Fitness classes have routinely united Bostonians in exercise, experience and the thrill of completing a common goal. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, Boston fitness studios are embracing new opportunities to connect with their members despite the distance.
Following Gov. Charlie Baker’s order that all non-essential businesses halt in-person operations until April 7, the fitness business has been exploring creative ways of remote teaching, in which people can practice pilates, yoga and even cardio at home.
Elise Caira, the owner and instructor of Sweat Fixx, a fitness studio specializing in full body rowing and sculpting workouts in Massachusetts, said they launched live streams of classes the day after they closed. While customers cannot visit their locations — one of which is in South Boston — she said online classes have united the community in a time where “sticking with the routine” is crucial.
“People love to be able to still connect with our instructors in the community, and through our live-streaming, they’re able to see everybody work hard [and] sweat together,” Caira said. “I feel like it’s made our community even tighter than it was before.”
While there was a learning curve for people to learn how to sign up and access the classes, Caira said the community has been very responsive. She said the company also launched “Sweat Fixx Stream 360,” where a variety of pre-recorded classes can be streamed anytime.
“We’re finding this little niche that we never knew about that works well,” Caira said. “People from all other states have been connecting with us now and taking our classes. So [online classes are] something that we’re definitely going to explore in the future.”
Despite the challenges of the coronavirus, Caira said she thinks this experience has made her team stronger.
“We’ve had a lot of good luck with our studios and I feel like this is good because it humbles you, and it makes you appreciate what you have,” Caira said. “It brings your team together closer so that they can be resilient and work through the hurdles.”
Down Under School of Yoga
Down Under School of Yoga is offering over 20 live-streamed classes a day at a variety of times throughout the day and evening, with one location near campus in Brookline.
Sami Lea Konczewski, the director of marketing, brand and strategic planning and instructor at Down Under, said the flexibility of online classes allows more people to join than normal classroom sizes allow, including participants from countries around the world.
“The first day that we had live streaming, we had over 900 people come to the classes,” Konczewski said. “We’ve seen an influx of not only local students but people from all over the world. We’ve had people from Brazil and Japan and Canada and India, from all over.”
Although the pandemic has created a challenge for Down Under as a small business, Konczewski said it has allowed her to realize the strength of their community and to evolve.
“We definitely are feeling the financial anxiety,” Konczewski said, “but we’ve also been able to realize that our community is really strong and really supportive.”
Konczewski said she has seen yoga become a haven for people in this difficult time.
“We’ve been able to see the need for yoga at a time like this,” Konczewski said. “We have been able to be a support system and a conduit for the removal of fear for people.”
Upward Spiral Studio
Cambridge-based Upward Spiral Studio is offering between four and seven group classes online each day, as well as private classes through Zoom in pilates, Gyrokinesis and conditioning, according to the website.
Paula Spina, one of three co-owners of the studio, said that it is important to offer those because exercise can allow people to take care of themselves.
“The clients of ours have an opportunity now to continue taking care of themselves by working out and taking time for themselves,” Spina said. “They’re getting their self care, they’re getting their exercise, they’re getting their socialization, they’re getting their sense of community.”
Martha Mason, another co-owner at Upward Spiral, said the studio hopes to add classes that will help people cope with the crisis.
“We’re thinking of offering some classes that would give people coping skills, or how to access your inner creativity,” Mason said. “We’ll either make those free or inexpensive because more than ever, everybody needs something for their mind and spirit, and we want to honor that.”
Upward Spiral hopes to continue online classes after the pandemic, Spina said, because of the positive responses they have received. She said she has loved online classes because of the opportunity to meet people’s pets and husbands and connect in a deeper way.
“It’s a new kind of intimacy, if you will,” Spina said. “You have to let barriers down in a weird way to let it happen. And then when everyone’s doing it, it’s bringing us more sense of community.”