Your Portable Trainer

By Sean Eads

Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Autumn/Winter 2007.

You’ve heard the expression cast your net wide. When it comes to getting motivated for a workout—whether it be after a tiring day or so early in the morning even the clock is still snoring—you might want to think about an entirely different type of net. The Internet and the new phenomenon known as podcasting puts a virtual coach in your ear at a moment’s notice.

Podcasting is a new way of delivering audio information online to an MP3 player so you can listen to it at your convenience. An audio file is downloaded to your computer and then transferred to your portable device so you can listen to it on the go. The name—podcasting—derives from Apple’s iPod, which first popularized the medium, but any MP3 player will work with these files. In a short time, podcasting has had a profound impact on people and how they interact with traditional media. For example, fans can now watch the latest episode of their favorite television show and afterward download a podcast by the producers, writers, and actors discussing what was just shown. Like everything else, some podcasts are free and some charge for content.

And now podcasting can even change the way you prepare for your regular workout. If you’re like most people, you enjoy something to listen to while working out. Some people prefer music; others like audiobooks or motivational tapes. Podcasts are similar, but also more immediate and diverse. Let’s say you want to start a new walking regimen and need a training routine. You can go to Prevention magazine’s website and download their free podcasts aimed specifically on walking. Transfer the podcast to your MP3 player and you have yourself a walking program that includes entertaining music and a voice coach instructing you on interval pacing, your posture, and a host of other topics, all while focusing your attention on getting fit.

Podcasts can satisfy almost any situation. Maybe you’re on a trip and decide to get in a Pilates workout. You can quickly download an audio instructional routine that will carry you through a session. Or perhaps you’re not feeling motivated to do Pilates even when you know you should. There are podcasts out there to get you excited and looking forward it. Perhaps one of the more than thirty podcasts from Pilates instructor Heidi Miller at www.thepilatespodcast.com will remind you how much you enjoy your exercise. Podcast twenty-six on Pilates and spirituality is especially thought-provoking.

Regardless of your need and whatever type of exercise you want to pursue, chances are excellent there’s a podcast out there to get you started, keep you motivated, and push you toward excellence. Personalized workout podcasts are among the most popular because they play into the quick versatility of the MP3 player. Let’s say your ideal workout includes thirty minutes of aerobics and thirty minutes of body sculpting. A website like www.marinaspodcast.com, one of the most popular and diverse commercial fitness motivation sites on the Web, will let you mix and match just such a blend of podcasts. Select the type of exercise you want to do, or the muscle group you want to work, and download your own personal fitness coach right into your MP3 player. At this site, you may even decide to take advantage of the inspirational pep talk podcasts like “Confessions of a Food-A-Holic” and listen to it at the end of your exercise session to bolster your commitment when the gym is behind you.

Downloads from Marinaspodcast.com include high-energy music and audio instructions targeting individual workout regimens. You’ll have to pay for Marina’s podcasts but at a cost of roughly one dollar per fifteen minutes of high quality motivation, you may not mind. Her site also allows you to download samples of the individual podcasts so you can determine whether they are right for you.

Another prominent commercial site is www.itrain.com, which seeks to “democratize” personal training with multiple podcasts for the treadmill, stationary bike, and stairclimber, as well as programs for different stretching techniques, strength training, and even boxing. The price ranges vary but the podcasts are longer, usually between forty minutes to an hour.

More adventurous searchers would do well to explore the health/fitness category at www.podcastdirectory.com, the Internet’s primary directory for all podcasts. As a general rule, this directory focuses more on news-related podcasts. You’ll notice plenty of radio shows and interviews here—all interesting and informative, but not necessarily high inspiration for a workout. Still there are some true finds here with more being added all the time. Those seeking audio yoga or tai chi instruction will find several options, such as the bi-weekly “Inner Path Yoga,” the “JivaDiva Yoga Jam,” or “Tai Chi for Well-Being.” The directory also indexes Personal Trainer In Your Pocket, a series of free podcasts featuring workouts like “Body Boot Camp” and “Best Abs Workout in the World Ever!”

Finding motivation and inspiration has never been easier for MP3 users, with podcasts presenting a bounty of portable trainers at a moment’s notice.