When fitness clubs shut down in March because of Covid-19, residents across the North Shore were forced to rethink their workout regimens and come up with creative solutions to stay in shape. Now, although most gyms have reopened with restrictions, alternate exercise routines remain the norm.
Mary Pat Hawkins, health and wellness director at the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore in Marblehead, led the transition to an online schedule in March. “After the shutdown happened, we decided to get our butts in gear and get those Zoom classes going quickly,” she said. The JCCNS started live-streaming classes within a week.
Now, it offers 38 virtual classes weekly, including yoga, sports and conditioning, senior fitness, Zumba, spinning, and Pilates. Most morning classes average between 20 and 35 people, but some have numbered as high as 80. Hawkins pointed out that classes are offered as a free resource for the community and some people participate from as far away as Maryland and Florida.
Bea Paul of Marblehead is 89 and ran the JCCNS preschool for 27 years. Her exercise routine has not been affected much because she enjoys taking her regular fitness classes online. She does virtual JCC classes every Tuesday and Thursday morning and supplements those with others she finds on YouTube. Although she misses in-person classes, she tries to look on the bright side. “I have to be grateful that I’m healthy and OK and my family’s OK,” she said.
For Barry Comak of Peabody, co-owner of Comak Brothers Landscaping, the changeover from Boston Sports Clubs on Route 1 to a home gym was virtually seamless. Although he hadn’t used his home gym in over a decade, he quickly upgraded his equipment and has used it religiously ever since.
Comak doesn’t see himself going back to the gym anytime soon. “I think my wife would be anxious about it and it’s just not worth it to me,” he said. “This way, I’m getting everything done that I have to and I’m staying safe.”
Even those who exercise outdoors have had to adapt. Amy Powell of Swampscott, a communications director, is a competitive standup paddleboarder who has watched in disappointment as race after race has gone virtual, with individuals paddling solo and recording their own times. Although Powell participates in virtual racing, it is not the same.
“Different weather conditions and paddling environments can introduce variables that make it difficult to compare times among racers,” she said. “It’s not really apples-to-apples.”
Steve Gottsegen of Peabody, a sales vice president, has found the changes in his fitness regimen especially challenging. Pre-Covid, he was very much a creature of habit and was at the gym every morning. Now, he misses the structure and his twice-weekly workouts with his personal trainer, who knows how to motivate him. Although still exercising at home, Gottsegen said that after being away from the gym for so long, he has not maintained his fitness level. “When I go back, it will be virtually like starting from scratch,” he said.
When it comes to building a creative workout, Michelle Fine, a dental hygienist from Swampscott, may just win the prize. During lockdown, she initially started knitting, crocheting, and watching “every new show there was” on TV, but felt that she had stopped moving. When she realized she could barely walk up her stairs without becoming winded, she decided to do something about it.
Fine began walking the small oval in her house – from dining room to kitchen to family room – for 15 minutes straight. She slowly increased her routine, adding miles and progressing to a slow jog. Now she regularly clocks 14 miles a day jogging in circles within the protective walls of her house.
“Everybody thinks I’m insane,” Fine joked. “I get it, but at the end of the day I get it done. It doesn’t matter where I move as long as I’m moving.”