep making excuses about why you can't get in shape. There are low impact and beginner workouts available on YouTube. There are even 5 minute workouts!

    To provide a balanced view, here are a few of the cons to working out with YouTube:

    1. No instructor means you need to be careful: If you have never done yoga, you shouldn't jump right in with an advanced headstand class! Since there are no live instructors in your living room, using YouTube as a workout method requires a certain amount of self-knowledge when it comes to your physical limitations. The moment a workout doesn't feel right or makes me feel like I may be subjecting myself to injury - I shut it off.
    2.  Some workouts require equipment and don't say so in the description. Ugh! Nothing like getting 15 minutes into a workout and realizing you don't have the super specialized elastic bands that the instructor magically procures from off-screen. Annoying. 
    3. Did I mention you need to be careful? I cannot stress this enough. Know your limits. Have a strong beginner foundation in whatever type of workout you're trying and work your way up to the more advanced workouts gradually. Just because you're at home and no one can see you crying - doesn't mean you should push yourself to the point of pain.
    4. There are so many options it can be overwhelming and there is a lot of not so good content to wade through. Well people, today is your lucky day - because I have done the hard work for you and given you a list of the best of what is out there above!

    I also want to acknowledge that there are some people out there who have been seriously injured or have other physical limitations that make working out with a professional trainer the safest route. Always consult with your medical professional prior to embarking on any new physical activity to ensure it is right for you given your circumstances.

    On the topic of disclaimers: I'm not a personal trainer - I'm someone who has benefited from YouTube workouts and wants to share this resource with others who may benefit. I'm not getting paid by any of the YouTubers I mention above and I'm not an advertiser. Okay, glad that's out of the way! 

    To summarize, YouTube is great resource to consider for those of you who don't have the time to go to the gym or who prefer to work out at home. I hope that this article inspires some of you to workout regardless of where you are or how much time you have. 

    If you want to see more articles on this topic, let me know. Thanks all and happy working out!

     

     

     

     

     

    Writers are Time Travelers. Trust me.

    I had an epiphany yesterday. I'm a time traveler. Yep, you heard right. And there are more time travelers like me out there. Thousands of them. Maybe millions. You may know one. We call ourselves writers but the truth is, we have found the key to bending the space time continuum. 

    Here's how I discovered this startling truth about myself.

    My husband and I were driving to lunch yesterday. He turned to me and said,

    Husband: "What do you think they'll serve at the party tonight?" 

    Me: "Hmm...good question." 

    Husband: "Salmon bites? Cheese plate?" 

    Me: "Mmmm... salmon." 

    An hour later... Me: "What do you think they will have to eat at the party tonight?" 

    Husband: "We just had this conversation an hour ago. Where were you? You even responded to me." 

    It may be a little annoying at times for my husband, but for me... to be called out on these moments can be downright perplexing. Seriously, where was I a moment ago?

    When I thought about it, I realized in that moment in the car, I had been re-imagining what my husband was saying. By re-imagining, I mean that I was thinking about the exact same situation - the car, the conversation, etc., but I was changing my husband's dialogue slightly. I can't remember exactly what changes I made or why - but I'm fairly certain that's what was happening.

    The funny thing is, this happens almost constantly to me during the day. I am almost always re-imagining moments of my life as they are happening - or imagining situations that have yet to arrive.

    This part of my personality that allows me to travel through time, reliving events or experiencing a future yet experienced, is the same part of me that compels me to be a writer. In a sense, these moments are my attempt to write my own experience. It doesn't matter if the things I imagine happen or not - it's the act of telling a story in my head that matters. 

    And hence, this is how I realized that I'm actually a time traveler.

    I relive the present moment, forge ahead into the future, and return to the present moment, dozens of times during the day.

    I just finished season one of West World. Like many fans of this HBO series, I watched episodes back to back totally enthralled. The storytelling was incredible. The leaps in time, the foreshadowing, backstory, dream sequences, memories... I imagine the writers of this show to be like the Olympians. The fact that they were able to drop narrative linearity completely and tell a coherent and incredibly moving story, is a Herculean effort. I hope they are rewarded amply for their talent.

    What struck me after the final episode was just how much I could relate to Dolores. The time lapses, the "Quantum Leap" like moments she experienced over and over again, though, slightly differently... yeah duh. I get it. I do that all the time. Is that weird? To me, it's just life.

