Local Fitness Trainers Face COVID-19 by Staying Home and Going Online

Apr 8, 2020 at 6:01 am
TITLE Boxing Club trainer Rachel Kearns leads workouts on a livestream, instead of meeting clients face to face. - TRENTON ALMGREN-DAVIS
TITLE Boxing Club trainer Rachel Kearns leads workouts on a livestream, instead of meeting clients face to face.

When COVID-19 forced TITLE Boxing Club (14944 Manchester Rd., Ballwin) to close, owner Ken Cox knew going online with his classes was the only option. Yet, he decided not to charge for his class. For Cox, boxing was never about the money.

"I didn't go into the boxing industry to get rich," Cox says. "I've always said that 'I love this so much, I'd do it for free,' so I am."

Cox hosts an Instagram and Facebook live stream every night for his followers, leading the workouts with his co-owner and trainers. On March 23, St. Louis County’s stay-at-home order closed down operations for a wide swath of businesses considered “non-essential,” and that included gyms. That’s left people like Cox scrambling to figure out how to continue to connect to a customer base they can no longer see in person.

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Cox said his gym has no real means to generate revenue during the shutdown, so the live streams were the best option to keep members active. "It was the obvious choice," Cox says. "To the government, we're not a necessity, but to our guests we are. We have to keep our members engaged during this."

Cox brainstormed with his team in order to keep his staff employed during the shutdown. Federal loans are helping pay the staff, but they can only make that money last for so long. The owner also credits his landlord for allowing him to not pay rent while the club is shut down.

"As long as the doors are all back open by the end of May, we will be fine," Cox says. "After June 1, we'd have to re-look at that. So, unfortunately, the answer is time will tell."

The team came up with the live streams they would offer at no charge. Trainers like manager Sam Smith, Cox and his wife and co-owner Sarah Cox all have taken on the challenge of streaming their workouts to the members of the gym.

"We're going to keep fighting together; that's the only way through this," Smith says.

Normally, the rounds that Smith and Cox conduct would last three minutes each. In order to keep the live stream interesting, they switched up the routine. The streams offer a variety of workouts, each lasting 30 seconds with a 15-second rest in between rounds. The trainers alternate as the rounds go on, mixing up workouts and encouraging the watchers just as energetically as they would in person. At first, the process was not as seamless as it is now.

"We don't have a huge budget, no full camera crew or anything like that," Cox jokes. "So, everything is run off the few phones, in a single shot running for 30 minutes, so keeping that entertaining and creative was the challenge."

Within the live stream, the club practices shadow boxing, a way to test the viewers' imaginations since some may not have a full punching bag at home to practice on. Other exercises include regular workouts, such as bicycle crunches and jumping jacks. The boxing gym even works a bit of yoga into their exercises, as one trainer drops into a downward dog and then further into a pushup.

click to enlarge The team at Detox Yoga posed for a photo before social distancing went into place. - COURTESY APRIL ELLIOTT
The team at Detox Yoga posed for a photo before social distancing went into place.

Across the river in Wentzville, local yoga studio owner April Elliott has moved her classes online as well. Detox Yoga (1155 Wentzville Pkwy. #107-109, Wentzville) offers reduced-cost online yoga practices through Zoom, a video-conferencing app. She closed her studio on March 18, and her classes and trainers went completely virtual two days later.

"The idea of my clients losing their practice during this time was horrific," Elliott says. "I had to act fast. I fought really hard to push it out as fast as possible so that all the clients did not skip a beat with their practice. They need it now more than ever."

Elliott, like Cox, has had her own struggles moving her operation online. Trainers have had a hard time finding a quiet space, as have their students. With children knocking on doors or pets barging in, the fight to keep practice calm and relaxing has proven difficult.

"However, given the situation we are in, there is no other choice,” Elliott says. “I believe that after this pandemic is over and we are back at the studio we will all be better and stronger and definitely more thankful for our space. "

Many of her trainers have been able to compromise with their neighbors, friends and spouses to help control the noise level. The yogis have also noticed the higher volume of instruction that is possible with the online classes. With no physical limits due to the space of the studio, the teachers can reach more people and have larger class sizes.

Classes usually last for about an hour and range from gentle, restorative yoga to their "XFLO" classes which are more challenging. Elliott notes that yoga helps its practitioners control anxiety they may feel about the virus and helps relax minds.

"With keeping steady with your practice you are able to handle the fight-or-flight feeling that we are all dealing with," Elliott said. "If you are more at ease, you are able to comfort those that are not more effectively."

Both Cox and Elliott view their businesses as a way to serve their community in a time of need. Where most people have found themselves struggling to maintain a routine, Cox and Elliott hope to provide some structure to their clients' days.

"We just want to help people out as much as possible during this time," Cox says. "We're just trying to keep people motivated to stay on their current fitness journey."

TITLE Boxing Club goes live Monday through Friday at 6:30 p.m on its Facebook and Instagram pages. No signup or payment is required.

Detox Yoga offers their classes seven days a week, and you can sign up through Mindbody. The cost of virtual classes is $8 per class — or there is an offer for $30 for 30 days of unlimited classes.
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