The great renaissance of the home workout
Editor’s Note: Kelly MacLeod’s name has been corrected in this online version of the story. She was incorrectly identified.)
If you have ever said that you are not a “gym person” well, this is your moment.
In our new world of social distancing and self-isolation we are now all living in a gym-less world. Until Sunday, people still looking for a way to blow off some COVID-19 steam were headed to local parks, but the state of emergency has shortened the tether of many fitness buffs. But as public open spaces roll up their trails, the demand to sweat it out remotely is being powered up with a number of local fitness centres rolling out the mat with video content that will change the health and fitness landscape for the time being.
Last week when the YMCA of Pictou County responded to the public safety measures being issued across the country, they closed their doors to hundreds of loyal members. The non-profit’s executive director, Tammy Goodwin, is one of the many Y staff that has been laid off as a result of the closures. Like many of the people who make the Y part of their daily routines, she is feeling the loss of not only the connections to her staff and members but the energy of working out in group classes.
Determined not to let her fitness lapse with the closure of her gym, Goodwin is taking her workouts to her garage and streaming fitness programming created specifically by Y fitness professionals. The Y Thrive classes (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnMjjYuiaJZT7JilnXPo7jQ) are suitable for all fitness levels. “We do have another link on our Facebook page for more intense and high production workouts that is currently being provided to anyone who goes to our page and clicks on the link www.mossamove.net. The company has allowed us to offer this as a free service for the next 60 days,” says Goodwin.
Online fitness classes are jumping up everywhere. Just around the corner from the Y, Pictou County Yoga Studio owner Kelly MacLeod has started delivering online classes to her members and Ashlei Ballet School owner and teacher Janet Bradbury is offering online classes for dance students who had their training interrupted by pandemic closures.
Bella Teed has been a student at the Ashlei school for nine years. This winter, she competed in a national dance festival in Halifax winning several awards. On Monday night, she laced up her pointe shoes and grabbed on to her kitchen counter instead of a ballet barre and Zoomed in for her first social distancing dance class.
“I liked it because there really hasn’t been much to do since we all have to stay at home now,” says Teed, a Grade 9 student at Pictou Academy. “Knowing that you have a ballet class at the end of the day gives a little more structure and normalcy and it gives me something to look forward to.”
“Set a schedule for yourself. Put a timer on and say I am going to climb my stairs up and down three times or I am going to go outside and walk loops around my house.”Marla Sim, Director of Health, Fitness and Recreation at the Pictou County Y
Bradbury says the virtual classes allow the dancers to maintain a social connection with each other and their instructors during this difficult time. “They can enjoy all of the benefits of exercise for the body and the mind and work with each other towards a common goal.”
Knowing that she has to stay in shape for when competitions and performances resume is what is keeping dancer Lauren Hiltz motivated. The young athlete is also a Grade 9 student at Pictou Academy and competes in both the ballet and highland dance year-round.
“It felt a little weird not being in the studio with the teacher and my friends, but I was able to stay focused. It’s going to be a little harder at home for ballet because the teacher won’t be able to make corrections the same as if you are in class,” says Hiltz.
Keeping people connected to their different fitness and recreation communities is important for all operators. Technology is the conduit to maintaining those connections. Beside links to online fitness classes Marla Sim, director of Health, Fitness and Recreation at the Pictou County Y, says that because we are all creatures of habit it is important to keep to your normal fitness routine even though other aspects of life have been interrupted.
“If you are person that is used to hitting the gym at 7 a.m. then you should try to get up every morning and find a way to be active at home,” she says.
Understanding that few people have a full gym in the basement, there are still many ways to maintain your fitness.
“Personally, I am a less is more believer when it comes to equipment,” says Sim during a call to her home in New Glasgow. “Every morning at 7 a.m. I post a daily body weight routine on our Y Facebook page. It is a list of exercises in a circuit. I do not demonstrate how to do the exercises but if you Google or go on Instagram you will find lots of demos that help you do the exercise correctly.”
If classes still are not your jam, Sim reinforces the importance to just getting up and moving at least every 60 minutes. “Set a schedule for yourself. Put a timer on and say I am going to climb my stairs up and down three times or I am going to go outside and walk loops around my house.”
While she likes to promote what the Y has to offer online she does like to get ideas from other fitness instructors she follows on Instagram. Her favourites are: London_fitness_guy, bradleysimmonds and alexia_clarke. She also recommends creating a playlist with music that has 125 beats per minute. “That’s the music that gets you going,” she says.
Jodi Matlock, who has a faithful following at her noon-time indoor cycling class at the Y, says it’s time to get creative with your activity when you have to stick close to home. The first thing she and her family did when the Y, their second home, had to close was head to the basement to clean out a space where they could stretch out and move. As a parent of three active girls involved in figure skating and soccer the abrupt halt in activities has been tough. “We also cleared a space in the garage where the girls can work out and get fresh air when we open the doors,” says Matlock. She says that her youngest daughter who is still a competitive figure skater is practising off-ice jump videos that have been sent to her by her coach. “The older sisters who have retired from their skating careers are happy to critique her progress.”
Health care providers and fitness experts all continue to share the message that activity and connection during the time of social distancing will be important to our overall health including, and perhaps most importantly, our mental wellbeing. Fitness for many people is about being social and at these facilities and spaces where people gather to exercise they are also making friendships that go beyond the gym.
Jackie Morrissey, a longtime Y member, says the most fun she has had in recent days was figuring out how to do a group FaceTime chat with the women she sees at the Y five days a week. The women call themselves the Morning Y Group. There are over 50 in their group chats where they plan activities that also take them outside of the gym and to places like Keppoch, Trenton Park and the Fitzpatrick Trails. Not everyone makes it to classes at the same time every day and some participants in the chat group have moved out of Pictou but still engage demonstrating the power of fitness and recreation community.
“I never laughed so hard as we figured out how to set this group chat,” says Morrissey. “We had a great time on the group call the other night and many of us have been checking in on each other every day.”
As people all over the world continue to find ways to define their new #stayhome lifestyles there will be more evidence of focusing on our health and the health of our families to strengthen our immune systems and avoid illness. But there are also many health and fitness professionals only a click away and ready to hold your hand… virtually.