Your sweat and muscle fatigue are real. Only the class is virtual.

Restrictions on businesses caused by the coronavirus pandemic have caused health clubs to close their doors. In many cases, however, they’ve kept their clients working out in the most 21st century way possible — online.

Websites and platforms like Facebook Live and Zoom are replacing brick-and-mortar gyms and yoga studios in the short term. So many organizations are offering the classes, members should check with theirs to see if they can continue working out with their favorite trainer.

Although online fitness training is a growing business in which clients pay for access, what’s happening in the wake of the virus scare is different.

Emily Dobson's online kickboxing class via Facebook Live at Spectrum Moreau Fitness in Zachary is one of many virtual classes popping up to keep fitness fanatics satisfied, during the shutdown of gyms and fitness centers due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.

“We’re giving it to our members as a, ‘So sorry you can’t interact with your instructors in person, but we want to keep you healthy and moving until we can return, hopefully in the near future,’” said Emily Dobson, club director at Moreau Spectrum Fitness.

While it’s impossible to duplicate all of the equipment in many health clubs, fitness trainers are able to offer lessons that essentially duplicate the in-person experience or help their clients adapt their workouts. Mary Piper, fitness trainer at Beau Chene Country Club in Mandeville, has begun posting videos on the country club’s and her own Facebook page.

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“I would like to show modification exercises, because a lot of people aren't strong enough to do a plank or a squat,” she said. “We have a lot of older people and younger people who don't know how to do form, and I want to show them how to do that.”

At Grace Yoga on Highland, instructors initially came to the studio to teach virtual classes. After Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a more comprehensive stay-at-home order a week ago, the instructors started doing them from home, broadcasting them on Grace Yoga’s Facebook page.

The videos have been a hit. One received 2,000 views, another 1,400.

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“A lot of students have reached out via email, text, Facebook just thanking us because they’re feeling out of sorts,” said co-owner Shannon Davis. “I think they’re just very grateful to have some sense of calm, which is why they come to yoga in the first place, to be able to have that.”

Some popular workout routines such as Zumba are licensed, so gyms must stream the classes on Zoom, where access is by invitation, rather than open platforms like Facebook, Dobson said.

Spectrum is offering classes in disciplines like yoga, barre, kickboxing and more conventional cardio, including the Silver Sneakers program for senior adults.

Grace Yoga On Highland classes go online due to coronavirus

Since people at home don’t have the free weights and machines they might use in the gym, classes have to be adapted — body-weight exercises instead of external weights, canned goods instead of dumbbells, towels instead of resistance bands, paper plates instead of gliders for floor exercises, Dobson said.

“We’re trying to think of every tool and way they can improvise for what’s possible in your home that’s still safe,” Dobson said.

Orangetheory Fitness, a chain of studios that emphasize high-intensity workouts, is offering workouts to its members through a smartphone app that comes with their membership, said Maria Murray, Louisiana regional manager.

The app will provide classes led by national coaches as well as livestreamed classes adapted for the lack of equipment by local coaches.

"It's definitely us giving back to our membership base," Murray said. "We're not collecting any fees of any kind from our membership. It's obviously not a service we typically provide, so we just had to get on the fly and see what we could do to support people."

Safety is one of the advantages of sticking with a trainer you’ve already worked with, Piper said. There are many exercise videos available on YouTube and Instagram, but Piper advises people searching for videos to research the trainer to ensure they are qualified.

“On Instagram, you have a lot of crazy people doing fitness, and they’re just doing these weird things for the ‘likes,’” she said. “Even people like me, who’ve been working out all my life, if I tried half of that stuff, I’d hurt myself. A lot of the fitness things on Instagram are really cool to look at, but realistically, it’s going to be too difficult for the majority of the population.”


Email Robin Miller at romiller@theadvocate.com