Social distancing during workouts

With gyms closed, indoor fitness classes canceled, and team practices called off, some fitness buffs and athletes are finding new venues to keep in shape while social distancing. With outdoor workouts, Zoom training sessions, and online wellness checks, fitness instructors aim to help their clients maintain or improve their strength and endurance.

“I’m taking them outdoors and training them,” said Ryan Kirby, who unloads sets of dumbbells at the North Hall Community Center track several times a week. The veteran personal trainer puts his followers through rigorous workouts under the blazing sun, against the wind, or beneath the clouds. One evening last month, he led three North Hall High School football players in power cleans, sprints, and agility moves, then sweated it out in runs and lunges on the infield with an adult boot camp class.

Rising North Hall senior running back Clark Howell lamented that the Trojans could not practice as a team. “We’re not all together,” he said. He looked to the workouts with Kirby and weightlifting at a teammate’s house to prep for the fall season.

A participant in Kirby’s boot camp remarked she missed her gym, especially the leg press machine. But, a few minutes later, her legs likely burned with multiple sets of walking lunges and 40-yard runs.

Kirby said that although he “personally thinks it’s safe” to workout in the fresh air, he’s mindful of keeping safe distances. “If you’re running, it’s better to be side by side than running behind someone” where exhaled aerosol in breath might spread to someone drafting behind. He also will split classes into groups of three, stationed at different spots along the track, and shuttle between them to supervise their exercise.

Mandy Smith, owner of Fit Body Boot Camp in Flowery Branch and Braselton, has loaned weights to clients to lift during live Zoom workouts. The video and audio internet platform allows class members to view and hear instructors online and lets instructors keep an eye on clients’ form. Plus, Fit Body offers live Facebook training. “The trainer really pushes during the session, working (class members) super hard,” Smith said.

“These are hard times and it’s super challenging to get motivated” to exercise, especially when the usual camaraderie is not possible, Smith added. Fit Body is reaching out to 330 people through online media to help them get over current struggles, she said. “It’s an amazing fit family.” The exercise and nutrition mentor started her gym outdoors in area parks and hopes to get back out there soon. “I have a passion for it.”

Merri Benham, the owner of Flip Your Dog Yoga in Gainesville, who moved her classes to Zoom and YouTube, also looks forward to taking groups back to parks and Lake Lanier, where she has led yoga students on stand-up paddleboards. But last month she focused “on mental health care and breathwork to relieve stress and anxiety.” She reminds her students, “We’re all gonna be OK.”

Tammie Best, at Limestone Personal Training in Gainesville, was fighting another obstacle last month: pollen. She said when the pollen settles, she might have clients grab their own yoga mats and weights and head out to the Limestone parking lot. “I know people are still running and biking and trying to stay active,” she said. “I’m missing my clients.”