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Virtual fitness has taken off in the recreation industry because of the coronavirus pandemic, allowing facilities to continue to serve their members despite shutdowns and lower in-person attendance.

Elsie Bennett, the fitness and wellness director at the Alpert JCC of Long Beach (AJCC) in Long Beach, California, said their members are thankful for their various virtual offerings. These offerings consist of yoga, guided meditation, gentle yoga, Pilates, strength training, kickboxing, Total Body Fusion, Zumba, Silver Sneakers Classic and Silver Sneakers Circuit.

“We also have a live wellness check-in via Facebook on our Alpert JCC Facebook page, as well as a monthly Q&A wellness workshop,” said Bennett. “The workshops are based on diverse topics such as ‘Living Fully in Challenging Times’ and ‘You Are What You Eat.’ Our next workshop will be ‘Movement: The Ultimate Energizer for Challenging Times.’”

The AJCC runs all its virtual programs through a Zoom account they provided for all of their instructors. The AJCC’s instructors just need to have a working computer or cell phone with a camera and working audio capabilities to serve their participants. Bennett said they are currently not live streaming classes, but hope to do so in the near future.

While virtual fitness can be as simple as setting up a camera and hitting record, Bennett said there are best practices you can implement to be successful and attract more members. An important factor to success is instructor consistency. Bennett recommends for instructors to be online at least 10 to 15 minutes before the class begins to have time to address any technology glitches.

“Being able to chat with participants before and after class is great as it allows you to focus on building a virtual fitness community,” said Bennett. “Being able to correct participants’ form while performing exercises is key as participants want to know the class is all about them rather than the instructor just focusing on doing the workout. Additionally, addressing participants by name while providing encouragement during a virtual class is key.”

This pandemic has definitely brought the AJCC’s fitness programs many challenges, but its staff developed many skills that have allowed them to continue to work and serve the members of their community. According to Bennett, members who participate in their virtual fitness offerings express their gratitude daily about the virtual fitness classes.

“Our shutdown was on March 16, and on March 19 we had our very first virtual fitness Pilates class — which I taught,” said Bennett. “I can’t express how wonderful it felt to have brought our community together in such a way. Over 20 of our members attended that class that night. You could tell the need for people to be connected to each other was there. We are so very grateful to have such a loyal AJCC fitness community and we look forward to serving them so they can continue to improve their health mentally and physically during these times.”

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Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is a staff writer for Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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