Author: Sarah Emery Bunn

With stay-at-home orders reinstated for many counties in California, and businesses such as fitness centers/gyms closed again, it looks like we will be training at home for a while longer – and indeed I believe the fitness industry will be changed forever even after we go back to “normal”. Virtual workouts are here to stay.

I have been on both sides of the platform as a client/student and as a trainer since this all started, and I’ve included some best practices I’ve discovered for using Zoom (or FaceTime, or Skype) for online workouts or yoga classes. I’ve also consulted with other personal trainers, group fitness instructors, and yoga teachers to find out what they want you to know about training via Zoom. Hope this is helpful!


Gitl working out on the floor at home via a zoom online class

Recommended Equipment For Your At-Home Workout

Let your trainer know in advance what, if any, equipment you have. It’s absolutely possible to get a great workout with body weight only – for example, push-ups, planks, lunges, squats – but to get a bit more out of your home workouts, I recommend purchasing or borrowing the following:

A set of resistance bands, the kind that are in a loop – also known as “booty bands”. My experience with the therabands (no loop, just a long, wide elastic strap) is that they break easily and quickly. Or maybe I’m just the Incredible Hulk.

One or two pairs of dumbbells. If you’ve worked out at a gym in the past, you probably know what weights to choose. If you only want to buy one pair, go for the higher weight – you can always just use one for weaker muscle groups. I have one set of 5-lb dumbbells, and one set of 10-lb dumbbells. I prefer the coated dumbbells, either vinyl or neoprene, they are more comfortable for me to hold than a bare metal bar.

A yoga mat for floor work.

yoga blocks and a strap are very helpful if you’re participating in Zoom yoga classes. If you have sensitive knees, a blanket or towel for cushioning in kneeling poses is also good.

Resistance bands
yoga blocks
hand weights
yoga blocks

NOTE that some of these items may be hard to come by via the usual websites right now (Amazon, Target, I’m looking at you) – BUT many studios are selling props and equipment! Check with your trainer/studio – you may be able to buy second-hand and support these small businesses that are struggling so much right now.

Choose Your Workout Space

  • Take some time and thought in choosing the space where you will be doing your workouts. Privacy is nice, a door you can shut so you’re not interrupted.
  • You might have to clear out some space in the room for your mat and equipment, so if you don’t have a dedicated space be sure to give yourself time for setup BEFORE each session starts.
  • Think about your workout space in terms of safety as well! Look around – behind you, above you, side to side space – are you going to knock over furniture or bang into anything when you’re moving? I kicked over a fan with a particularly enthusiastic three-limbed downward dog the other day!



Login to Zoom & Set Up Before Class Begins

  • If you’ve never used Zoom before check out these set up tips.
  • During your Zoom session, I recommend using a larger screen device – a laptop, desktop or large-screen tablet, rather than a phone. You’ll more easily be able to see what your trainer is demonstrating.
  • Make sure you can easily see your trainer or instructor from whatever position you are in the room as much as possible, so you’re not craning your neck or getting distracted by trying to see what’s happening. Make that part easy.


Let Your Classmates See You Working Out

Obviously, with a one-on-one or small group strength training, video being on is a MUST.

But also consider showing your glowing face in a group setting too – think about your instructor and how difficult it must be to teach into a void if nobody has their video on. Since they can’t read the room like they can in person, having your camera on is the next best thing!

Additionally, for the other participants and students it is motivating and inspiring to see others doing the same workout or poses. Unless you’re taking the workout-from-home opportunity to try out naked yoga, in which case you should probably shut that camera off. Not that I would know anything about that…


Don’t Have Your Camera Too Close

Unlike with a FaceTime or Skype social phone call, you don’t want to be too close. Back way up! Best position is at least 5-6 feet away from you.

Be Able To Quickly Reposition Your Camera

It is helpful for your trainer if you are able to quickly reposition your camera to allow 2 views:

1.  To show your full body in a standing position

Standing Pose

 2.  To show your full body laying/floor position

floor position camera angle

(For both of these angles the camera is in the same place – built in camera on laptop – just tilted forward/down more for the floor view.)

