For the brick-and-mortar fitness industry, the indefinite closing of gyms and studios with the advent of the coronavirus left a big question mark hanging over what comes next. As days of curfew became weeks and then months, Sri Lankans settled into their new routines, staying connected in fun new ways and keeping active as best as they can. Although we might feel like spending our free time languorously, the WHO has stressed on the importance of staying active and recommends at least 75 – 150 minutes of physical activity per week for good mental and physical balance.
And while we are hunkering down at home, online fitness is thriving. Catering to regular gym addicts and first timers who finally found the time and motivation to get fit – it has never been easier to stay active. From workout apps to Instagram live sessions to training with local instructors, the online world offers a cornucopia of virtual workout options – many of which are free or discounted. We spoke to a few fitness professionals and enthusiasts about why the virtual workout is here to stay.
At times like these, a healthy mind and body is everything
“Curfew easily distracts and demotivates. Being stuck at home with very little physical activity can be daunting and it’s at times like these that we should be more active than ever” says Yohan, the head coach at FHIIT, a studio focusing on functional high intensity interval training.
FHIIT had its last gym session on 15th March and started online classes just a day after. “Our team brainstormed on how we can continue the same consistency and momentum – our clients come in daily without an excuse and we didn’t want to lose that progress. We first released a video with a pre-recorded workout schedule and all our clients had to send in proof that they did it. By the end of March, we started our live training sessions on Zoom.”
Yohan and his team had to get creative and alternate their usual gym equipment like ropes, bikes, hammer and tyres to everyday objects clients had lying around at home. The online platform has allowed them to reach more clients both locally and internationally. “Our clients actually look forward to the sessions and some even join us for more than 2 sessions a day. We even have clients who get their families involved! Being able to work out and get training online was something that kept people grounded and sane and presented a challenge in what was a period of hiatus for everyone.”
It’s the most convenient way to workout
Fitness husband and wife duo Tarja de Silva and Alberto Ruiz also started their online workouts almost immediately after curfew was declared. Tarja, a dance fit instructor and Alberto, a personal trainer, initially started out with pre-recorded videos and Instagram lives and later established a daily workout offering a range of different techniques including Tabata, Dancefit, Legs and Core, HIIT, EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute) and AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible).
“Online fitness is the new norm and people are more open to it. Isn’t it a lot more convenient to work out at home?” she asks, “the difficulty of having to travel back and forth to a gym or a studio is no longer a valid excuse because now the option to have the same blood pumping workout is available at the comfort of your very own home.”
Of course, online fitness is far from being the perfect solution and has its very own snags to overcome. “We still face a few technical problems like poor data or poor audio and video and space is always an issue. But we thrive on the feedback, the encouragement and the support our clients and friends give us. It keeps us going and makes us think of more creative ways to plan a workout.”
It’s also super accessible and fun
“People have fun working out at home. People like working out in their own personalised place and nothing is more comfortable than your own home” says Dharshan, one of Sri Lanka’s most prominent U.S Certified Zumba instructors. Dharshan does 12 classes on average a week and took all of them online six days into curfew with the knowledge that the stay-at-home order may be here for a while. Zumba is said to be the easiest (and the most fun) way to lose body weight and is a fairly popular workout here in Sri Lanka. Dharshan has almost a hundred students in his Zumba class and offers other fitness sessions such as Boxfit, Tone 360, Ab 360 and Pump 360 to focus on toning muscles, strengthening the core and increasing endurance and strength.
During the past two months, Dharshan has offered multiple free online classes and as a result, accumulated clients from all over the island. “Online classes have allowed us to be more accessible. People from Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Galle, Kandy and Trincomalee have joined my classes during these times and I love that this has allowed my classes to be available to anyone in the country. I’m excited to have my clients back once gyms and studios are open again but I know I will continue my online classes because I have a lot of people outside of Colombo who enjoy them.”
This is the New Normal – we must adapt
For fitness enthusiast Jaish, hitting the gym getting in a workout was a part of her daily routine. When gyms closed and curfew came into place, Jaish didn’t let it disrupt her routine. “I love working out! Exercising is one of my priorities and since the gyms closed down due to lockdown, I knew I had to plan out my fitness routine so I started to work out at home from day one itself.”
Planning out an hour-long CrossFit High Intensity workout with core and weights, Jaish extended the routine to her friends – an offer that was taken up immediately. “We’ve been working out virtually together for the past two months and it's going strong! We all downloaded Zoom and agreed to workout five times a week at 5.30 pm so after a while – it became a fixed session in everyone's schedule.” Jaish is curating her own workouts, opting to come up with something new and fun everyday to keep it exciting and invigorating. “The exercise we do is very high intense and can be exhausting but I pushed and motivated my friends to join me everyday and keep active. Most of my friends are extremely grateful that I started this and encouraged them to be a part of it because now they all feel fit."
“Online classes have allowed us to be more accessible. People from Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Galle, Kandy and Trincomalee have joined my classes during these times and I love that this has allowed my classes to be available to anyone in the country. I’m excited to have my clients back once gyms and studios are open again but I know I will continue my online classes..."