Since 2020 brought group fitness and personal training online, we asked 6 local trainers what it is like to teach virtually, what they like and do not like about the new format, and if they will continue to teach online even as things start to reopen.
How do you prepare for class?
Tarah Timothee, co-owner and trainer at Revolve Fitness: "[Now] there's a live class taking place at the same time. [Before] the online experience was a bit more intense since the entire audience was virtual. We experimented with various platforms from FaceTime to Zoom and settled on Google Meet because of the sound quality.
Rilde Leon, trainer at Equinox and Echelon: "Preparing for a virtual class is really not so different than preparing for a physical, in-person class. Honestly, the biggest change may be in how much more exercise I actually do myself. Because the energy of the room is much more reliant on the instructor, rather than the room full of people, I've definitely stepped up my game in terms of my own workout intensity. It's also much harder to motivate a group that you can't see or interact with the way you would in person. Preparing classes and playlists that I am really passionate about coaching through has been a big help."
What do you like about it?
Cadizsh Norford, trainer and founder of Mind Muscle Motivation: "I like virtual training versus in-person training because it provides more convenience as far as location and time. It also allows me to showcase, share my experience, and assist those on a national/international level."
Nicole Hoskens, solidcore coach and personal trainer: "I started sharing workouts because I saw people's mood take a hit and there was minimal human connection during quarantine. By posting free, 30 minute workouts, I'm able to help improve people's mood, find creative ways to challenge people physically, and create a small virtual community. These classes have been my silver lining in 2020. I'm able to reach more people than I would in a studio and it has been so much fun to connect with strangers and people I haven't spoken to in a while."
What do you not like about it?
Rick Chavez, kettlebell specialist, and trainer at Anatomy: "I don't like that we all aren't together in the same place doing the class. The energy that comes from being in a room full of people, all moving together while the music blasts, hearts pumping, sweat dripping - I miss that."
Jessica Marcarelli, Miami yoga, and barre instructor: "One of the biggest challenges is the overwhelming options! It's hard to find a platform that is both profitable for the teacher and easily accessible for your students. There are so many class options out there, many of which are free, it's a lot of competition, and people have different preferences. Teaching virtually also loses the hands-on individual attention that you get from an in-person experience and that's one thing I miss the most. I think it's hard for students to get the most out of a class without the teacher able to offer corrections, modifications, and most importantly, hold students accountable to the work which could in turn impact their results."
What is your most valuable tool for online classes?
Aryan Rashed, Owner and CEO of TREMBLE: "The ring light is the best thing!"
Timothee: "[We use a] tripod, phone, portable speaker propped up on yoga blocks, and a Bluetooth microphone."
Hoskens: "Before last week I would have said my ring light tripod, which is very helpful. But my new favorite tool which I recommend to everyone using an iPhone to record is the Xenvo Pro Lens Kit. Prior to their new wide lens, I had to turn my camera horizontally when I was on the mat, and vertically when I was jumping. Now with the widescreen lens, I'm able to keep my phone recording horizontally which creates a more cohesive visual for participants."
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How has it changed how you teach?
Chavez: "In most cases when teaching virtually, you can't see what the people taking class are doing and if they are doing it correctly. It's changed the way I teach by forcing me to get better with my verbal instruction and visual cues."
Leon: "The way I teach has definitely changed with the shift to virtual coaching. I've had to learn how to provide an even more engaging experience because naturally many of us struggle more to self-motivate on our own than we do in a physical group setting. The classes themselves also need to be more inclusive in a sense particularly with respect to movement options and terminology. In-person, it's easy to help each person adjust and modify moves as needed. But virtually, you have to assume everyone out there needs a unique type of assistance and ensure your programming is inclusive of every fitness level. So the biggest challenge has been making sure that everyone gets the same personalized feel even without knowing who's watching or how they're performing. But it's certainly made me a better instructor in the process."
Will you keep doing it?
Norford: "Yes I will continue to provide virtual training and classes even once things become more 'normal' because ever since taking things virtually, the opportunities have been endless and feedback has been amazing! Going virtually allows you to go past where you currently reside and build a community that's infinite which is really inspiring."
Marcarelli: "I will keep doing it! I love that I've been able to reconnect with old students and grow our community across the country and even internationally. At the end of the day, I want to provide my students with options outside of the classroom because even when things reopen we know that life gets in the way. One thing I've taken away from this experience is how resilient we are and with health top of mind I want to offer ways for people to stay healthy no matter what - no excuses!"
Rashed: "Yes, I am continuing to do this for our adaptive fitness program for people with disabilities. This is an amazing way for people living with paralysis to be able to workout without having to get over to a gym, particularly during a time where people with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable."