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Fitness centers shift their focus online to support clients

by KELLI KENNEDY The Associated Press | March 30, 2020 at 2:49 a.m. | Updated March 30, 2020 at 2:50 a.m.
Cleaning products line the wall as Mariam Sufi, left, Lara Atella, second from left, and Lashone Wilson, right, hold an online yoga class via webcam at Hot Yoga Capitol Hill on H Street in Northeast Washington, March 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Fitness enthusiasts are thinking outside the gym during the coronavirus pandemic. Gyms, yoga studios and CrossFit centers around the country are fueling the drive to stay active by offering online classes, some free of charge, or extending trial periods for at-home workouts.

The Coalition of Health and Fitness Leaders, a group of fitness, nutrition and wellness industry representatives recently formed in response to the new coronavirus, got together March 19 to discuss best practices for instructors.

Homebound gym rats are turning to online classes, grabbing bleach bottles as makeshift weights or taking cues from YouTube challenges showing how to do crunches with furniture or turn a kitchen floor into a treadmill by soaping up the tiling.

LA Fitness, Planet Fitness, Equinox and Life Time Fitness have all said they're closing outlets for several weeks or indefinitely in response to the coronavirus. 24 Hour Fitness created an app for members to download ( so they can workout at home.

Planet Fitness started "Home Work-Ins," a series of free, 20-minute classes that don't require equipment. Erica Lugo, a trainer on the reality TV show The Biggest Loser, was scheduled to lead one of the workouts.[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage »]

National chain CorePower Yoga closed its 200 studios but is offering online classes free until May 31. Taryn Toomey closed her New York studios but is offering two weeks of free streaming as a public service, which she said has drawn participants from around the globe.

"Lebanon, Germany, Spain, Italy. It's overwhelming," Toomey said.

Fitness operations whose core business has always been online or home-based are also stepping up their game, using the opportunity to capture new clients. AloMoves, an online fitness service linked to the popular apparel line, has seen a 40% increase on its YouTube channel, where it is offering some free workouts.

The at-home workout company obè has had 10 times the number of sign-ups this month compared with last, according to co-founders Mark Mullett and Ashley Mills. They said the company also has received tons of requests from desperate parents now that schools are being canceled. Last week, obè debuted four 10-minute dance and strength workouts for children 10 and under.

Peloton, a company that sells high-end stationary bicycles and treadmills featuring instructors who give live and videotaped classes, has extended its free trial period to 90 days.

In addition to taking online courses, gym rats might now consider getting outdoors to exercise if they can, said Dr. Joe Khabbaza, a pulmonologist at Cleveland Clinic.

"Simply walk outside in nature," Khabbaza said. "People can use this as an opportunity to exercise in other ways."

Toomey encourages those filled with fear over the virus to use exercise as a physical and spiritual balm. One of the best ways to fight the stagnation of home confinement, she says, is to "continue to breathe and keep moving and use the medicine of that."

Style on 03/30/2020

Print Headline: Period of adjustment for fitness centers


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