When COVID-19 restrictions mandated the close of DEFINE body & mind’s physical locations in the Heights and Memorial Green, franchisee co-owner Haley Green said she and the other owners wanted to offer an option for people “cooped up in their homes.” So like a number of studios in the area, they went virtual with their barre, cycle and yoga classes.
“At first we thought about Instagram Live,” Green said, referring to a marathon five-hour conference call that she and the owners of 11 other locations used to brainstorm ideas for client outreach. “We ultimately decided on Zoom.”
Zoom, a cloud-based videotelephony, online chat and business telephone system service currently being utilized by millions for both business and school work, is working well for DEFINE.
Clients are allowed to look for and book classes until 20 minutes before the start of class in a password-protected system. Instructors are online prior to the start of class as well.
Green said DEFINE is getting between 150-200 class participants from each of its locations every day. In addition to DEFINE members, non-members can drop in for a class, a week of unlimited classes or a month of unlimited classes. The most popular classes are its barre/fusion ones, followed by the bounce, yoga and indoor cycling offerings.
For the trampoline classes, Green said trampolines were shipped to clients to use. Others bought theirs on Amazon or at Academy Sports + Outdoors.
“It has been going really well,” Green said. “We’ll have to think about other ways to work virtually, even when we can reopen.”
Another Heights studio that has moved online is Crew Fitness on 22nd Street in the Heights. Co-owner Marcia Strange said they are also using Zoom to run virtual classes.
“Clients can use their phone, iPad, or computer to take a class,” Strange said, noting that virtual drop-ins are welcome, too. “We are incorporating off-the-rower cardio moves such as jump rope, squat taps, high knees, and mountain climbers to maintain that high-intensity interval training feel that we get on the rower. Instructors are getting very creative to keep it interesting.”
She said attendance is lower than at Crew’s physical location. But Strange also said the virtual workouts have gotten positive feedback.
“We are seeing at least half of our members in class throughout the week,” Strange said.
A free fitness option is available through a Facebook group called Warriors at Home. The brainchild of Garden Oaks resident Morgan Shields, who teaches at the Harriet and Joe Foster Family YMCA as well as at several other local fitness studios, Warriors at Home is up to 1,500 members.
“The idea came to me a few days into quarantine, feeling helpless and knowing that our community was craving normalcy and connection,” Shields said. “I reached out to fellow fitness instructors to see if they were interested in joining me.”
Workouts are offered through Facebook Live on the Warriors at Home group page.
“We have a class schedule and an inspiring community that leans on one another and hopefully inspires people to move,” Shields said. “(There are) roughly 16 Houston-based fitness instructors from a range of backgrounds and who teach every fitness format you can think of.”
One of those instructors is Oak Forest’s Amelie Comeaux, who said people have craved the routines they enjoyed before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Life is exceptionally difficult right now,” Comeaux said. “It would be easy to give up. The flip side is that people need this ‘normal’ thing. That’s why it’s working.”
Normal also involves Comeaux’s young sons getting on camera to participate when she is doing a class.
“It’s comic relief,” Comeaux said. “People like it.”
The most popular classes are the ones that require the least equipment, such as CSI (Cardio Strength Intervals) or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).
“However, people are getting very creative with workout equipment and using lots of household items to make it work,” Shields said. “We don’t want lack of typical equipment to keep anyone from getting a workout in.”
While the classes are free, some instructors put up a virtual tip jar and most have a Venmo handle on the class schedule, if participants want to show their appreciation.
Local Warriors at Home give the classes high marks.
“I got the chance to try Nightclub Cardio without others having to see my not-so-awesome dance moves,” said group member and Heights resident Tracy Lisewsky.