When people are quarantined at home, Joey Stewart, the owner of Fit Body Bootcamp in Athens, Ga., says, it is easy for them to lose the motivation to exercise. 

The challenges that fitness instructors and studio owners in Athens are facing from taking their businesses online due to the COVID-19 quarantine are difficult, but many are realizing there is a silver lining.

Many instructors and businesses in Georgia only had one or two weeks to prepare to close shop. They had to switch to online platforms for their services extremely fast in an effort to keep the profits they were making and the clients they had before the quarantine. Through this transition, some unexpected positives have surfaced for people working in the fitness industry. 

Stewart’s team uploaded three weeks worth of workout videos in just three days, he says, and later added weekly videos of nutrition and mindset advice as well for their members. Although Stewart feels the financial responsibility to make sure his team keeps getting paid, he has taken this “sour lemon and turned it into lemonade,” so to speak. 

“We started selling the online Fit Body platform for anybody to get into, and then we’re taking that money and buying gift cards for local businesses,” Stewart says. They have weekly giveaways for the cards for members who complete challenges, giving incentives for their clients to stay active while giving back to the community. 

For instructors, the sense of community and escape from everyday life that their in-person classes provide, which has been taken away, is one of the hardest obstacles they are facing.

Jeanne Heaton is a yoga teacher at Fuel Hot Yoga in Athens, Georgia. The process of closing down the studio and becoming an all virtual business has been tedious for Fuel and the transition is not aligned with the studios’ morals. 

Online classes go against everything that our mission is, which is connection,” Heaton says. “Come into a yoga studio, get on your mat, do yoga with other people and get out of your comfort zone.”

However, uploading yoga classes to online platforms to help keep Fuel’s members active has brought about a new sense of community that they haven’t experienced before. For people who want to try yoga, but are too self-conscious to come to a class at the studio, Heaton says, the online yoga experience is amazing for them.

“Women who have been trying to get their husbands to do yoga with them for 15 years are now doing yoga as a family,” she says.

Fuel now has over 67 yoga classes on their private membership site on Vimeo, Heaton notes.

Catherine Shinholser is an elementary school teacher and a part-time Bootcamp instructor at the YMCA in Athens. She has been posting free workout videos on her YouTube channel for anyone to access during the shutdown to keep her fitness community moving. Not to mention, she has a one and a half-year-old baby at home, a baby on the way, and is a type one Diabetic, which she explains to remind people there really is no excuse to not exercise during this quarantine.

Shinholser’s YouTube channel has enabled her local Athens fitness community to grow in new ways. People who wanted to take her class but could never make the time frame that she taught in are now able to participate, and her videos currently track participants from 12 states.

A tip for staying active while quarantined is to send fitness friends “sweaty selfies” back and forth, to keep each other accountable and make working out a bit more fun, Shinholser says.

Simran Sethi is a junior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.



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