Article by Lorraine Young (Senior Tutor Edinburgh)

Many of us developed our digital skills with force during the pandemic, what are we doing now?


Fitness professionals have been one of the most responsive industries during the pandemic. Instructors desire to continue to look after the health of their clients has meant that they have adapted well due to having no choice as all the fitness studios and gyms shut down. We, are a creative bunch, so instructors flipped their businesses to online zoom classes in all modes of exercise including Pilates, Yoga, HIIT and much more , outdoor exercise classes, outdoor Yoga and Pilates as well as outdoor bootcamps.  For many instructors this was a challenge that they rose too whilst competing with online offerings such as Peloton, Les Mills, Apple and many more more expensive offerings. The response from clients has been positive and many instructors found themselves teaching new people who could suddenly access their classes, to clients attending from all parts of the country and world. Clients attending their classes in their pyjamas with pets, family and children. The world opened up a new area of work for all of us with the potential to increase our offering and business income.  There has been a huge uptake in online programmes. Some people say the online classes will fade away but at the moment there is still a  big up take with more and more fitness companies adding it to their offering. As an example Les Mills increased their online participation by 900% since the beginning of the year. Is it here to stay or have we now all gone back to face to face teaching?

Face to face classes returned on the 17th May much to the delight of all of us. We are all so pleased to see the faces of our class members live and to be able to share their joy in the room. But are we back to normal class numbers on face to face? Or are we still online? For some the classes are getting back to normal numbers. For others it has been a tough comeback with class numbers only being at around 30% of their original class numbers. Some of this is due to maintaining social distance and good Covid procedures, some because we came back at the start of the summer when people were quite happy to continue their lockdown practices outdoors and of course the school holidays. For some the convenience of online and on demand classes converted them to this more convenient way of exercising. People report liking the flexibility of on- line, 45 minutes at lunch time, no travel, no extra expense. Lots still working from home so a break to do a class is great for their posture and mental health. Some clients like exercising in the comfort of their own home which you know is clean  and safe which is now a big concern for the public.  We as instructors have to fit in with the new way of life for many.  In realism we now have a mix of modes of exercise available to us. Some fitness instructors keeping their zoom classes and mixing it with face to face.

Out-door workouts in parks with space and fresh air remain strong and are on the way up. Many instructors have built their own outdoor spaces to continue to work and have remained outdoors even though  Two years ago,  I would drive past my local park and see 6/8 people working out with a trainer fast forward too today and there is now 20/30  working out together.   This ticks the box for those that want to work -out with people but still feel safe in the fresh air and can socially distance.  

Home fitness is here to stay.

The barriers that were there before are coming down for the members of the public that might never have gone to a gym or a class, they feel more relaxed and can gain more confidence using the online and outdoor offering and after time may venture to their local gym and that’s a good result for all of us. In realism many of us now work in a mix of these worlds. Keeping some of our online offering or outdoors, returning to some of our classes indoors and for some teaching face to face classes and zoom in the same session so remote people can join your face to face class. Talk about pressure!

What do we feel about the challenges that as instructors we have faced and are still facing?

We have been let down by the industry in may ways at the start of the pandemic. For many, their work just stopped without any support, care or information. We have bounced back without any help or assistance in many cases. We have worked every hour there is to deliver. We have taken ourselves out of our comfort zones. We have placed ourselves in front of cameras when we aren’t necessarily that comfortable doing so. We have invested financially in new equipment, new buildings in our gardens for some. We have evicted families from rooms and taken them over as studios. We have launched totally new business’s with all the stress that goes with it and we have returned to some of our normal classes and busy timetables on top. What we need to do now in these winter months is look after our own mental health as well as our physical health. 

Looking after your mental Health

People have struggled during the pandemic with their mental health, not seeing family and friends and feeling isolated have resulted in more depression and anxiety. During lockdown lots of clients took to the streets , parks, &  woods to walk , meeting up with friends to walk helped us feel better and attending your on- line workouts kept you clients sane. Did you also take time out to do these things for yourself? We recommend it 

As teachers we are very aware of our clients mental health after coping with lockdown. We have been providing for our clients throughout and more are looking to holistic classes to compliment their physical activities. Mind and Body classes like Pilates and Yoga continue to grow with Yoga being the most popular online class throughout the pandemic. As instructors we need to take time to do a class once or twice a week ourselves for our own mind and body. Find another instructor who you really like and join in one or two of their classes either online or face to face. We know it is a bit of a busman’s holiday but it is so important that we gain the same benefits we offer our clients in a class where you can switch your mind off work, life and any challenges you may have and just be in the present and concentrate on your inner self and need. Exercise reduces stress and anxiety and kicks depressions butt;   it releases these feel-good endorphins making you feel better and more positive. WE know we have to exercise for our health and to feel good about but we tend to just use teaching as our exercise! Check in with other instructors knowing someone cares as it takes their mind of their worries. We would be really happy to check in with all of you so even if you just want to mull life over we are always here for you.

Doing something positive to manage your mental health is healthy. Exercise is not a short term fix it needs consistency to get the benefits. People also need encouragement to exercise so invite each other to your classes as well as inviting clients. People need people!