- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Trina Schwimmer’s workout video collection is like a minimuseum of fitness: Denise Austin, Karen Voight, Mari Winsor, Crunch Fitness. However, Miss Schwimmer’s collection has been collecting dust since the 32-year-old Marina del Rey, Calif., resident stopped purchasing a DVD each month and began streaming fitness videos from Netflix to her television.

“It’s really allowed me to have more fun with my workouts,” says Miss Schwimmer, who was laid off recently and is working on her own business while she looks for a job. She has in her Netflix queue workouts from the New York City Ballet and Jillian Michaels of “The Biggest Loser.”

The Web is doing to fitness DVDs what Amazon’s Kindle may do to books as people seek cheaper, more varied workouts they can access with the click of a mouse and do somewhere other than their living room.

Fitness enthusiasts can watch workouts online, download them to their iPods, stream them from Netflix to their televisions and even create their own workout videos. A search of the words “fitness video” on YouTube produces more than 160,000 results.

“With YouTube, it’s so easy,” says Brandon Jubar, 41, of El Paso, Texas. Mr. Jubar estimates he has purchased 20 videos over the years, including “Billy Blanks Tae Bo” and “Hip Hop Abs.” “These [YouTube] videos are certainly not as slick and polished as the videos I used to buy, but the quality is good, and there is no fluff in any of them.”

Sales figures are hard to come by because no one source tracks all the sales, says Jill Ross of the consumer catalog Collage Video, which sells exercise videos and workout equipment but declined to release its sales figures.

Miss Ross says the multimillion-dollar fitness DVD industry is growing, in part because the economy has people working out at home and because of the popularity of television shows such as “The Biggest Loser.” She sees 500 to 600 new titles each year.

Many fitness video producers are preparing for a possible hit. Fitness-video producer Linda LaRue’s “Crunchless Abs” videos are available for download on www.ExerciseTV.tv, and several fitness-video producers are looking at purchasing bandwidth so the digital downloads can happen on their own Web sites, she says.

For many who use online fitness resources, it comes down to wanting more workouts without buying different DVDs.

Jessica Sharp, 29, who runs a public relations firm in Philadelphia, says she was tired of doing the same Rodney Yee routines over and over using her DVDs. She does the free one-hour yoga class on YogaToday.com, which has a new class each day.

She also subscribes to a Yoga audio podcast on iTunes so she can work out when she is traveling.

Meryl Blau, 34, a member of Make It Fit (www.youcanmakeitfit.com), which has more than 100 streaming fitness videos, downloadable podcasts and printable workouts, wanted to have a wider selection of workouts and do them in places other than her living room.

“It was a change in the way I think about when and how my workouts are done, but the computer gives me flexibility that you just don’t get from a television,” says Miss Blau, a mother of one who teaches at the University of Miami.

Still, while more people are turning to the Web for workouts, the DVD format won’t become obsolete anytime soon, fitness experts say. Miss Ross says she still has customers who purchase VHS tapes.

Most of the downloadable workouts are short and specific, says Michele Olson, a professor of exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery, who stars in “10 Minute Solution: Kettlebell Ultimate Fat Burner.”

She says in an e-mail that well-produced exercise videos include a tutorial, instructions that are well-matched with good sound and visual quality, and different levels of the workout movements.

Some people also may find that working out in front of a computer or while holding a phone is cumbersome.

“It’s not like watching a TV show or a movie,” Miss LaRue says. “You have to watch and do.”

Plus, there always will be people who don’t adopt new technology, says research director David Lockwood of the research firm Mintel International. Millions of U.S. households weren’t ready for the switch to digital TV, he points out, and though the DVR may make DVDs extinct, it could take a couple of decades, he says.

James Kunitz of DV Creations, which produces 150 fitness and dance instructional DVDs a year, says he thinks as more people become comfortable with downloading, they will go online for their workouts. His paid site for Core Rhythms’ fans has free streaming video of the Latin ballroom-dance workout. He is planning to offer downloadable content later this year.

“We’re uploading content each week so we can keep people’s interest,” he says. “That’s what it’s all about.”

As for Mr. Jubar, he says he has lost close to 30 pounds using online resources. He mainly uses Craig Ballantyne of Turbulence Training.

“You can buy a collection of his stuff,” he says. “I don’t see the need to. Everything I need from him is right there on YouTube.”

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