Like so many people, my usual workout routine has been severely disrupted – all due to COVID-19. My yoga school is now closed. My weekly cardio tennis class is cancelled. And my group strength training sessions suffered the same fate when my local gym closed its doors.
For me, getting together with others is one of the main reasons to stay engaged in an exercise routine. Social interaction motivates me. I enjoy the support that my various instructors give me. And I very much enjoy seeing familiar faces and catching snippets of their lives as we share our workout time together. So, how to work out with others while living in isolation?
Strength for Life goes online
Enter Snezana, a personal trainer with a passion for training older adults. Snezana’s Yarrambat personal training studio, Sentience PT, has been running the Strength For Life program for around 10 years. Strength for Life is an individualised strength and balance program held in a group setting. It works with an individual’s needs and limitations, all while offering social interaction.
Like many fitness professionals, Snez was hit hard by COVID-19, forced to close her studio doors early in March. When Snez saw what was coming, she worked day and night to convert her programs for online delivery. Last week, I was invited to Snez’s Strength For Life session with a difference. This is my experience of Strength for Life during lockdown.
Logging on and setting up
I booked into the Strength for Life session easily by clicking a link Snez emailed to me. This led me to another link to install the videoconferencing software Zoom – a very simple process. About an hour before my session, I was sent the link to join the training session.
To set up, I made space in my dining room, placing my laptop on the bench so I could easily see and hear what was happening. I have a yoga mat and some weights and was asked to bring a small towel. I even did a bit of housework, as I wasn’t sure how much people could see of my living arrangements! This isn’t mandatory, but it helped me feel warmed up and ready to get started.
Promptly at 11.00 am the program opened a window into Snez’s PT studio. We could see and hear each other and chatted while waiting for two others to join us. One participant had ingeniously created his own weights using an empty backpack filled with water bottles. He could add and take away weight as needed, as well as hold in front of him, or put it on his back – leaving his hands free to grab a chair for balance.
Warm-up and exercises
Snez took us through a warm-up as we chatted, just like we would in person. We shared how we were feeling and commented about the lovely sunny day. It all felt so normal! Snez explained why we were doing all the movements and I was grateful that they also included stretches for my neck, which has been feeling stiff lately.
When we moved into the strength training part of the workout, Snez had various options for each of us. She already knew each of our limitations (due to conditions or prior injury) and individually encouraged us to work a little harder when appropriate. For many of the exercises, we used the small towel, creating tension by holding each end tight with each hand.
I could definitely feel that I was getting a workout, and my muscles – especially in my upper body – had that nice warm feeling of having been used. I was smiling to the people I was training with, and felt my mood lift. I was reminded that working out in a group setting makes me feel good.
After the session
After the session, I was able to chat with my fellow participants. I wanted to know how they had managed with getting online and whether they’d used Zoom before. Neither had, but like me, they found it extremely easy to set up – and were now using Zoom to chat with other friends and family!
Both of the participants lived alone and weren’t confident to work out by themselves. They enjoyed the support and motivation of a professional, and being able to communicate with others was the highlight of their day.
I knew how they felt. With some minor adjustments, I was able to enjoy an individualised strength and balance training program – virtually! Once again felt part of a community. I know that training online is good not only for my muscles, but also for my mental health.
Keen to try it?
If you want to join a Strength For Life session, let us know. We’ll keep you informed about how to join in online and when face-to-face sessions are resuming.
Stay strong. We’re all in this together.
Written by Mish – the Strength For Life Program Co-ordinator