Driven Performance Fitness instructor Katie Diaz leads participants through a zumba class. (Photo submitted)

Vancouver Island’s fit folks won’t let social distancing keep them from their workouts

Fitness, wellness, recreation businesses cope with closures

Self-isolation might mean extra time on the couch for some, but a lot of Vancouver Islanders will still find a way to get their workouts in.

Sports and fitness gyms and health and wellness centres, like most other businesses, are closed down as a COVID-19 precaution in a time of social distancing.

Driven Performance Fitness shut down its Nanaimo Bowen Road location on March 19, but classes and consultations are continuing as scheduled through different online platforms, said Karri Perry, a fitness instructor at Driven.

“We’ve been doing live calls with them through Facebook and talking face-to-face about goal setting, seeing what their goals are and then setting them up with a meal plan or a macro plan or whatever they need, based on their goals, to stay on track,” she said.

Some classes are webcast for the students to see and follow along at home, but others have involved every student dialling in for the workout. Perry said multiple instructors can follow along and guide people through the workouts whether they have, for example, dumbbells at home or need to do body-weight exercises.

“We make everyone take a selfie … just as proof, as part of their accountability, they have to take a picture, send it in,” Perry said. “It’s actually hilarious. It’s really fun.”

Abe Avender, owner of Nanaimo’s Island Optimal Health and Performance, led a conference call with 24 of his health practitioners March 16 and they agreed shutting down was the right move. Avender said halting services such as physiotherapy will slow some clients’ recoveries.

“Pain is one thing, but illnesses that can kill someone is a different animal,” he said.

Avender said Island Optimal, at its Dufferin Crescent gym, posts three daily suggested workouts with different intensities, and said he plans to re-establish that in some form depending how long COVID-19 closures continue.

“We’ll do as much as we can that way to keep people moving and keep you active,” he said.

Modo Yoga classes, he said, have moved online, with 60-, 75- and 90-minute classes guided by qualified instructors, and said the yoga community has embraced the change.

OPINION: COVID-19 doesn’t play by the rules of the game

Prime Sport Performance and Therapy closed its Island Diesel Way facility on Friday, March 20. Clayton Smith, owner of Prime, said staff had come together before then to discuss ideas to help clients keep up with their fitness.

“It’s going to cause us to be creative, but that’s what us as performance coaches have to do anyways. There’s always interruptions, always injuries that we have to work around, so this is just another obstacle and hurdle that we have to be creative to work around,” Smith said.

Prime has put together a program for five weeks, four sessions per week, that people can do at home without any equipment, Smith said. It’s being offered free to members, and he said he’ll share it with any other community members in exchange for a $20 donation to Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank.

Robert Biernacki, instructor at Island Top Team Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA, also has online instruction videos that he’s sharing with clients and also with partner clubs.

His McCullough Road facility was among the first clubs to close on March 14, and since then, Biernacki has been suggesting applying “social pressure” on other fitness businesses to follow suit.

“There’s no chance anymore of the best-case scenario, but we can definitely avoid the worst-case scenario,” he said.

Biernacki said there are all kinds of fitness possibilities in the interim, from running stairs to signing up for online yoga. Smith suggested going for a run or a bike ride. Perry added that it’s important to try to plan time for workouts and follow through. Avender said people can maintain social distancing while still stressing their bodies “in a cool way” through bodyweight training in their backyard and other exercise.

“Those people that are fully healthy and there’s nothing in a viral sense bugging them, please stay active,” Avender said. “To just hunker down in your basement and not do anything, you’re going to come out of this a lot worse off than you were going into it.”

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