QUINCY — As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, fitness studios and gymnasiums around the country are shutting their doors and adjusting to a new reality. The sudden shift in operations has inspired creativity and flexibility among Quincy’s studios and gyms, which previously relied almost exclusively on brick-and-mortar locations and on-site physical trainers and wellness coaches.
The changes have rocked the fitness industry, which was worth $94 billion in 2018, according to The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.
Some — such as the YMCA of West Central Illinois, which has locations in the Quincy and Ursa — are offering daily 10-minute videos on Facebook detailing at-home workouts and exercises. The YMCA is providing exclusive virtual workouts to the organization’s members.
Johanna Voss, the membership and wellness director for the Quincy Family YMCA, said the workouts are being well-received by the community.
“The 10-minute workouts are a little snapshot of workouts that people can easily do at home,” Voss said.
The member-only videos are garnering lots of interaction on social media as members try new and different workout regiments.
“We know that a lot of our members are not able to do the heavy muscle lifting that they normally would do because of the lack of equipment at their home. They may not have heavy weights but may have five or 10-pound dumbbells. So we are doing a lot of videos that are focused on using body weight and doing things like pilates, straight cardio for older adults, yoga and others.”
Other studios, including the Salvation Army Kroc Center and Q-Town Fitness, also have moved their workouts to online digital platforms.
“It has been a smooth transition,” said Sam Dancer, co-owner of Q-Town Fitness. “Our videos are growing more and more of an audience everyday. We started with just three or four people watching, and now we are getting between 100 and 200 people watching the videos.”
He added that during periods of social distancing, the videos are helping members at Q-Town Fitness to stay connected.
Dancer said he and his wife, Jennifer, who is co-owner, feel there has been a mass awakening regarding the need for physical fitness.
“Right now, I think everyone has all of this mental stress from the uncertainty of everything so they are turning to exercise to release good endorphins and to get their bodies moving again,” Jennifer Dancer said. “Researchers have shown that physical hour of movement, whether it is stretching, running, walking, helps to keep your immune system high and helps blood flow.”
Both Sam and Jennifer agree that at-home workouts are providing an opportunity for those who may not have been physically active prior to the COVID-19 pandemic to make that lifestyle change.
“I know it sounds weird to say, but I love crazy times because it puts people in a position where they start looking for innovative solutions. For people who were maybe previously too afraid to come into the gym work out because they worry that people will judge them for how they work out or their abilities, there is now a solution. That solution are these videos then hat they can watch from their home, where they can gain confidence and be ready to come back to the gym.”
Carolyn Carpenter, marketing manager at the Kroc Center, agreed saying the at-home workouts are providing access to community members who going to the gym regularly may have been a barrier due to a variety of reasons.
“The videos are giving people who may never have attended a class at the Kroc Center or who may never have set foot in our facility to know a little bit more about us as an organization, about the classes we offer, but also to improve their own personal fitness without leaving the privacy of their own home,” Carpenter said.
In addition to the workout videos, officials at the YMCA are hoping to use Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, which is in effect until April 30, to help bring about some changes through daily challenges.
“Anytime we are forced out of a normal routine, it is an opportunity to embrace and do something different,” Voss said. “We are hoping our daily challenges provide a bit of self-care for families.”
Past challenges have been a week-long family meal challenge, encouraging families to eat healthy meals at lunch and dinner, while also providing dinner conversation starter topics. Other challenges have included spring cleaning tips and mobility stretches and activities.
At Q-Town Fitness, the Dancers are offering their members additional guidance on staying healthy and physically active. Those tips include eating meals that include vegetables and drinking plenty of water.
“Carve time out your day everyday for some type of movement, whether it is spending two or three minutes of just shaking your arms and legs, five or 10 minutes of walking, or 30 minutes of stretching and doing some deep breathing exercises,” Sam Dancer said.
Leaders at both the local YMCA and Q-Town Fitness say they are contemplating how best to continue the online digital workouts once the ongoing pandemic is over.
“We have talked about how great it would be to continue to have these videos for people,” Voss said. “Right now, we are just throwing a lot of ideas around how we can continue this.”