As someone who is chronically averse to fitness classes because of the group atmosphere, fitness videos make a great alternative. Unfortunately, I’m also chronically fickle, so committing to videos that I’m not sure I’ll like keeps me from buying many. And when I do commit (notable examples: The New York City Ballet Workout, of which fifthpevensie gave a mixed review, and Yoga Booty Ballet), I typically don’t go far in the video series due to frustration, boredom, or both. Netflix would be an ideal solution, but its selection is sadly lacking, consisting mostly of Crunch and 10-minute solutions workouts. Hulu+ has a better selection, but is hard to sort through and doesn’t work outside the U.S. (a consideration for those who like to exercise while they travel). Why hadn’t some service filled this gap?
Having ordered from the popular yoga and eco-friendly goods company Gaiam before, I received a special extended trial invitation to their new service, GaiamTV. I didn’t think much about it at first, but after discovering some Gaiam Wake Up Workouts that I really liked on Hulu+, but wouldn’t be able to continue on a week long visit to the UK, I decided to check GaiamTV out. I checked that their videos weren’t region-locked, which they aren’t, and signed up. Spoiler alert: I didn’t cancel after the trial period was over.
The first thing that you really notice when you start to look around the site is how well-organized it is. Yoga videos (a specialty of Gaiam) are a separate category from Fitness, which includes Cardio, Pilates, Tai Chi, Weight Training, and everything in between. Within the categories, you can further filter the selections down by choosing a Level, Instructor, Style, Duration, and Special Collections (AM/PM Workouts, Pregnancy, The FIRM series, etc). Viewing the video shows you other workouts in the same collection, ratings, reviews, and other similar videos. You can start watching the video right then and there, or you can make a playlist.
GaiamTV isn’t just fitness and yoga, though. The Wellness Center category includes videos related to Mayo Clinic videos dealing with many health conditions, meditation, massage, Qigong, stress relief, and nutrition. The Spirituality category features life guides from Deepak Chopra, Marcia Weidner, and Jack Canfield, and a section of religion and philosophy videos. The Environmental category houses documentaries about nature and sustainability. You can also find unique travel videos, science, technology, and arts topics. I have to admit, I haven’t really tried out anything other than the fitness and yoga videos, and even limiting myself to those, I’ve gotten my money’s worth.
The biggest plus of GaiamTV for me is the ability to have a variety of choices at my disposal. I can try out something that might be a bit of a challenge; if it’s too much for me, oh well, if not, I’ve found another teacher or style that suits me and encourages me to take some time for fitness. If I’ve only got ten minutes, I can find a quick refresher (or even a chair yoga for a mid-day work break). If I’m got half an hour, they have more than 150 express workouts. If I’ve got an hour, I can go all out and push myself. When I find an instructor I like (Patricia Moreno is one of my favorites), I can watch their videos over and over, or I can try some new ones for variety. It’s like having hundreds of yoga videos and it’s less than $10 a month.
Another plus is the portability. GaiamTV is currently available on your computer and your Apple mobile devices. Compatibility for Android phones, Samsung Smart TVs, and Roku player is coming soon, and hopefully, many other devices will follow. Unlike many U.S.-based video services, videos are not region-locked, making this great for global users. While closed-captioning is not currently available, they are working on it for the future.
GaiamTV is still in beta, so there’s definitely some room for improvement. The variety of devices that the service is available on is still lacking. AppleTV, or game console compatibility would make the service more useable. The selection of videos available on the iPad/iPhone app is limited. I contacted GaiamTV about this and they explained that the device content is currently stored on Apple’s servers, limiting their access. They are working on getting all content available on all devices. The ability to make multiple playlists would also be a bonus; currently, everything goes on one playlist. Even these so-called negative aspects are really just suggestions on how to make the service more amazing and useful than it already is.
If you like using fitness videos, GaiamTV is definitely worth the 10-day free trial that they offer, and I would be surprised if you don’t continue your subscription after the period is over. Gaiam seems very committed to this service, constantly adding new content and looking to improve the accessibility of the products.