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Virtual Fitness - Adapting to Change

By Tracy Byrne O'Donovan, TFX Fitness, NCEF Tutor, Pilates & Corrective Exercise Specialist, Older Adults & Children's Exercise Specialist and Personal Trainer


My last physical hands-on Pilates class was March 12th 2020. It’s hard to believe it has been that long ago. I was teaching up to 15 classes a week then suddenly, with COVID-19, everything changed overnight. Restrictions came in, clients were nervous and premises closed. I wasn’t ready to give up my classes, my livelihood and teaching! I had to figure out a way I could still continue bringing my classes to my clients. Would I record videos? WhatsApp messages? A YouTube channel? Then I heard of Zoom.

I had never come across Zoom before, but wow, it opened up a new door. Since I discovered it, Zoom is everywhere! It seems every Fitness Professional is using it. It’s a free app to download, so that’s exactly what I did and tested it with family members first as I was unsure of its reliability. Biting the bullet and without a moment to lose, I scheduled my first “virtual class” for March 19th, there was no going back now!


I needn’t have worried…it was a fantastic experience. I couldn’t believe it, I’d made the leap to virtual classes and it was so easy! My clients were delighted. It was strange teaching a camera, teaching in an empty room…yes I could see participants, but with microphones off, it was like teaching myself. The lack of hands on observation and correction was difficult – lots of things went through my head – was this safe? Am I offering a professional service? Will the classes be effective? How will I see everyone? How will I correct?


I experienced a few teething problems learning how to use Zoom, for example problems with WiFi, using a phone v’s laptop v’s tablet, sending the link out to everyone and not leaving anyone out, sound quality, my placement in camera view and participants themselves getting used to the platform. I initially used a free version allowing me a 40 minute class but soon progressed to the premium version with no time limit. Now the classes run very smoothly and clients have adapted very quickly. I am teaching all my classes on Zoom, with the ability to combine my classes for better time efficiency, teaching up to 6 classes virtually for the last twelve weeks.

Initially, the satisfaction of being able to offer this service with my classes by providing structure to my clients day, allowing them to stay focused and positive through the Covid-19 situation, was my motivator. The simple joy of being able to participate in their Pilates class is huge to my clients. In a time of social distancing, travel restrictions and cocooning restrictions this has been a life-line to many. The positive feedback from clients has been overwhelming, they are just so grateful. Also for myself as an Instructor, I am motivated to stay focused, retain my clients, acquire new clients, keep up to date with Pilates and continue to stay the best instructor I can be. To be honest, I actually enjoy virtual teaching! I didn’t think it would last this long, I have adapted to the challenge, positively.


A few things as an Instructor that stand out in a virtual class situation; cueing plays a more important role than ever, cueing is enhanced, prompts are clearer, pace of the class is different than in a ‘face to face’ class with teaching and safety points, short, precise and directed to the virtual situation. I find I am more experimental and class time management is improved, familiarity with the platform is evident and navigating through the screens/views is like clockwork. I just schedule the class, (date, time) and send an invite by email, text or WhatsApp to my clients, they click the link and off we Zoom to Pilates. However, I do miss the social aspect of the physical class, the hands-on element, the achievements and progression of clients, the banter and the general interaction.


The on-line exercise world has erupted like nothing else. It has happened so fast, now everywhere you turn there is a Zoom or other virtual class. I am proud to have reacted so quickly to this ‘world’ and made the transition to virtual classes. I could have easily sat back, did nothing and waited until September. I have made my mark in this era of classes. Following this, a committed and dedicated following of clients will remain. I do also believe that virtual classes will continue well into the future. There will be a core group of clients that this type of class suits long-term. There are other avenues also to be explored, eg. Lunchtime classes for workers, overseas attendees, ‘live’ virtual classes on social media platforms, and more.


In addition to my own classes I have recently commenced a Zoom fitness session with the local GAA...the opportunities are endless if you look for them. Instagram was also relatively new to me, where now posting regularly is the norm. I am a mum of four so during this time it has been challenging with home schooling and adapting to the social and restricting changes that we have been presented with. It can be difficult to keep up with the social media aspect of things, i.e. videoing, editing, uploading, commenting, observing etc., it's all very time consuming and can be very frustrating. I still have a lot to learn, will continue to learn and improve myself as a versatile instructor in this ever-changing environment and the way we present our teaching skills.


Hopefully I will get to meet you on Zoom!

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