Group fitness activities were among the many everyday activities dramatically altered by the COVID-19. Today, some changes spawned from the pandemic will be long lasting, while others will be left behind.
One change to classes has been virtual attendance. At first it provided an easy access point for many, especially seniors. Veronica Vidal moved her VeroYoga class online during the pandemic, and her classes grew in attendance. “I really wanted to (help) me and other people so we were all in this together by keeping a regular schedule”
But as things normalized, Marilyn Myles, who teaches Enhance Fitness, notes participation in her online classes has dropped. “It just wasn’t fun to do it in your living room by yourself, and figure out the Zoom and all that,” she said.
Online classes were tough on fitness instructors as well.
Myles said she missed the energy of her class. “You went through the motions, but there was no pizazz to it.”
Yoga and pilates instructor Kerstin Eskeli said losing the in-person teaching experience was tough. “I’m a big toucher when I’m correcting. It took away something that I think is one of my assets as a teacher.”
Jennifer Rathjens agrees, “I like to help people. In person it’s much better because I can just approach them,” said the teacher of body sculpting, spinning and steps.
Despite these difficulties, instructors say the pandemic experience has been valuable.
“Everybody’s grown in their practice more,” says Eskeli. “They’re having to learn to listen.”
People learning to use the teleconferencing program Zoom for classes was a benefit in itself, said Rathjens. An impoirtant new digital tool. “They all have learned something.”
Vidal said online classes allowed her to connect with people outside of the local community. “It opened the opportunity to be in contact with people all over the world. It was something absolutely magical.”
The shift online, even if only temporary for some, will have lasting effects on how fitness classes continue.
Rathjens teaches her body sculpting class on the Village Green, and she offers a Zoom stream for clients unable to attend in person or in real time. “It’s another great way for them to exercise,” she says, adding that she hope she can continue the hybrid model. “It’s hard to do both … because I have to pay attention to the people who are in front of me and I have to pay attention to the people online.”
Vidal plans to return to in-person teaching, but will make her library of yoga videos available online. “It offers even more opportunities for everyone” to learn, she says.
Eskeli said her class regulars have requested she keep her classes online. “They like the flexibility of the virtual classes,” she says. “A lot of them travel. Five months out of the year they’re not on the Key.”
But for Myles, in-person is the path forward. She has no plans to return to Zoom. “I think exercise needs to be in person because the whole thing is the energy in the room,” she says. Her focus now is encouraging her students to return to class: “I tell everyone to come and get back into your routine and get used to doing it without fear.”