The gym and studio closures brought by the COVID-19 pandemic have forced many people to be creative in order to achieve their exercise goals while maintaining social distancing.
Thankfully for those who rely on personal trainers and group fitness as part of their mental and physical health routines, the course instructors at York University’s Tait McKenzie athletics and recreations centre have been helping their clients bring the gym experience home by offering free virtual MUV classes via Zoom every day.
The typically hour-long classes feature strength, cardio, mobility and other forms of exercise, and are designed for all experience levels, making it easy for members of the York community to join. A list of classes along with descriptions can be found on the MUV webpage, at yorkulions.ca.
Participants can access each class by using its dedicated Zoom Meeting ID, listed on the class schedule.
While the virtual exercise experiment has been a positive experience for many people adapting to a new routine, it has also provided a valuable experiential learning opportunity for the trainers leading the courses, most of whom are past or current York University students.
Alexandria Magee, who recently completed an undergraduate psychology degree at York, has found teaching online Power Yoga and Zumba lessons to be an especially informative experience in her development as a trainer.
“I have learned a great deal through this process and am continuing to learn as I go,” Magee said, recognizing the importance of clarity of language in explaining movements, poses and sequences. “Online it can be challenging to follow or mirror what is happening on the screen. I understand now how crucial it is for an instructor to be ready for anything and be able to adapt to the circumstances.”
“Things can be unpredictable, things may not go a certain way, but it is important to be flexible and go with the flow and try to remain composed and deal with whatever comes up in a professional and positive manner,” she continued.
While she finds it difficult not to be able to see and engage with participants in person, she said she looks forward to their energy and enthusiasm.
“Before each class, I get very nervous being in front of the camera, live from my living room,” Magee explained, “but what continues to motivate me is the idea of being together with members and continuing to move and flow, creating a new environment, one where we can all work together from home.
Vesna Galenic a former York kinesiology and athletic therapy student who instructs Glute & Core, Full Body Mobility and Full Body Strength courses, believes many participants, especially first-timers, are finding a new sense of comfort while working out in their own spaces, rather than facing the anxieties some associate with gyms and group workouts.
Galenic is taking advantage of the benefits as well. “I’m really enjoying getting creative with using household items as fitness equipment,” she said.
She notes, however, that home fitness comes with its own unique challenges. “I’m trying to use my indoor voice instead of my coaching voice while instructing via Zoom to avoid disturbing my neighbors.”
Arvin Mir, another York kinesiology student, is also learning a lot about resourcefulness and how easy it is to exercise at home.
Mir, who teaches Full Body Strength, Strength Calisthenics and Strength Bootcamp courses, is also thankful for the feedback of his participants and for the relationships he’s been able to forge with the people who join his classes. For trainers and participants alike, virtual exercise has been a source of togetherness during a time of isolation. Patrick Wallace, a York social work graduate who teaches Muay Thai, echoed Mir’s sentiments.
Whether virtual exercise becomes a permanent fixture of the fitness industry as gyms and recreations centres reopen remains to be seen. The experiment at York University, however, has already proven to be successful at both retaining participants and attracting new enthusiasts.
Steven Aichele, a fourth-year kinesiology student who has been part of the personal trainer program at Tait McKenzie for two years, teaches the Cramped HIIT and Full Body Cardio courses. With a reputation for teaching some of the most challenging MUV courses available, he would typically have 12 to 18 people in his in-person classes. His online classes have regularly seen up to 25 participants.
Aichele has noticed the same people attending his classes, week after week, creating a small community in which everyone has the same goals of staying active.
“It’s motivating to know that people are taking advantage of the online classes,” Aichele said. “With more and more people joining weekly, the word is getting around that these classes are fun, accessible and inclusive.”