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Whether I’m outdoors or indoors, I exercise for two reasons—mental clarity and vanity, in that order. During quarantine, I’ve felt excited by all of the available options online (Good Day Pilates, The Fit In, The Class, SLT, Tracy Anderson, Forward Space, Indigo Fitness, Sky Ting, Y7, Yoga to the People, LEKfit, a lesson in choreography by the Haim sisters), but I also find it challenging to keep tabs on all of the schedules for virtual exercise classes.
To help streamline choosing which classes I’d partake in, I crafted a rubric for exercise in quarantine, and determined that a good at-home workout satisfies the following: It feels as novel as biking a new route that leaves you winded in an uncomfortable way. It’s something that you find a little difficult, that you haven’t tried before, that you might even be a little bad at, but the joy of being out of your depths stirs up excitement. Nothing gives me an adrenaline rush like head-on confronting my fear of failure. Thinking of exercise as a project I can incrementally improve upon allows me to look forward to it rather than dread it.
Still, I need help separating the wheat from the chaff, and I’ve noticed that celebrities seem to be similarly picky about their exercise routines and trainers, so I did some research on classes that had gotten the star-shaped Hollywood stamp of approval. And boy, were they all over the map! But what better way to change the chemistry of your day and exit your comfort zone than by opting for a workout performed by an A-List celebrity? Harling, Mikaela, Tiffany, Amalie, and I had no idea what awaited us when we set out to test these five celebrity-approved at-home workouts. Read on for our reviews, with the workouts measured against my very scientific specifications on a scale of 0 to 5, below.
A dance class with zero inhibitions, where the only prop is something microphone-shaped for lip-syncing.
Per the recommendation of this celebrity: Andrew Scott, a.k.a. Fleabag’s Hot Priest
Test run by: Amalie, social media manager
Cost: Free on Instagram Live, though you can donate to Heffington’s LA-based dance studio, the Sweat Spot, here.
Break a sweat level: Was it as strenuous as you hoped it would be? 5/5. I think there’s a way in which you could get heinously sweaty doing this workout if you really let loose, but I kept it under control.
Enjoyability level: Would you look forward to doing this again? 7/5. I can’t measure it on the 0-5 scale. This scale is now arbitrary because I’ve never felt so happy after working out.
Serotonin spike: Did it give you a boost afterward? 10/5. I don’t even know what to tell you. Exercise will never be the same for me.
Ease for doing inside level: Was it easy enough for you to do at-home? Did it require any equipment that you did or didn’t have?: 4/5 The only equipment that was required was a towel and a handheld item that you could use as a faux-microphone. I used a dish rag and a pepper grinder.
Overall takeaway: By the time this class ended, I was aching for it to just keep going. This is easily one of the most joyful things I’ve done since quarantine started. The pleasure of feeling like I was dancing at the same time as… however many people watching this video was honestly rapturous. And the moves were just… euphoric. At one point, Heffington yelled, “Y’all ready to sell some cars?” which fully confused me and then I saw that his movements were mimicking an inflatable tube guy in front of a car dealership. We lip-synced to Stevie Nicks with pepper grinders and wine bottles while we whipped towels around our bodies to the beat. We even danced to “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens, (anyone who knows me knows…). I laughed, I exulted, and now I’m not sure I want to do any other form of exercise. Imagining Andrew Scott doing this has also lit me up like a Christmas tree, and I’m going to hold on to this joy… for a very long time.
A strength-training session with a focus on lateral movements that combines elements of pilates and high intensity interval training.
Per the recommendation of this celebrity: My dear friend Stanley Tucci
Test run by: Harling, brand director
Cost: £15 (~$18)
Break a sweat level: Was it as strenuous as you hoped it would be? 5/5. It was quite challenging, and definitely as strenuous as I hoped it would be (perhaps even more so, but in a good way).
Enjoyability level: Would you look forward to doing this again?: 4/5. It was enjoyable because Monique was so lovely and encouraging, and I could tell I was getting a really good workout. That being said, I got frustrated with myself about halfway through because I was so tired and sweaty and wobbly that I found it difficult to do every exercise “perfectly” (let’s just say my body did not resemble a plank during the planking). I think I would enjoy this workout even more if I had a few more reps under my belt and felt like I was starting to “master the moves,” as my dad might put it.
Serotonin spike: Did it give you a boost afterward? 5/5. In addition to spiking my serotonin, this workout also majorly spiked my appetite. After eating lunch, I had a sizable handful of chocolate chips, a bag of popcorn, and some turkey bacon at various intervals, and then rounded out my snacking extravaganza with a piece of quiche at 3:25 p.m.
Ease for doing inside level: Was it easy enough for you to do at-home? Did it require any equipment that you did or didn’t have? 4/5. One point of consideration was having enough space to move from side to side for some of the exercises, which might be tough in a super-cramped apartment setting, but the only equipment we used was a pair of light weights. It was very easy to do from home in that respect.
Overall takeaway: If I did this workout every day I legitimately think I would have biceps like Stanley Tucci. Also, at the end of the session, Monique told me I could email her with questions anytime and that she “loves to nurture people.” If that’s not the socially distant equivalent of a post-workout sweaty hug, I don’t know what is. All in all, a very rewarding 60 minutes.
Exactly what you’d expect a 1992 VHS tape of step aerobics to look like.
