Conn. gyms shift to digital workouts to promote at home fitness

As many businesses have been shuttered across Connecticut to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus, fitness studios and gyms are turning to technology to offer people virtual workouts and classes through video conferencing applications like Zoom or via social media channels and YouTube. As people are asked to physically stay apart, technology is bringing them together to exercise at home in a shared online community.

Studio owners see this move as critical during a stressful time to empower people to keep fit and retain a sense of normalcy by following a routine but also gain the stress-busting benefits that exercise offers. Check in with your gym on their website or social media channels to see if they offer virtual workouts or keep reading. Despite the financial hardship they are facing by being closed, a handful of studios are not just offering classes to members but are opening them up to the public. Most workouts have been modified so as not to require any equipment or people can use things already in their home (a filled water jug or a heavy canned food item instead of dumbbells, for example).

“Moving your body and having a mindfulness practice can really uplift spirits and boost immunity, and it’s fun to do it ‘together’ online in the livestream, even though we are physically apart,” said Candace Moore, owner of Namaslay Studios in Ridgefield, who began making yoga videos on YouTube early in her career. “You sort of get this community feeling that we’re in this together, ‘this’ being both the workout or yoga practice and this unique situation with social distancing. In a way, the silver lining is that we can come together as a community and use social media perhaps for its intended purpose — to be social while apart.”

Like many other studios, Moore’s will livestream classes on for members. She is also posting free workouts on Instagram and on her app.

Kelly Page, owner of Yoga Lily Studio in Shelton and Bridgeport, said it is always a good time to add fitness into your life, but now is a better time than ever to add a gratitude diet into your life. “We feel that right now less is more. Life has been turned upside down. So, it’s important to create content that people can access anytime/anywhere and as their schedule allows so they can make it their own,” she said. “At Yoga Lily Studio, we talk a lot about embracing gratitude. Finding things to be grateful for in our everyday lives helps us get through tough times with grace, strength and joy.”

The studio is focusing on mini-gratitude and yoga sessions and a “5 Moves” class (a mix of cardio, yoga and basic calisthenics) to help people calm their minds and bodies. No special equipment is required other than one’s body and maybe a mat or towel. The classes are open to all, not just members. “The idea to offer free content to the public during this crisis is a no-brainer and falls in line with our mission to support the community,” she said. She is uploading content on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.

Jenn Kuehn, national director of group exercise for The Edge, which has 32 fitness clubs in eight states (14 in Connecticut alone), said they have multiple online classes daily, available to all. “When this all went down, we realized we had to take action. We know how important fitness is to everybody and if the members can’t come to the club, let’s bring the classes to the members,” she said. “And why limit it to just our members? We want to be all-inclusive, especially in this time where we need to lean on each other and to support one another.” The Edge began March 16 with three classes a day; by Friday, it was up to eight classes a day, including HIT (high intensity training), conditioning, barre, kickboxing and dancing and a kids class.

Mary Beth Young, owner of The Pilates Advantage in Wilton, says she is not in the video business but scrambled to make videos for people stuck at home. “We are all very health conscious and want to keep everyone remaining fit and healthy,” she said. “We’re trying to make it easy and at their convenience.” Classes are Pilates-based fusion or mat classes and will be available on her YouTube channel (link is on her website and Facebook page) and through her app.

Bar Method Darien is busy posting videos to its Instagram account and partnering with sister Bar Method studios to upload additional classes for members. “The Bar Method, and our studio specifically, is built on community,” said Erica Pivor, its marketing manager. “Although we can’t physically be together during this time, we adapted quickly to keep our BMD family feeling connected to us and to each other. We think of these livestream classes as a time to put aside the fear and uncertainty of these times. They’re a time to connect and move your body — our two priorities now and always. Exercise is a proven way to boost immunity.”

Combine-X Fitness in New Canaan is also on YouTube and has been posting full-length member classes like Varsity Boot Camp that people can do with minimal equipment and HIT classes, open to anyone. “I am determined to do everything I can to bring some normalcy to my members and provide an outlet to sweat it out, pump up some endorphins and release some positive energy,” said founder Rebecca Kimball. “This is the time to keep fighting (even if it’s on the carpet in your living room), to challenge, and to trust your body. We got this. And together, we will stay strong.”