I was fortunate enough to be able to take my business online in March. At the time people seemed to choose one of two self preservation pathways. The first was to close the doors and hunker down at home, the second was to try to keep some semblance of routine; this choice seeming mostly dependent on individual work or family commitments. Perhaps neither method was truly successful but the overriding message that came through was that we had a real obligation to look after ourselves and those around us.
Many of us talk about the importance of self care and I can vouch wholeheartedly at the truth of this, experienced both first hand and by the observation of my class members. For me, the weeks have been up and down and I know this would have been much harder to manage without the regular schedule of Pilates classes. Turning up 10 times a week with a big grin and focussing on other people has definitely been my crutch throughout all this. Teaching has helped smooth the fluctuations in my mood but these occasional ups and downs still reinforce the fact that contentment can’t be taken for granted at this time.
In the same vein, class members have consistently told me about the mental health benefits of attending class every week; “a little bit of normality in a very crazy world” was one person’s description. Maintaining the social contact has been the most important part of this so we make a point of using a “gallery” screen at the start and end of classes which allows us all to see each other. Starting classes 5 minutes early to catch up on the week’s news feels a little like “Facebook Plus” but in this track and trace world where you may be denied social contact with one phonecall it’s a welcome security blanket. The emotional support isn’t the only benefit we’ve experienced though. In ways I couldn’t have anticipated, the online classes have surpassed the physical.
The truth is that people act differently when I’m the only observer. My teaching method is to prerecord and then share the video while I watch the participants so that I can offer guidance in real time. It's from viewing so many people in their own homes that I've realised that the distance provided by the screen allows class members to relax in a way that doesn’t happen in a hall. People try things in their own homes that they would never do in public for fear of failure (or farting!). It’s easier to control the temperature from home and participants are comfortable taking off layers that they’d keep on in public. This allows my attendees to work a little harder or sweat a little more without embarrassment. Comfortable carpets and the pr
oximity of a shower make for an all round more pleasant experience than even the most luxurious hall can provide but that’s not all. For the sandwich generation, those people who find themselves simultaneously looking after both kids and parents, the lack of travel saves valuable time. Technology has given us the chance to, quite literally, zoom from one engagement to the next.
At the outset, this technology was my biggest fear. On the one hand, I worried that my digital skills wouldn’t pass muster, on the other I didn’t know if I could convince my participants to buy into online sessions. These fears were unfounded, thankfully. A local business support agency, GrowBiz, supplied everything I needed to connect myself and around 100 class members. We took one week off to organise ourselves and the following week we were all back to class. From a business perspective I was fearful that if it was this easy my attendees would simply follow other instructors on YouTube for free but one regular explained “videos are too easy to miss parts out or finish early. An online class means you are committed for that hour.” Another commented that during the class they “actually prefer knowing other people are there, too” – to share the pain perhaps! Not everyone relies on others to keep them going though and one of my greatest excitements is when I see someone improving from week to week because they’re using the videos between class times.
I’ve had a lucky lockdown and I’m grateful to be able to work and earn but life is still uncertain for us exercise professionals. Gyms are slowly opening up again amidst fears of infection rises; however I made the decision in the summer that we would stay online until we felt the threat of Covid could be better managed. I don’t believe we’re anywhere close to that yet.