When COVID-19 first hit and quarantine orders were in place, I was pretty excited about changing up my fitness regimen with at-home workouts. But exactly 1,000 months into the pandemic, it got old. My six-day-a-week routine would often be just a couple of days and there were even a few weeks where all I felt like doing was walking. Then I was introduced to bande.

Dubbed the world's first virtual boutique fitness studio, bande is meant to feel like you're in-studio. This was key as I was yearning for a gym and in-person classes again but wasn't comfortable venturing beyond my home yet. So, I gave it a shot.

Unlike Peloton (which I also love) or MIRROR that features high production with limited connection, bande (pronounced "bond") genuinely functions in real-time with real people just like in the studio. But everything is optimized for your home. You get a week's worth of classes from which to choose -- barre, boxing, pilates, HIIT, strength, yoga, etc.-- with instructors hailing from Barry's, SLT, [solidcore] and Xtend Barre, to name a few. And let me tell you, the variety not only helps prevent fitness plateaus but boredom as well.

Live Class - Panel View - Private - Invite (1)[1]

As far as the actual classes go, several factors make bande stand out among other virtual workouts. First, the classes are live. It's you, an instructor and a handful of other participants, and everyone has their cameras on for that genuine interactive feeling. It's highly intimate and personalized instruction like you get in person. When I was dropping my hand while throwing punches during a kickboxing class, my instructor, Mindy Lai, called it out and showed me how to fix it. And let me tell you, these classes are legit. My legs were sore for days after Nicole Uribarri's barre class.

Plus, the platform aims to blur the lines between fitness apps and social networks with other fun features. There's an interactive "locker room," which basically recreates locker-room banter by providing instructors and members with the ability to catch up before class. In addition to just chatting through the live video function, there's the group chat option to interact with your classmates and instructors before, during and after your workout.

My favorite technological element? The "whisper" function. This allows you to send private voice chats to your buddy throughout the workout, meaning you connect with a pal just like you would if you met up at the gym. In my case, I could work out with my best friend from across the country. That's something I couldn't even do in pre-pandemic times.

Although I'm still eager to get back into a gym and group classes again, at-home workouts will always be in my rotation. And I'm not the only one who plans to do the same. According to Mindbody, the fitness industry's leading technology platform, hybrid is the future of post-pandemic group exercise. Its recent study showed that 93 percent of those surveyed plan to return to in-person classes; however, nearly half of them will incorporate a virtual element into their fitness regime. This is a huge behavioral shift and shows that virtual fitness is here to stay. But it makes sense as work schedules are likely to be hybrid for years to come, and living arrangements have changed permanently over the past year.

For me, as a working mom and avid traveler, it's nice to know I have an easy way to get an effective sweat session through bande when the gym isn't an option.