With Gyms Closed, Home Fitness Sees Its Rise

Samantha Duane filing her daily workout class at her home in Sag Harbor.

By Alec Giufurta

With her mat stretched out, Allison Burke began her yoga class Thursday morning — 9 a.m. sharp. But this wasn’t an ordinary class — it was Instagram live streamed (and free). It’s just one way the fitness community has transitioned in a time of social distancing and self-quarantining.

The myriad local gyms, studios, and cycling-classes that populate the East End have been forced to shutter their brick and mortar locations per Governor Andrew Cuomo — gyms throughout the state were forced to close by 8 p.m. on March 16.

And while the population of joggers, walkers, and surfers on the East End show how some are getting their fitness fix, many of the shuttered gyms have made a transition of their own: virtual instruction.

Ms. Burke, 38, a local yoga instructor, usually teaches both private and public lessons. “After this whole thing started, I just was really feeling kind of lost,” she said.
But Ms. Burke evolved, moving onto Instagram live. For the past week, she’s streamed 30 minute classes for free at 9 a.m. each day.

And they’re garnering a following: Ms. Burke noted 58 streamers on one video she ran.
“People were so thankful, just saying that any sense of familiarity to their normal life was really helpful for them,” she said.

Similar in style, Truth Training, a “strength based” training gym in East Hampton, started posting videos onto their YouTube channel on March 16. The gym also posted daily workout plans on their website.

Mandala Yoga Center in Amagansett, where Ms. Burke also teaches, started online classes on March 25. Mandala charges $20 to ‘drop-in’ on an online class, run off the Zoom platform, according to a post on their Instagram. Mandala plans to host up to four, usually 60-minute, online classes each day, their website indicated.

Virtual classes, Ms. Burke noted, presented some difficulties: “The most challenging part, especially doing it live, is that it’s live and I am out of breath sometimes and I really have to honor that.”

Hamptons Gym Corp, which operates gyms in Sag Harbor, Southampton and East Hampton, started posting free online classes and workout plans to its Facebook on March 18. Classes have included Zumba (streamed on Zoom) and abdominal training.

“For next week, I’m going to have like a full schedule, almost as if we had a group fitness schedule at the gym,” Rebecca Olender, 36, fitness director for Hamptons Gym Corp, said.
Samantha Duane has been streaming a daily workout, usually with her identical twin sister, each morning from her house or open public spaces in the East Hampton and Sag Harbor area, like Herrick Park, Morton Wildlife Refuge, even a nature preserve in Baiting Hollow when she was up island picking up organic chickens.

“I’m an active person and I wanted to do something with my friends who were into it, but also just as much for myself,” Ms. Duane, whose Facebook profile is Samantha Rambo Duane, a nod to her former days as a competitive roller derby athlete. “People don’t realize how hard it is to motivate yourself when there are a lot of outside stressors. Just getting on the mat and starting to go is half the battle and once you do it and it’s done you are super happy you did it. A personal trainer knows that.”

Just as she was about to transition from a part-time trainer and part-time bartender to a full-time trainer, the coronavirus closures hit both businesses. But Ms. Duane has pushed ahead with her daily instruction free of charge nonetheless.

The trainers at Hamptons Gym Corp, Ms. Olender, shared, aren’t concerned with charging for classes either.

“We’re just kind of trying to stay sane and we really love being part of the community and being part of members’ lives,” she said, “and that’s what we’re trying to keep alive.”

For fitness-minded individuals who may not have the equipment at home, East End Row offers a unique solution: take one of their rowing machines home. In an email, East End Row said those who have unlimited memberships to its facilities may request to have one of their 40 rowers delivered to them.

Some gyms, however, have been forced to close without alternative. Hill Street Boxing in Southampton posted a temporary closing notice on its Instagram. All of its studio classes have been cancelled.

For Ms. Burke, a newfound appreciation of technology has come from social distancing and online workout classes.

“For so long, I was anti-technology as a yoga teacher,” she said. “I’m like, ‘All this is doing is isolating us worse.’ And now that we have to be isolated, I have to rely on it … The technology’s actually good for us.”