    So next time you're talking to a writer and she gets a glazed look on her face and responds in 1-2 words, you might take pause. Instead of continuing with the conversation, wait a moment for the writer to return to Earth and then ask what she was thinking of moments before. You may be surprised the answer you get. Perhaps you may experience a bit of time travel too.

    On (not) Writing

    I have only written two poems in the last 45 days, and I cannot bear it any longer.

    2016 has come to an end and with it, I put the final touches on a YA fantasy manuscript I've been writing for over two years. I wrote "the end" around Thanksgiving and vowed that I would start writing again in the New Year. I needed a break. Days before making this decision, I wrote for nearly twenty-four hours straight on a flight to South Africa. 

    My rationale for this break (numb fingertips from that epic writing session aside) was that I had a few ideas competing in my mind for attention. I thought by giving myself some mental bandwidth for a month or so, I might naturally think about one idea more than the others and have an easier time deciding which story I wanted to spend the next 1-2 years writing. Trust me, after going through bouts in my life where ideas were hard to come by, having three ideas yelling at me for attention like crying newborn babies was not a bad problem to have.

    So, big deal, right? Take a break.  That would seem like a reasonable assessment for some. However, for me, not writing for 1.5 months feels like a lifetime prison sentence. 

    For many writers, though not all, there is a certain fever-like compulsion that comes with being creative. This is nothing new. There are plenty of examples throughout history of creative people practically destroying themselves to complete their greatest work. While I have come across writers here and there who claim not to understand this compulsion (and sometimes I envy them) - there are many I have spoken with who feel the same way.

    Those of us who fit into the "compulsion to create" school, believe that the act of creating something is intrinsically linked to the very act of our being. Creating something (anything) is like breathing to me. I simply cannot bear to not do it. 

    To some, this may sound like an unhealthy fixation. Believe me, I've thought of this myself many times. Those days when I turn down social engagements because I "have to write." Those nights when my fingertips are numb from typing for a few hours too long without a break...

    I was joking with a friend of mine who is chief creative at a publishing company. We likened writing to a virus you just can't shake. It can feel like that. "Bit by the bug" they say. 

    Buddhist thought would have me believe that perhaps I'm "attached" to my writing. But I believe that my desire to write is actually attached to me. Attached to me in the same way my eyes, nose, and ears are.

    When I'm not writing for a lengthy period of time, it feels like a part of me is dying. I can't explain it in any other way.

    Perhaps, this compulsion is needed in my case. It has been over 17 years since I've taken more than 1 week at a time off from my writing. On average, I write 2-3 hours every single day and I do so while juggling a full-time job. And I'm certainly no rare snowflake. Many of my writing peers do the same exact thing - and some of them have children to raise at the same time These parent writers with full-time work other than writing are the true unsung heroes - how do you do THAT?

    For non-writers out there who can't understand how seemingly sane people can force themselves to spend long hours by themselves, cooped up and writing... I cannot understand how sane people cannot do the same.  

    Don't get me wrong. I've been luxuriating in my newfound "free time." I've watched hours upon hours of television programs and I now have an incredibly high powered squad of Ewoks in my favorite mobile game (Galaxy of Heroes). However, at least a few times a day, I feel a tug at my fingertips - that voice of the muse in my head whispering sweet nothings to peel myself off the couch and write something. Anything. Even just a short poem. Or a blog...

    And so, here I am. Writing again. Go figure. 

    Yep. I'm done with this not writing thing. But the good news is - the self-inflicted torture wasn't all for nothing. The break seems to have work. I know which story I need to tell now and I'm more motivated than ever to write the first draft. It is as though the creative force has been pent up inside me and is screaming at me to deal with it now. Don't pass go. Right now. The sense of urgency is refreshing and needed. Writing my first novel was incredibly hard but I didn't really know how hard it would be. I was blissfully ignorant. I'm writing my second novel knowing full well what the journey will entail. At this very moment, I'm grateful to be part of the compulsion to create school. It will help me get through the parts of the process that feel less like creativity and more like really hard work.

    I'll update this blog with my progress in the coming months. Until then - remember, make friends with a writer. So long as you can deal with their frequent absences - even when they're sitting right in front of you!