Back in Shape

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Clients return to their pre-pandemic workout routines as gyms and fitness studios reopen

By Morgan Cartier Weston | Photography by Cornell Watson

Clients Return to Their Pre-Pandemic Workout Routines
“Seeing and dancing with my friends online helps me to keep home and joy during these trying times,” says Maria Howard, a Joy of Movement board volunteer who also teaches inclusive joyful dance.

‘Finding a Safe Balance’

Joy of Movement is located in Chatham Mills near downtown Pittsboro and offers a range of yoga, dance and meditation classes for all ages. “Dancing and moving my body has kept me feeling young and keeping the joy during these challenging times,” says Maria Howard, a JOM board volunteer who also teaches inclusive joyful dance. “The connection and companionship I find at Joy of Movement has supported me during COVID-19 especially.” Maria participates in non-impact aerobics online two times a week with instructor Kate Finlayson and also pops into Glenna Batson’s “Sacred Traditions” online movement class. “Being with my Joy of Movement community during COVID-19 has been essential for me to stay grounded, stay balanced and maintain my wellness,” Maria adds. 

“Everyone teaching at the studio takes all the COVID-19 protocols very seriously, and we adhere to a strict cleaning practice and wear masks at all times,” says Christine Chase, a longtime instructor at Joy of Movement. She specializes in using yoga to work with clients through addiction and trauma recovery. “Although it is a challenge to practice yoga with a mask on, we are adjusting and learning,” she says. 

Sandy Stewart teaches a Zen group called Joy of Stillness. “Although the studio was closed from March through May, the restrictions on attendance have been helpful in a way,” Sandy says. “One of our groups set up Zoom meetings, and, starting in June, Joy of Movement allowed teachers to use the studio with one tech person to set up and run the online broadcast. The benefit is that practitioners around the country are able to join.”

“My main focus over the past six months has been continued communication with our community,” says Studio Manager Shelley Buisson. “Finding a safe balance between getting out and being in community, exercising and staying healthy, and minimizing the risk of COVID-19 infection, is not an easy one to maintain. I think we have found the best possible compromise, allowing those teachers who are willing to teach in-person classes to do so, yet keeping the risk of infection low.”

Clients return to their pre-pandemic workout routines
Ruth Parks prefers group classes (like this socially distanced class outdoors) while her husband, Jimmy Parks, likes to work out alone. The Duke Center for Living meets both their needs.

‘These Classes Have Saved Me’

Membership to the Duke Center for Living at Fearrington is included for all residents of the Galloway Ridge retirement community and, though anyone can join, facility staff wanted to take extra precautions to ensure the health of its senior members. It reopened on July 6, and members must now reserve a time slot online to work out inside the center or use the pool. Staff uses the time between these appointments to clean equipment and touchpoints carefully before the next group enters. 

Virtual classes are also available for yoga, Zumba, strength training and individual training sessions. “I love being in the water, but since COVID-19 and the shutdown, I have done a lot of Zoom classes,” says Linda Baggish, who participated in aqua exercise classes five days a week prior to the pandemic. 

“These are classes I would never have done in the gym, but in the privacy of my home, I do them and really enjoy them. I’ve told people that these classes have saved me,” Linda says. 

Member Services Manager Stephanie Winegar says many members are enthusiastic about returning to the center. “We’ve received some wonderful emails from members [saying] that they feel very safe and cared for,” Stephanie says. Jimmy Parks and Ruth Parks, who moved to Fearrington Village in August, looked at several nearby gyms before choosing Duke Center for Living. “As soon as we walk in, our temperatures are checked, and staff is there to help,” Jimmy says. “I feel like I have the space to work out how I want to and safely go from machine to machine, but still have personal attention when I need it.” 

Clients return to their pre-pandemic workout routines as gyms and fitness studios reopen in Chatham County
“I always walk in with a bounce in my step because I am greeted with familiar folks who check my temperature with a smile and ask about my day,” says Chatham YMCA member Elizabeth Fridley.

‘Still Coming Away Joyful’

“COVID-19 has definitely affected me, just as it has our entire world, but especially our tight-knit Chatham YMCA community,” says member Elizabeth Fridley. She’s attended the Y for about six years. “The elliptical and lateral machines are my preferred equipment because they provide a complete body workout,” Elizabeth says. “But the boot camp and yoga classes are my absolute favorite.” 

Over time, her experiences at the Y moved beyond just maintaining a fitness routine. “I have been so fortunate,” she says. “The YMCA’s extraordinary atmosphere has allowed an outlet for stressful frustration, while at the same time offering solace and mental clarity.” Today, she sees the Y as a second family, fundamentally integrated into her life. “I’ve been gratefully blessed to form everlasting friendships,” Elizabeth says. “We have been through surgeries, sickness and even experienced treadmill therapy together, laughing and crying but still coming away joyful because we are surrounded with such trusted, caring friends.” 

The Chatham YMCA reopened to the public Sept. 16. “We are leaning into social distancing practices, including screening before entry, deep and ongoing cleaning during the day and after-hours, and having readily available hand sanitizing stations and equipment cleaning supplies,” says Branch Executive Director Jessica Mashburn. All group exercise classes are currently being held outdoors as an extra precaution. “So many of our members have just expressed gratitude for being able to safely connect with others and excitement for getting back to a regular fitness routine,” Jessica says. “The members we are seeing have been more than happy to wear their masks throughout the building and practice social distancing.” 

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