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How I discovered the joy of YouTube workouts (plus the PT-approved channels to subscribe to)

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A handy guide for deciphering the treasure trove of fun (and free!) workouts.

Up until a year ago, my exercise routine had never been consistent. As a plus-size babe, gyms terrified me (especially the cult-like London offerings) and at-home workouts were near-impossible as commuting meant leaving my flat at 7am and getting home at 6pm – at the very earliest (remember when we could socialise!).
Cue, the pandemic. Suddenly mornings were reclaimed and the two hours spent commuting per day were left free. This was the thing that finally kicked me into gear to start exercising consistently. I signed up to a 28-minute HIIT programme and didn’t look back. I discovered how much I enjoyed strength training and started to do it every morning, five days a week.
Come October, I took voluntary redundancy from my job and had to do an overhaul of what I was spending. This is when I discovered the joy of YouTube. The video-sharing platform has always been there, sitting in the background not making too much of a thing about all its wonderful (and not to mention, free) fitness content. But it's a treasure trove, you guys.
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I wanted to keep up my strength training but add a bit of fun and a bit of cardio to it as well. While I wasn’t flexible enough for Jane Fonda’s 1982 ‘beginners’ hour-long aerobics routine (kudos to you if you can do it), I discovered Emily Thorne, a.k.a @emkfit’s dance-HIIT routines that instantly appealed to my inner millennial. Here, 20-30 minute workouts were set to the sweet tunes of the Mamma Mia soundtrack, One Direction and the best ‘90s jams. I was sold.
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Up your step count
I’m not the only one who has discovered the joy of YouTube during lockdown. Social media manager Steff Hanson says: “The lockdown and terrible weather encouraged me to start using YouTube for working out. When it started getting dark early and when the cold weather set in, I felt even more stir crazy. I tried subscription services but they barely had any content that interested me.”
Now, Hanson’s go-tos include XHIT Daily, Blogilates and Pop Sugar Fitness. “I have seen some great results – my arm muscles are bulkier and more defined which makes me feel more confident about my appearance. I have also found it easier to do press-ups as well,” she adds.

Suzanne Bearne, freelance journalist and media trainer, says she started using YouTube fitness videos in 2015 when she relocated to Lisbon for a couple of months.
“I used to go to a gym in London but when I moved to Lisbon, and was living in a couple of different places, I thought it might be easier to exercise in the places I was staying rather than try and find a flexible pay-as-you-go gym membership,” Bearne explains.
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And reduce risk of injury, too
“I'd veer from HITT workouts to Pilates and since then I've been hooked. After Lisbon I moved into my flat in Margate and have continued to use online exercise videos five days a week.”
The variety is what Bearne loves. “I can find a 20-minute Pilates video, a 30-minute kettlebell session or 15-minute yoga class.
“Interestingly I've always avoided yoga but since the pandemic and needing to integrate more calm into my life, I came across Yoga with Adriene back in March and have been hooked ever since. My favourite sessions come from Joe Wicks and Fitness Blender, although I'll often dip into other instructors to shake things up.”
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Jamie Baird, who has been a fitness trainer for over 30 years and is the founder of Steeps One Shot, says the benefits of using YouTube to workout is that “there is something for everyone”.
Plus massage gun benefits and the best massage gun techniques.
“The workouts can be pretty much done anywhere, I have seen people in the park with their cameras on tripods following workouts,” Baird says. He adds that other bonuses include the variety of workouts on the platform and the flexibility to do the workouts when it suits you.
If you’re tempted to try YouTube workouts but not too sure where to start, Baird details his favourite YouTube workouts below.
“Faisel is positive, fun and alot of his workouts are 20 minutes – great bang for your buck. There is a lot of content to choose from such as abs, bodyweight or dumbells. It's really easy to navigate his channel as well.”
“I am a huge skipping fan. Geraldo has a specific beginners series of videos.”
“Adriene has a huge following and a really comprehensive channel, there's something for everyone, from beginners to advanced yogis with 10 minute yoga practices, all the way up to 60 minutes.”
“Her channel is great because it offers no noise, no equipment, quick HIIT workouts and a huge variety of workouts to choose from. All her videos will push you and make you work hard. A beginner will find these tough.”
“She offers great content and great teaching, you can't go wrong with Shona's videos. There's a good selection for everyone.”
“A real balance of everything, workouts, yoga, pilates, core, meditation and a whole lot more.”
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And reduce risk of injury, too
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