It was Monday March 16th 2020, the day before St. Patrick’s Day, and I was getting ready to teach my St. Paddy’s Day themed classes the next morning and night. I had my green leggings all ready to wear, the only time of year they come out of the drawer, when the text messages started coming in. We had all heard that a shutdown of all gyms was coming, but we didn’t know when and we didn’t know for how long.
Up until the pandemic, I was teaching for 23 years consistently at 24 Hour Fitness and various studios in Orange County. It was a huge part of my life and something that defined me. I was a fitness instructor. I taught 6 days a week, multiple times a day and even on holidays. My best friends were members who I celebrated my birthdays with, had over to my house and who even dog sat for me. On March 17th 2020 that all changed.
When the shutdown happened, I’m not going to lie, I saw it as a little much needed break. But at that time, fitness instructors were told that it would be, “2 weeks,” so when 2 weeks became a month and then two months, I started getting nervous. I went from getting up almost every morning to motivate a group of people in physical activity to not having to set an alarm, laying on the couch and some days not even showering.
I was severely depressed and cried a lot. Thankfully I had my other 24 Hour Fitness instructors to talk to. We had a Facebook chat group where we chatted about everything from gossip and rumors to, “how to fill out unemployment forms.”
After a couple months some studios started providing virtual classes for their members. I started teaching free virtual classes to my social media followers the week the shutdown occurred, so I was already extremely comfortable teaching them. Thankfully, I taught some virtual classes for Loco Cycle and was chosen to teach 2 days a week for 24 Hour Fitness, so this is what kept me sane. Some instructors however were not so lucky.
In June every instructor who taught for 24 Hour Fitness received an email that said we had a mandatory call at two different times. Little did we know that the instructors who were on the first call were let go and the ones on the second, me included, were “safe.” For now. There was one more call coming and an email that would seal our fate and end our time with 24 Hour Fitness and while many of my friends lost their jobs, I remain “safe” to this day even though I’ve only taught one in-person class since June.
While 2020 totally changed fitness for me, I mean I do not know if I’ll ever have the number of classes that I once had, it did force me to adapt and pivot and thankfully because of that, new opportunities arose.
I learned that I love teaching virtual to private clients. It’s fun to workout with them and it’s like a therapy session for both of us at the same time. I started doing more personal training to clients at their homes and even got hired at a HIIT Studio in August, Total Training Fitness in Laguna Hills, which sadly closed in January 2021. So, things changed, but came back in different ways.
I do not know if 2021 will repair the damage it did to the fitness industry, but I do know that I love being part of it and no matter what happens I will always find a way to help people with their health and wellness journey. My heart goes out to all the fitness instructors, personal trainers, and fitness studio owners who lost their jobs and god forbid, their businesses. I’m hoping that there is a brighter future in store for an industry that helps so many and IS ESSENTIAL.
Photography: KSTU Photography