Per the recommendation of this celebrity: The legend herself, Jane Fonda.
Test run by: Mikaela, partnerships strategist
Break a sweat level: Was it as strenuous as you hoped it would be? 2/5. It wasn’t very strenuous at all, which is exactly as strenuous as I hoped it would be. Jane assured me at the start, the workout was “high intensity, low impact.” Which I learned is code for “make sure you squeeze your butt or you will feel nothing.”
Enjoyability level: Would you look forward to doing this again? 5/5. Sign me up, Jane-y baby!!! I loved it. Jane didn’t show up until minute 45, which was incentive to make it to the end. And I loved how often the fitness instructors told me to “take a break” if I was getting short of breath. So gentle.
Serotonin spike: Did it give you a boost afterward? 4/5. I probably would have released a few more endorphins if I’d broken a sweat, but it was a certified mood booster. Aerobic workouts make me feel like a Center Stage cast member, and, now I have plenty of unitard-centered outfit inspiration.
Ease for doing inside level: Was it easy enough for you to do at-home? Did it require any equipment that you did or didn’t have? Very suitable for at-home! I was missing the handy step-bench, but the workout is still doable without one.
Overall takeaway: The trend of ’80s aerobic fitness can be summed up in two words: honor system. I can’t tell you how many times instructor #2 said, “Woo! Feel that burn?” while simply marching in place. As I said, squeeze your butt, or feel nothing. More seriously, this workout is perfect for anyone like me who’s had a negative relationship with fitness in the past. The moves are simple and fun (see: shoulder rolls), and everyone in the class hugs at the end and acts like best friends.
Dance, meditation, breath work, strength training: some might call KINRGY “holistic.”
Per the recommendation of this celebrity: Oscar-winning, vagina-candle-making, Goop-founding Gwyneth Paltrow.
Test run by: Tiffany, creative director
Break a sweat level: Was it as strenuous as you hoped it would be? 2 / 5. It’s only a 15-minute workout, so it’s hard to build up much of a sweat in such a short amount of time. Which was fine by me (I’m five months pregnant, so I’m not looking for anything too strenuous.) The short duration also made the workout easy to fit in after work, and before making dinner.
Enjoyability level: Would you look forward to doing this again? 3/5 After watching the introduction I had decided this workout probably wasn’t for me, but as I started to do the moves I did feel the stress of the day slip away. It felt good to move my body in a more energetic way than my normal morning walks. I was not a dancer as a child and often feel a little pressured to get it “right” when I take dance classes, so I liked the simple, intuitive moves.
Serotonin spike: Did it give you a boost afterward? 5/5. The science of moving your body is undeniable, and I really did feel more relaxed and energetic after 15 minutes of doing these simple moves. To feel the physical and mental effects so quickly was a welcome surprise.
Ease for doing inside level: Was it easy enough for you to do at-home? Did it require any equipment that you did or didn’t have? 5/5. I did this workout on the roof of my apartment building on a gray Monday evening in a pair of Dickies and a chore jacket. It was nice to not have to change into special gear or even dig out a yoga mat. I just walked upstairs with my iPhone and my earbuds.
Overall takeaway: I’d recommend this workout if you want a quick endorphin dump or to quickly lift your mood. I don’t think you’ll see huge physical “results,” but I don’t think that’s the point.
Basically a taste of what it’s like to have a celebrity trainer: lots of squats, spiderman crawls, pushups, and reverse lunges in rapid succession.
Per the recommendation of this celebrity: Jennifer Lopez
Test run by: Edith, associate editor
Break a sweat level: Was it as strenuous as you hoped it would be? 5/5. Consider my sweat broken! Kirsch’s morning regimen is just 25 minutes long, but I found this workout to be a good combination of strength training and jump-in-place cardio.
Enjoyability level: Would you look forward to doing this again? 4/5. I think the efficiency of a high energy class that clocks in at just under a half-hour would be enough to talk myself into looking forward to this again.
Serotonin spike: Did it give you a boost afterward? 5/5. I had been wary of the class, but by the end of class at 9:25 a.m., my serotonin levels did not lie: They delivered the pesky reminder that working out in the morning is always worth it for accelerating a sluggish wakeup process and enhancing mental acuity early in the day. (As a bonus, the a.m. workout forces you to shower before work, which is not always a given in these times.)
Ease for doing inside level: Was it easy enough for you to do at-home? Did it require any equipment that you did or didn’t have? 5/5. To give you a sense of this session’s accessibility, Kirsch, who has also trained actresses like Liv Tyler and Julia Roberts, uses tomato cans as hand weights. He’s confined to a small space, and even though he has an elaborate gym set-up behind him, the workout is very conducive to tight quarters, with minimal equipment required (small dumbbells and a rug or yoga mat). I managed to do it in my bedroom, which is 80% bed, 10% desk, and 10% available floor space.
Overall takeaway: I recommend tuning in for Kirsch’s workouts (which are currently part of a series where he does 25-minute Instagram Lives at 9 a.m. and around 5 p.m. with different themes) if you like to pack a lot of action into a small window. Legendary NHL player Mark Messier was one of the forty other people streaming the live workout I did, and if it’s good enough for Messier, it’s good enough for me. A memento to remember this class by: I still feel it in my inner thighs a day later.