Group Fitness Post-Pandemic
The changing face of group fitness from the big red dot (and I’m not talking about target).
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love sweaty high-fives, motivating music and the happy energy of a shared workout.
I’ve been a group fitness instructor for the majority of my life — yes, I’m a dinosaur of the fitness industry. My body has many aches and pains of too many plyometric jumps as evidence, but the laughter and goofy playfulness that happens within the safe space of the fitness studio with my Friday morning fitness tribe is irreplaceable.
A new reality is slowly setting in.
“When this is over…” has shifted to “the evolving new normal” and what that looks like is still fuzzy for group fitness. My own questions and curiosity prompted discussions in multiple fitness and community forums.
Here are a few of the takeaways — the good, the bad and the ugly.
Virtual — Good:
Virtual options were already on the rise. Peloton, The Mirror and numerous online choices were seeing growth prior to COVID-19 and are still on the upswing. Your in-box and social media feeds are probably filled with invitations for virtual classes. If a virtual group fitness class was your go-to workout before this, the ease and flexibility is now a “no-brainer.” Others who may have been on the fence, have placed their orders for equipment and won’t get back to the gym for a long time, if ever. Lisa Rennie, Pilates Instructor at Active Life Conditioning said its new online offer has picked up non-member friends and family, allowing for shared workouts in different towns, states and even countries.
From the instructor standpoint, this new way of delivering fitness has opened doors for growth beyond a physical radius, and for some, resulted in better pay. You can sense “cream rising to the top” of qualified instructors who are able to produce high-quality content.
Virtual — Bad:
If some are rising to the top, others are floundering. Fuzzy pictures, slow internet, awkward body parts in camera shots, grunts and groans of unmuted mics, barking dogs and background noise and no music were repeated comments.
For a segment of the population, virtual may never be the answer. Alas, I may be one, but those observations are for another post. Despite the variety, time savings and ease of virtual, the social connection of physically being together cannot be replaced. Maybe it’s the discipline or maybe like me, the shiny squirrels running past the window will always be more interesting, not to mention some group fitness formats are harder than others to translate to virtual.
Brick & Mortar — Good:
Comments indicated that those who took classes or taught at smaller facilities and studios had more security in returning. They trust the facility will be clean and safety standards will be adhered to for those ready to return.Nicole Goodling-Turczak, co-owner of New Jersey’s premier yoga studios,Yoga Essence, is feeling the strain of shuttered doors, but also feels confident in their ability to maintain high hygiene and safety standards when allowed to reopen. “Most yoga participants already bring their own mats and will likely bring their own props now, too.” Christine DeFilippis, owner of Pop Fit Studio, is already looking into purchasing circular mats that have a built-in “radius.” In general, those commenting who felt their studio was clean and well maintained prior to COVID-19 have more comfort in returning. Rennie also pointed out that warmer weather in the Northern Hemisphere will allow some facilities to take their classes outdoors.
Brick & Mortar — Ugly:
Some comments indicated no concern at all about returning to the gym. It was interesting to note they tended to coincide with how their state is handling the stay-at-home order. Those in states with rapidly lifting restrictions are ready to go back as soon as the doors open. A little context, I’m in New Jersey, about 45 minutes outside of New York City. If you haven’t peeked at a COVID-19 map recently, we’re in the big red circle—the really big one—hence my curiosity and concerns that prompted the various forum dialogues.
There are so many questions that need to be answered:
Will the facility be diligent with disinfecting?
Will members be diligent in disinfecting after themselves?
Will members adhere to new space guidelines?
Will masks be necessary?
What about aerobic and anaerobic breathing with or without masks?
Will instructors have to teach in masks?
What about sweat?
Will fitness participants stay home when they don’t feel well? Or will they head to the gym to “sweat it out” to not miss a workout?
Will facilities be safe for seniors, for whom the workout is an equally important social connection?
Will those who need exercise to help control health conditions, like diabetes, be able to return safely?
How will equipment sharing safely take place?
Will members put their own equipment away at the end of class?
How will social distance be maintained when you go to restack your weights, mat, bars?
New for The Walking Book Club — Zoom
I’ve been pouring a lot of love into The Walking Book Club I’ve facilitated since 2016.
Since January, our community has grown and connected members all over the world!
I miss my sweaty Friday gang of friends, but like many fitness professionals, it may be time to shift and find new opportunities, so starting last week, The Walking Book Club is Zooming — not while walking, albeit, but with a cup of coffee or glass of wine to chat about books and Healthy-Body Happy-Mind topics. We may even have costume day, where members come dressed as their favorite literary character — maybe a little goofiness is doable? Who knows?
My new goal is to run the healthiest, happiest virtual fitness book club in the world. It won’t take the place of being side by side, but it will be good, too. You’re welcome to join us!