This way you can just tilt the screen of your device when you are shifting from standing to laying instead of having to move the device’s position entirely, which can be noisy and disruptive. Spend a little time before your session testing out different angles to find the best views. The video preview Zoom provides before you enter a meeting is helpful for trying out different positions.

When Watching Your Zoom Class

– there are 2 different views:


1. Active Speaker view.

  • If you’re new to training or a particular type of class, you’ll definitely want the Speaker View, which means the trainer’s or teacher’s video is expanded to full screen.
full screen active speaker mode
Active Speaker full width

2. Gallery view

  • If you’ve been training a while or practicing yoga for a long time and are comfortable with audio cues, instructions, and adjustments, I find it’s really nice to switch to Gallery View, which is that Brady-Bunch-style grid where you see thumbnails of as many people as will fit on the screen.
  • I find that view inspiring and motivating, seeing everyone make the same movements (and of course peeking in on their homes and seeing their cute pets and spouses and kids!). Also if you lose track of what’s happening in a given moment, you can look at the screen to see what other people are doing and catch up, even if the instructor has finished with the demonstration.
  • If, like a lot of people, you find it uncomfortable to watch yourself on the video stream (either in a meeting or a Zoom fitness situation), there is an option available to hide your video from yourself. Other participants can still see your video, but you won’t be distracted by critiquing your own form or sweaty face: just right-click your own video to display the menu, then choose Hide Myself.
Gallery view on a zoom call

Should You Mute Yourself?

  • NO: In one-on-one or small group training sessions your microphone should definitely be ON so you and your trainer can communicate.
  • YES: In group sessions like a yoga class, however, usually participants are muted by the host during the class. If you’re not muted by the host, you should mute yourself by turning your microphone off at the bottom left corner of your screen for most of the class. It’s nice to start unmuted so you can to say hello and chat – then when the class starts, mute yourself to minimize background noise and distraction for other participants.
  • Listen carefully to your trainer/instructor’s instructions – it’s more challenging to communicate in this virtual way, and especially to demonstrate movements, so your trainer will be using her words a lot more to DESCRIBE the movement as well as demonstrate it. It’s a new way of teaching, and I’ve found it makes my brain work in a very different way than for in person sessions or classes – both as a trainer and as a client/student.


Tips for Best Quality Video, Audio, & Streaming

  • If you have them, Bluetooth earbuds with a built-in microphone are a great way to improve the sound for both you and your trainer. They may get sweaty and slip out – but it’s worth a try to see if that works for you.
  • If possible, close doors to the room you are in.
  • Schedule your sessions around less noisy times in your home – for example maybe NOT at 3PM Friday afternoon when you’re expecting the gardeners.
  • If your exercise space is somewhere with noisy appliances (me), don’t start that load of laundry right before your class! Seems obvious, but it was something I had to experience to realize! Spin cycle + savasana = 🙁
  • Check with other members of your household when scheduling Zoom sessions or meetings – if everyone is Zooming around all at the same time, your streaming quality may suffer.
  • It can’t always be avoided, but it’s a good practice to try to coordinate things if you can. You may also want to let family members know that you’re working out via Zoom so you don’t have any embarrassing or disruptive cameo appearances!

Engage & Have Fun!

  • I encourage you to engage with your class or session as much as you can! Just as you would if you were there in person. Show your video. Smile. Say Hello!
  • Take advantage of classes that allow for some time at the beginning and/or end of class to chat and catch up or get to know new people.
  • If you’re working out with a small group, give your workout buddies some encouragement, even just a little “woo!” lets everyone know you’re THERE and real.
  • Even with sound off you can engage – smile and give a thumbs-up for your yoga teacher’s corny jokes, stick that “woo!” in the chat window.
  • Change your Zoom background to something that may inspire comment or amusement. Many of us really miss working out together in real life, so it’s nice to remind ourselves that the tiny people in the Brady Bunch grid are really there and sweating right along with you!


Hope this is helpful! Happy Zooming!


Sarah Emery Bunn is a long time semi-personal training client of Carina’s. She started almost 10 years and 50 pounds ago, and got so inspired by her experiences with strength training, she is now attending Glendale College in a Certified Fitness Professional program! You can read more about Sarah’s learning and fitness journey at Fit Spirited.

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