It was three months into the pandemic that I hired a virtual personal trainer. It made a lot of sense as soon as I realized that the cost of said trainer ($33 per week, or what I was basically paying to ride the subway in the Before Times) was going to be less than what I’d have to spend to buy everything in my wardrobe in a size up. From the start, the exercises he asked me to do were a mix of cardio, like running and biking, circuit workouts with weights, and floor workouts, such as yoga and abwork. The floor workouts were the most challenging from the get-go. Not physically but practically — because when your phone is on the floor, you’re always craning your neck to see if you’re positioned correctly.
Not only were these added neck stretches detrimental to my form, but they were also annoying enough that I’d often pause (or quit) a workout altogether. I would try to prop my phone up against books or a chair leg, but it would always fall — just as I would every time I tried to maintain eagle pose while trying to peek at its screen. It was while visiting a family friend’s place in July when I noticed a little silver doodad standing next to her yoga mat. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was an adjustable phone stand, and my family friend said she used it to hold her phone at the exact height and position she needed to do her mat-based Pilates and yoga workouts.
Then she told me how much it cost. Looking at it, I could not possibly see why anyone would pay as much as she did. She must have sensed my skepticism because she then launched into why it’s worth every penny. She told me that not only is the stand’s main pole adjustable (it can rise to between 11 and 18 inches), but so is the grippy part where you put your phone — it can expand to grasp an iPad Pro or similarly sized tablet and contract to snugly embrace any mobile phone larger than an iPhone 4. She stressed that it also has tilt capabilities, explaining that if she is doing yoga and transitioning from a floor to a standing pose, she can simply re-angle the stand as she rises (rather than adjusting her entire setup). Its weighted base, she added, means it doesn’t budge even when she does more vigorous movements like jumping jacks and mountain climbers.
Between her pitch and the fact that the stand would still set me back less than the new wardrobe I’d need if I continued to quit my training sessions mid-lesson, I bought one. After using it three times a week since early August, I can say it is everything my family friend promised it to be. I’m no longer stopping or stretching my neck during the workouts, and, as a result, I’m powering through exercises like never before. It also makes the (often) too-happy voice of my trainer a lot more bearable because I can focus on watching his instructions rather than listening to them. And just as your phone can be used for more than working out, so too can the stand — I’ve found it to be a great tool for longer video calls with family and faraway friends, whom I can now position in a way that’s more like they’re actually sitting across from me as we eat or drink or watch sports together.
More Strategist-approved gear for home workouts
Three of the 13 yogis we asked about the best yoga mat named this one as their daily go-to. According to one instructor, Kyle Miller, it’s “indulgent — grippy, soft, and breaks in very well.” While it isn’t the least-expensive yoga mat out there, it isn’t the most expensive either, and all of the yogis we spoke to said the mat holds up over time. “You definitely get what you pay for,” Miller promises.
While all of the dumbbells that fitness instructors told us they use at home are currently out of stock, we spotted these ones from respected fitness brand Hex, which range from five to 50 pounds, while looking for in-stock weightlifting equipment from unlikely sources.
While looking into the trendier styles of ankle weights that have become a popular pandemic workout accessory, we remembered that, way back in 2017, writer Diane Chang told us that these (not trendy) adjustable ankle weights are like “dumbbells for my butt.” Chang swears that they’re “comfy and don’t slide around,” adding that, after a few weeks of squats and leg lifts while wearing them, she developed a new firmness “where there never used to be one.”
Strategist contributor Chris Black relies on resistance bands for his workouts, as does this writer. But the recommendation you’ll probably care more about comes from Pilates instructor Merav Cidor, who told us these (still-in-stock) resistance bands “can be used to make your routine more challenging — or add ease of movement in uncomfortable positions.”
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