- The Washington Times
Thursday, March 26, 2020

Drenched in sweat, Trisha Vamosi lifted a 35-pound barbell above her head repeatedly Monday as her instructor yelled words of encouragement, telling the 29-year-old English teacher to keep going.

Just another typical workout — only today, Ms. Vamosi was nowhere near her gym or her coach.

The Alexandria resident was working out on the fourth level of the parking garage connected to her apartment building, taking part in an interactive class, listening to her instructor’s voice through earbuds while watching an exercise class on her phone propped against the car.

Like most people riding out the coronavirus pandemic, Ms. Vamosi had to get creative to get in her normal burn. In her case, Capital MMA, the gym she attends, hosts classes digitally over Zoom, a popular remote conferencing service. After renting a barbell, she was set.

With gyms around the nation closed, those desperate for exercise — from professional athletes to ordinary people — have found different ways to stay active.

“Right now, it feels like you’re held to sort of the same level of accountability,” Ms. Vamosi said. “You see everyone in the chat. You can’t just leave the chat, like a gym.”

Not everyone needs to rent weights or have their own workout equipment, either.

“We know exercise is really beneficial for keeping an immune system happy, and so that’s part of it being resistant of things like a virus,” said exercise physiologist Greg McMillan, “but in this situation, in particular, it is also as much as the mental part of it, the mental stress relief that people get from doing some physical activity that is paying the biggest dividends.

“It’s just unprecedented for us to have this sort of (stay-at-home) situation.”

Finding an outlet

There have always been options for those interested in working out from home. Long before the coronavirus’ rapid spread, fitness instructors such as Richard Simmons and Billy Blanks became household names in the 1980s and ‘90s by selling home fitness concepts.

The space evolved, too. Gone are the days of wearing brightly colored workout clothes and popping in VHS tapes. Now, people work out by pulling up YouTube and replicating the exercises.

For newbies, though, there is an adjustment from communal exercise to the digital experience.

Don Ngo, the general manager of Capital MMA, came up with the idea of letting patrons borrow his gym’s equipment and hosting classes through Zoom. The latter required test runs and Mr. Ngo learned the ins-and-outs of the platform. After that, Mr. Ngo, said he lent out $20,000 worth of equipment, free of charge. Now, the Alexandria gym hosts eight sessions per day with their instructors teaching from home.

The process is a way for the business to keep running, even as the physical space is closed for the time being.

“As a small business, we needed to figure out how we can move on while still serving our members and still being able to pay the rent, pay the bills,” said Mr. Ngo, whose gym employs roughly 40 contracted coaches. “You know, take care of our staff and be ready to open up whenever this all passes.”

Put it online

Even professional athletes are adapting to the fact they can’t be out as often. With golf on hiatus, Rory McIlroy recently posted a video fresh off a Peloton workout, challenging other golfers to “bring it.” The exercise bike offers live competitions and challenges for users.

New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty also said he was thankful he bought a Peloton bike in February when on a conference call with reporters this week.

According to Bloomberg, “smart bikes” such as Peloton and Echelon have surged in sales as a result of the pandemic. Echelon CEO Lou Lentine told the outlet sales are up “ten-fold,” and his company sold more bikes in the last three days than the company expected to do in a month.

Still, there are cheaper alternatives than a $2,500 bike. People in most areas can still (for now) go for walks or a run outdoors. Mr. McMillin said he tries to maintain his distance — 6 to 8 feet — when he goes for a walk these days.

A digital world

For the past five years, Caleb Marshall has become well-versed in the online stay-at-home fitness industry. With his popular Youtube channel “The Fitness Marshall,” Mr. Marshall created intricate dance routines set to popular songs — racking up 2.2 million subscribers in the process.

But over the past two weeks, with everyone encouraged to stay indoors, Mr. Marshall noticed something noteworthy happen to his viewership.

“I mean it’s pretty much doubled,” Mr. Marshall said, laughing.

YouTube has become a go-to for those seeking to stay fit. It helps there are so many options. Beyond dances such as Mr. Marshall’s, YouTubers offer videos ranging from yoga to pilates to exercises that can be done with nothing more than a towel.

According to a YouTube representative, views and uploads for U.S-based fitness videos reached a peak for this year on March 18.

Simeon Panda, a Los Angeles-based fitness personality whose channel draws 1.76 million subscribers, put together a playlist titled “Home Workouts” in wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr. Panda — yes, that’s his real last name — said that mix has generated most of his views recently.

“I can tell by the comments, not just the views, people are thanking me for having the content there for them to use,” Mr. Panda said. “It’s been amazing. What I’ve always wanted to do is make exercise accessible to everyone, regardless of whether they have gym access or whatever ability they were at.

“That’s the reason I was doing these home videos in the first place.”

Mr. Marshall also saw an uptick in views of older videos. Because of the surge, Mr. Marshall said his channel has also recently produced free 30-minute “sweat sessions” to give his new viewers more options. Most of Mr. Marshall’s videos are only three-to-four minutes long.

“It’s great that my views are up, but I have this moral obligation to help people through this time,” he said.

YouTube hasn’t just seen a surge in viewers. According to the platform, the new number of video uploads from March 10 to March 15 with “Workout At Home” in the title increased 57% compared to the average daily uploads in 2020.

Betsy Weissman is among those who have made the switch to the platform. The owner of Sculp’d, a fitness boutique in Alexandria, Ms. Weissman and her team recorded a series of at-home videos shortly after they temporarily shut down their shop due to the pandemic.

Her company is even going to start using Zoom to host live classes beginning April 1.

“Necessity is the mother of all invention, right?” Ms. Weissman said.

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.