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(Photo Courtesy: Caitlin Walker)

Virtual Fitness: How local trainers are adapting to changing times

In the age of social distancing and staying home, fitness has gone virtual. The Six, Studio3 and TruFusion are among a growing number of local studios offering live-streamed workouts. Owners and instructors are adapting to ensure their clients can still get their sweat on.

"If you're someone who loves to workout and you miss your workout, you know how you feel," said Caitlin Walker, owner of Barre3 Bellingham. "So, I quickly had to learn how to transfer from an in-studio experience to an online experience."

Walker's studio now offers 10 live classes a week, along with the option to take a class on-demand. Though she admits it's different teaching through a camera, Walker hasn't lost that personal relationship with her members.

"For me, the benefits of this have been being able to connect with more people, and it feels one-on-one, through email and in the time after Zoom classes where we're able to chit chat about how everyone is doing. And also going above and beyond when I can," she said.

Going above and beyond means donating the studio's equipment to clients for at-home workouts. Walker also enlisted the help of her family for a special art project.

"My mom, who has beautiful handwriting, wrote each member's name on a heart. Then my son, who is 13, installed them around the studio windows," Walker said. "I've had moms drive by and even look with their children to find their names. It's just something for me that felt like another way to show them I care and recognize how thankful I am for everyone who is sticking with me."

For now, Walker plans to continue live streaming classes, while stocking up on cleaning supplies to prepare for the day her studio can safely re-open. But, she's got some big plans for the future, including a new, bigger Barre3 studio and an innovative new spin studio concept.

"Change is hard, but change is good," she said. It's good for us to revisit everything we've been doing and see where we can improve, where we can be better and move forward."

For Seattle-based personal trainer Chris Denina, change means transforming his living room into a virtual training center.

"I'm treating it as I'm in a totally different world, and this is what it is now. I have no gym. This is my gym, and my clients are going to be on the other side [of a screen]," said Denina. "It's forcing me to be more creative in what I offer."

Denina works with everyone from kids to pro athletes to, well, me. One of his specialties is boxing training. It's usually a close contact workout, but now Denina is bringing the ring to his clients through a screen.

"I asked a lot of my boxing clients, 'Do you have a way to HDMI me into your TV?' and I literally hold my mitts and have them do combinations," said Denina. "I'm still there. I'm still in front of their face. They get just as good of a workout as if we were hitting mitts, going one-on-one [in-person], but we're still keeping our distance behind these screens."

The home workouts are certainly important to maintain physical health, but Denina has found they are actually more important for his clients' mental health — especially those who have been quarantined at home alone.

"They're dealing with some things because all they can do is sit at home alone and think. So I allow them to talk about it," said Denina. "I always say when you utilize exercise to help you mentally, you're using exercise the right way. You want to utilize exercise to mentally help keep you sane through this crazy time and try to get your brain to focus on something else. [If my clients are doing that] then they're using it the right way."