by Angie Newson

August 27, 2020

Many of us waited with bated breath for Boris to announce gyms and leisure centres can finally open. But are we ready to go to a class with the teacher wearing a face visor, gloves so they can touch the sound system and no microphone as that’s not allowed. For safety, classes have been reduced in numbers and duration. For those who have been pumping, stretching, down-dogging in numerous live-streaming online classes during the past few months, maybe staying put sounds more attractive. Think back and see how far you and your fellow Zoomies have travelled without leaving the house. Frozen screens, no audio, low bandwidth and the frustration are now things of the past. So are you truly ready to give up your warm and welcoming online community that has been a lifeline for so many?

We’re now fitter than ever (no lockdown-bellies in our classes) and many consider ourselves so experienced on the IT side of things, we quickly dead-head the bedding, pick up the dog poo in the garden with just two minutes to go before the start of class, press click and we’re off.

As a teacher with over 30 years’ experience of teaching ‘live’ classes in person and face to face, that’s some 16,000 classes, teaching online was completely new to me and even though an IT friend told me many times this was the route to take, (way before ‘unprecedented’ and ‘lockdown’ became everyday words), I couldn’t really fathom it. I so enjoyed real-life connection, in studios, with the motivating music and particularly the camaraderie, that as soon as the gyms closed, I was looking forward to returning.

But for the last goodness knows how many weeks, me and my lovely Zoomies, meet each day with a little chat at the beginning and end of each session and they have the option to roll out of bed and on to the Swiss ball in no time, or drop in to class at lunchtime for ‘the hundreds’ and conveniently go straight back to work in the next room (or back to bed or dealing with the challenge of everyday life!). We’ve maintained the ‘community feel’ of real-life in-person classes. Each day we Zoom, we discover together yet another advantage of this way of exercising. And we want to continue - for now and if possible for always.

It’s safe. 

And risk-free from any viruses out there. Ensure though you work out in a clear surrounding area of your room and pets are preferably out of the way, (unlike my dogs that as soon as I hit the mat, they’re there!) You’re using your own clean equipment as opposed to sharing in a gym and you can take a rest whenever you feel you need to with feeling self-conscious that you’ve stopped!

It’s convenient. 

It’s at home! It’s better for the environment as there’s no travelling, no sitting in traffic jams to get to class and consequently less petrol and diesel is used. No headaches with parking. No getting home from work and having to find the motivation to go out again. And no risk of not getting into a class because it’s already full.

It’s private.

You’re in your own comfortable space and can have your video turned off if you want to. It’s up to you if you want to be seen. I prefer to see my participants but it’s their prerogative and I certainly don’t mind.

There’s endless variety. 

As a student, I’ve attended classes with teachers in America and Europe I’ve always wanted to try and as a teacher, I’ve had lovely people in my classes from India, Italy, Cyprus, Dubai and France. The world is your oyster and it’s certainly cheaper and safer than flying there! There’s a range of different prices and packages and some classes are by donation too.

It creates self-discipline. 

Just as going to the gym, you need to train yourself to turn up and do. Zoom bookings go straight into your diary so you click and hey presto, enter. Focus improves and even if there maybe distractions at home - mobile phone, kids coming in - day by day, concentration enhances until nothing disturbs you and you stay focused. 

It supports our mental health and happiness.

The benefits of exercise is well-documented - as we know, regular exercise has physical benefits as well as reducing our anxiety levels and lifting our spirits. In these ‘testing’ times, it has helped combat loneliness for those who have had to stay shielded or live on their own. To work out in a live-streamed group for many has been a lifesaver. To still be able to chit-chat at the start or end of the class has helped many people. It’s certainly reduces stress levels, as there no rushing to book a class on the gym app before it fills up, there is always room.

It’s saves money.

There’s no need to spend on expensive workout clothes. I’ve been in many a class in ‘real life’ where it’s more like a fashion show. I’ve certainly worn less these last few months and have practised yoga in short shorts which I haven’t done for years (and they’re the same old shorts from years ago!). You save on expensive gym memberships too.

There’s no judgement.

Regardless of fashion statements, with public classes, some beginners are intimidated to go in a class full of ‘experienced’ exercisers and even though teachers give modifications and are welcoming, it’s a big step for a novice (and some men come to think of it) to step inside a full studio of predominately women. In the privacy of your own lounge or bedroom you feel secure that, apart from the curiosity of the cat, there’s no one looking at your moves, your clothes, your body. There’s no competition and no competitiveness.

We’re prepared.

Should the virus return with a vengeance in the winter as is predicted by the press and gyms have to sadly shut again, you’re still down squatting or up-dogging with your online community.

Exercise anywhere.

In any part of the house, the garden, on holiday (wherever we are allowed to go). And on-demand classes allow you to work out when you wish.

No childcare worries. 

Some gyms have childcare facilities you pay extra for but as any mum knows, when someone else is looking after your kids, do you totally switch off? And even though toddlers can get in the way sometimes when online, which may be frustrating, it’s delightful at the same time, as they will learn that exercising is a good thing and often copy and join in.

With all these advantages to online classes, I can’t believe they will just fall by the wayside once gyms and leisure centres are fully operational. In recent surveys carried out amongst participants, some are adamant they won’t go back to public classes just yet, if ever, and others will enjoy the combination of both.

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